Low in fat, packed with fiber and dollar-for-dollar more protein than meat, beans are the cornerstone of every blue zones diet in the world. Tim McGreevy, the proverbial “King of Beans” (CEO of the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council and the American Pulse Association), talked with us recently and shared 10 things you might not know about these powerful legumes.
At about 98 cents per pound, black beans are one of the most affordable protein sources available. , Compare that to $4.60/lb for beef and $3.50/lb for chicken . One gram of protein from black beans is one cent, whereas a gram of beef protein will cost about four cents.
There is a Whole Organization Promoting Beans
Beans are part of the pulse family that also includes peas, lentils and chickpeas, all of which are prevalent in the blue zones areas. USA Pulses aims to promote and educate about the benefits of consuming pulses.
McGreevy said, “If you want a simple, quick and easy guide on how to prepare these crops, whether it’s in their dry form, from a can or from the frozen section, I encourage you to take the Pulse Pledge – it provides simple recipes I think people will really enjoy.”
You CAN Pass on Gas
Beans contain complex carbohydrates that our gut can have trouble digesting. As a result, our stomach bacteria ferments these carbohydrates and can produce gas. You can reduce the gas by: 1) Slowly adding beans into your diet – the gas problem usually evaporates after a week or so of regular bean-eating. 2) Cooking beans with spices like turmeric, ginger or fennel. These spices also add complex flavor profiles to any dish!
Americans Need More
U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggests that Americans eat about a half cup a day. We only eat about 4 tablespoons. In blue zones areas, we found that the longest-lived people eat a full cup of beans every day.
One study found that for every 20g intake of legumes (beans, peas, etc.), the risk of death fell by 6 percent. .
Pulses have often been overlooked because they are difficult to cook or take too long to prepare. McGreevy said, “There are so many more options now. You can get flash-frozen chickpeas or canned beans, which makes it really easy, like two or three minutes of cooking time. What people don’t realize is that lentils don’t need to soak and they take just about as long to cook as it does to boil pasta. People don’t scoff at cooking pasta!”
The Darker the Better
Like veggies, the more color the beans have, the higher the antioxidant content is . One study found that black bean hulls contain 40 times the amount of antioxidants found in white bean hulls .
They Can Be a Digestive Aid
Mung beans can actually help with digestion due to their high fiber content . All varieties of beans have notable fiber content, but what makes mung beans easier to digest is that in combination with being high in fiber, they have lower levels of the specific carbohydrate strain that our stomachs have trouble digesting.
Use them as Natural Fertilizer
Centenarians in Okinawa garden every day, which increases range of motion and nudges them to move naturally without thinking about it. While zucchinis and tomatoes might garner a beautiful harvest, beans and peas are also great for gardens and are really easy to grow. McGreevy noted, “Even if you don’t harvest them they are great for your garden because they put nitrogen back into the soil. They’re beautiful, delicious and nutritious – an all-around great garden crop.” Beans support a healthy agricultural cycle. They enrich, rather than deplete soil, by leaving behind nutrients for the next crop .
Beans are the only food that can fit into both a vegetable and a protein category, according to the USDA .
Ancient Romans based their names on common legumes: Lentulus (lentil), Fabius (fava), Piso (pea), Cicero (chickpea) . Roman leaders believed these everyday foods embodied the characteristics of the general population and by taking these names they would prove they had public interest in mind.
Israeli researchers found fava seeds at a 10,000-year-old archaeological site . This suggests that people from the Neolithic era were some of the world’s first subsistence farmers. Their diets contained important cereal grains, but their protein and fiber was almost solely from fava beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas. The manner in which the bean seeds were stored showed signs of planning for future agricultural sustenance. Beans may have been the foundation of food in the past and they’re making a comeback to be the food of the future in terms of nutrient profile and sustainability for an increasing global population.
Pulses are the most sustainable crops available, which make them critically important for food security in our growing world. McGreevy said, “Whether you’re in the northern tier where they raise peas, lentils, and chickpeas, or whether you go south where they raise black-eyed peas and warm-season pulses, there is a pulse that grows in every culture…Pulses can stand alone as a tremendous plant-based food or they can be a complement to just about any other food and make it better for the planet and the better for your health at the same time. That’s really the message of pulses and the promise they hold. That’s why I believe they are the future of food.”
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Article Courtesy of Blue Zones