It’s hard not to start a blog post about beans without the infamous song so let’s just embrace is and say they’re the magical fruit! Ok, now that we got that out of the way, we can dive into some adult conversations about beans and your health. First of all, unlike the song suggests, they are not in fact a fruit. They are classified as legumes.
Legumes are a wonderful source of nutrients for your body. They are low in calories and high in iron, folate and protein. Their protein composition is unique among plant based proteins, as they are one of the only plant sources of the amino acid Lysine (1).
Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of legumes:
Beans have been studied for their ability to lower your risk of heart disease. They have also been found to significantly lower LDL (bad) cholesterol (2).
You’ll find that legumes are an abundant of both soluble fiber and resistant starch (1). These are both very beneficial to your guy, providing food for your friendly gut bacteria (3). Because they are digested in a different manner than other carbohydrates, fiber and resistant starch slow digestion and keep you feeling satiated longer (4).
Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects
Legumes are a plentiful source of polyphenols and other phytochemicals (1). These are potent antioxidants that have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is believed to lead to chronic diseases, including cancer (5). They have also been shown to protect against chronic diseases, like diabetes (6).
Now let’s talk about the not so wonderful side of this magical fruit – the common digestive issues some folks experience. Gas is a common complaint of bean consumption and comes from the oligosaccharide content of beans. Luckily, there are a few simple methods to reduce the oligosaccharide content and ease the digestive side effects.
One method is to soak the beans before cooking them (1). Soaking is as simple of a process as it sounds. Simply cover the beans in water at a ratio of about 1 cup beans to 3 cups water. Allow the beans to soak for at least 8 hours. once they are done soaking, discard the soaking liquid and thoroughly rinse the beans. Then you’re ready to cook!
A fast soaking method if your tight on time involves bringing the beans to a boil for 5-10 minutes at the same ratio of beans to water as above then removing them from heat and allowing them to sit for an hour. Again, you’ll want to drain and rinse them thoroughly.
If you’d like to take it a step further, you can sprout your beans by draining and rinsing them, then place them in a spot they can continue to drain with good air circulation. Continue to rinse and drain them a few times a day until you see sprouts appear. This not only reduces the amount of oligosaccharides present, but it has also been shown to increase the Vitamin C content (7).
Research has also established that carminative herbs and spices are an effective way to relieve the gas symptoms associated with legumes (8). Some carminatives in our recipe below include coriander and thyme, as well as the kombu that is packed with the Eden Organic beans we recommend. Kombu is high in minerals, low in sodium and helps to soften beans and make them easier to digest by breaking down some of the fibers.
Studies have shown that cooking legumes under pressure, like in an Instant Pot can help reduce the presence of anti-nutrients (9). Anti-nutrients are compounds that inhibit your body from absorbing beneficial nutrients in food. Decreasing the anti-nutrients in legumes helps make the protein more digestible.
The health benefits of legume consumption far outweigh the side effects. As far as plant based proteins go, they are hard to beat. So now armed with these gas-fighting methods, you can have your beans and eat them to! If you’re using canned beans, be sure to look for beans without added salt and instead with just beans and kombu, like the Eden Organics beans. And don’t forget to rinse your beans thoroughly! If you start from dried beans, experiment with soaking times and sprouting to find what works best for your body. When cooking from dry beans, be sure to add a piece of kombu to your soaking and/or cooking liquid.
These tacos are suited for just about every diet. Play with different tacos to fit your specific diet. The avocado and cashew crema have a high fat content. If you’re on a lower fat diet, try the tacos topped with a little cabbage. If you’re avoiding grains, skip the quinoa tortillas and try lettuce wraps instead.
Danielle Moore is a professional recipe developer, Nutrition expert, food photographer and lover of veggies. Read her full bio here.