More than just a meat substitute, beans are so nutritious. Throughout history, beans have been used as a staple of the diet, and the health benefits derived from them have been well recognized.
Proteins are the most notable nutrient in beans, the protein percentage in beans varies according to variety between 21% and 24% which is equal to or even greater than animal based foods such as fresh tuna, beef, or chicken.
Sixty to 65% of the calories in dry beans are from carbohydrates, predominantly in the form of starch, resistant starch, and small amounts of non-starch polysaccharides.
Beans are low in sugar, which prevents insulin in the bloodstream from spiking and causing hunger. When you substitute beans for meat in your diet, you get the added bonus of a decrease in saturated fat. The properties of the carbohydrates found in beans, along with their fiber content, make them ideal foods for the management of abnormalities associated with insulin resistance, diabetes and hyperlipidemia.
For vitamins and minerals, beans are an excellent source of copper, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium. Most dry beans are a rich source of iron, which makes them ideal for vegans who do not get an animal source of iron. The nutritional content of most dry beans is very similar, with the exception of iron content. White beans have almost twice the iron of black beans, while kidney beans are somewhere in between.
Dry beans are an excellent source of the water-soluble vitamins thiamin and folic acid and a good source of riboflavin and vitamin B6. Beans are an excellent source of folates, persons at high risk for coronary disease should increase folates intake.
Beans act to protect the skin and mucosa because they are a good source of two vitamins factors (Niacin and Pantothenic Acid), they are recommended in cases of eczema, itching skin, dry skin, and general dermatosis.
Beans are very rich in vegetable fiber as in the case with all legumes. One hundred grams of dried beans provide 15.2g of fiber, more than half the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for an adult (25g). The fibre in beans lower blood cholesterol levels. Beans also provide substantial amounts of insoluble fiber, which help attract water to the stool and enhance transit time of waste through the colon. This may help to combat constipation, colon cancer, and other conditions that afflict the digestive tract.
Beans are high in antioxidants, a class of phytochemicals that incapacitate cell-damaging free radicals in the body. (Free radicals have been implicated in everything from cancer and aging.
The fat content of dry beans is very low (less than 2% of total content), and they contain predominately unsaturated fatty acids. There is some variation based on variety and growth conditions, but most beans contain about 85% of their fat as unsaturated fatty acids. Because beans are plant foods, they are cholesterol-free.
Beans are ideal for those with high blood pressure (hypertension) because they are low in sodium and high in potassium.
Beans contain some complex sugars of the raffinose family. These are the sugars that cause digestive issues with bean consumption. These sugars must be broken down by enzymes that are not available in the human digestive system and are therefore available for microbial action in the colon, resulting in gas production and flatulence. These sugars can be removed effectively from the beans by soaking the beans, and then cooking them, discarding the soaking and cooking liquids.
Including 3 cups of cooked dry beans in the diet on a weekly basis will enhance health-promoting aspects of the diet, longevity and will be important in reducing risk for chronic diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.