People constantly ask me what they should eat to help them reduce their cholesterol. So, naturally I start listing food items that I know help lower cholesterol, such as, oatmeal, oat bran, walnuts, almonds, fish, olive oil and beans.
When I get to beans most people say, “Stop there Talli, beans make me gassy and I just can’t eat that.” My reply is always “What a shame, because beans have so many health benefits that you are missing out on. Plus there are ways to reduce the gas.”
Why You Should Eat Beans
Beans are among the healthiest foods that you can eat. They provide a multitude of nutrients and antioxidants that can help lower cholesterol, fight infections and diseases and may even lower the risk of certain types of cancer. The United States Department of Agriculture placed beans in their number one spot, out of twenty, for the common food that has the highest-antioxidant levels.
Beans are rich in:
- Calcium – Necessary for growth and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. A calcium deficiency can lead to rickets and osteoporosis.
- Iron – Increases your energy and protects you from infection.
- Zinc – Important for healthy skin and immune system.
- Potassium – Aids in promoting proper muscle contraction and nerve impulses and promotes optimal electrolyte and pH balance in your body. It also helps to regulate blood pressure.
- Folic Acid – Decreases risk of spinal birth defects and has been shown to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Protein – Necessary for growth, development and repair of body tissues and muscles.
- Fiber – Helps relieve constipation and helps with weight loss by creating a feeling of fullness. Fiber also lowers your chances of developing conditions like heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, kidney stones and diverticulitis.
Ways To Minimize Gas
A common problem with beans is gas, which is caused by certain complex sugars that cannot be digested. But the good news is that there are things you can do to minimize this gas.
- Try to purchase the freshest dried beans. It seems that the longer the bean has been sitting around, the more likely it is to cause gastrointestinal discomfort.
- Soak your beans overnight and discard the soaking water 2-3 times. The complex sugars are released into the water.
- Then when boiling the beans in water, make sure to discard the water again. Don’t use that water in a soup base.
- If that’s not enough or you aren’t able to make your own beans from scratch, you can add a food enzyme dietary supplement to your beans before eating them, such as Beano to help break down the complex sugars and reduce gas.
These methods listed above can eliminate a significant amount of the gas-producing complex sugars. If you don’t have time to start from scratch and you buy canned beans instead, be aware that they have extra sodium. If you don’t want that sodium, make sure to wash the beans off first. That should remove a lot of the salt.
Beans are also a great, low fat food. They contain no cholesterol, little fat (except soybeans which are high in unsaturated fat) and have a low glycemic index. That makes beans great to consume if you are diabetic or trying to lose weight.
Plus, beans provide almost the same amount of protein as meat. Usually, one or more essential amino acids are missing, but that gap can be filled by eating other foods such as bread, rice, dairy products or small amount of meats, when eaten the same day. However, the protein in soybeans is considered by many to be a complete protein source. So, why are you not eating beans again?