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Dried Beans and Dietary Fiber

Increased dietary fiber consumption is associated with multiple health benefits [2]. Fruits and vegetables rich in soluble fiber (which includes beans) are associated with lower risk of heart disease by lowering total and LDL blood cholesterol levels [3]. Dietary fiber is also important for digestive health—essential for laxation and intestinal regularity. Constipation is experienced by at least 20% of people over 65 years of age [1].

Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet, yet most Americans do not consume the recommended amount of fiber [1]. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed, or approximately 28 grams per day for women and 36 grams for men [1]. Most Americans consume only around half of the recommended amount of fiber, which is found only in plant foods like beans [1]. Cooked dried beans in particular are one of the most fiber-rich foods available.

Dietary fiber includes a group of compounds found in plant foods, which are mostly resistant to digestion by enzymes in the small intestine. However, some fibers are partially digested in the colon. There are three broad categories of dietary fiber that are part of a well-balanced diet, all of which are found in dried beans.

Soluble fiber…
as its name implies, is water-soluble. Broken down and fermented in the colon by bacteria, soluble fiber absorbs water in the small intestine to become a gelatinous, viscous substance which can maintain normal blood cholesterol (certain viscous soluble fibers) and blood sugar levels. It is found in beans, oats, barley, and certain fruits and vegetables.

Insoluble fiber…
in contrast to soluble fiber, does not dissolve and passes intact through the intestines. Insoluble fiber speeds the passage of foods through the digestive system, thereby adding bulk to the stool and facilitating regularity. It is found in the skins of fruits and vegetables, as well as in beans, whole-wheat products, corn bran, seeds and nuts.

Resistant starch…
is different in structure from fiber, but like soluble fiber, it resists digestion and passes intact through the small intestines and can be fermented by bacteria in the colon. Some resistant starch is made during the processing of foods, but it is also found naturally in beans.

  1. Agriculture., U.S.D.o.H.a.H.S.a.U.S.D.o., Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS Publication number: HHS-ODPHP-2005-01-DGA-A). 2005, U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC.
  2. Anderson, J.W., et al., Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev, 2009. 67(4): p. 188-205.
  3. (Claim), H.C., Fruits, Vegetables and Grain Products that contain Fiber, particularly Soluble Fiber, and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease. 21 CFR 101.77
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