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Health Benefits of Beans

Dried beans and weight control
The number of overweight and obese people has increased dramatically in the United States in the past 20 years. In 2004, nearly one in five U.S. children and adolescents were overweight and about one in three adults were considered obese [2]. Due to their protein and fiber content, dried beans may play a role in maintaining an ideal weight [3].

People who eat more protein may tend to eat less overall.
In one study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine, when subjects were placed on a high protein diet and allowed to eat as much as they wanted, they consumed 400 calories fewer per day than when they consumed a diet that was lower in protein [4]. In response to this research, an editorial in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by an internationally renowned obesity expert suggested it was time to consider recommending an increase in protein content of the American diet [5]. Optimally, healthful foods like beans are important contributors to dietary protein and minimize the potential impact of saturated fat which accompanies animal protein. Beans are rich in fiber and low in fat, as well as an important vegetable source of protein.

Research suggests that fiber impacts satiety by decreasing hunger, prolonging satiation, and/or increasing satiety signals [6]. For example, a Canadian study found that young men who were fed a high-fiber, pre-load snack 75 minutes before lunch felt more full at lunchtime and reduced their intake of food by an average of 172 calories [7].

Adding fiber to the diet has been shown to decrease energy intake and increase the production and release of satiety hormones. In subjects who consumed a meal containing white beans, secretion of the satiety hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) was twice as high as it was in subjects who consumed a low-fiber meal [8]. In fact, a large research study shows a correlation between bean consumption and maintenance of lower body weight as part of a healthy dietary pattern including beans. According to researchers from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), subjects consuming a fiber-rich dietary pattern that was high in whole grains and legumes had the lowest body mass index (a measurement of weight to height), smallest waist circumference and the smallest average yearly increase in body mass index [9].

Dried beans and digestive health
Among people over age 65, more than 20% suffer from constipation, a condition that is often easily relieved by boosting fiber intake [15]. High-fiber foods, such as beans, are known to be beneficial in maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Fiber-rich foods may be more beneficial than fiber supplements since other compounds in these foods also play a role in improving health [1, 5, 16].

Dried beans and heart health
Low levels of LDL-cholesterol are associated with a decreased risk for heart disease. A recent analysis of 10 clinical studies showed that bean consumption decreases both total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels [12]. Lowered cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels are recognized as a means to prevent heart disease. Furthermore, research from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health found that the consumption of just one serving of beans per day is associated with a 38% lower risk of myocardial infarction [13]. The soluble fiber in beans may be part of the explanation for their coronary benefits through their impact on cholesterol levels. Beans are also a good source of folate, which has been reported to be associated with improved heart
health [14, 15].

  1. Mitchell, D.C., et al., Consumption of dry beans, peas, and lentils could improve diet quality in the US population. J Am Diet Assoc, 2009. 109(5): p. 909-13.
  2. Vastag, B., Obesity Is Now on Everyone’s Plate. Jama, 2004. 291(10): p. 1186-8.
  3. Newby, P.K., Plant foods and plant-based diets: protective against childhood obesity? Am J Clin Nutr, 2009.89(5): p. 1572S-1587S.
  4. Weigle, D.S., et al., A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr, 2005. 82(1): p. 41-8.
  5. Astrup, A., The satiating power of protein—a key to obesity prevention? Am J Clin Nutr, 2005. 82(1): p. 1-2.
  6. Williams, P.G., S.J. Grafenauer, and J.E. O’Shea, Cereal grains, legumes, and weight management:a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence. Nutr Rev., 2008. 66(4): p. 171-82.
  7. Samra, R.A. and G.H. Anderson, Insoluble cereal fiber reduces appetite and short-term food intake and glycemic response to food consumed 75 min later by healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr, 2007. 86(4): p. 972-9.
  8. Bourdon, I., et al., Beans, as a source of dietary fiber, increase cholecystokinin and apolipoprotein b48 response to test meals in men. J Nutr, 2001. 131(5): p. 1485-90.
  9. Williams, P.G., S.J. Grafenauer, and J.E. O’Shea, Cereal grains, legumes, and weight management: a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence. Nutr Rev, 2008. 66(4): p. 171-82.
  10. Morley, J.E., Constipation and irritable bowel syndrome in the elderly. Clin Geriatr Med, 2007. 23(4): p. 823-32, vi-vii.
  11. Xu, B.J., S.H. Yuan, and S.K. Chang, Comparative analyses of phenolic composition, antioxidant capacity, and color of cool season legumes and other selected food legumes. J Food Sci, 2007. 72(2): p. S167-77.
  12. Bazzano, L.A., et al., Non-soy legume consumption lowers cholesterol levels: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 2009.
  13. Kabagambe, E.K., et al., Decreased consumption of dried mature beans is positively associated with urbanization and nonfatal acute myocardial infarction. J Nutr, 2005. 135(7): p. 1770-5.
  14. Holt, E.M., et al., Fruit and vegetable consumption and its relation to markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc, 2009. 109(3): p. 414-21.
  15. Mente, A., et al., A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and coronary heart disease. Arch Intern Med, 2009. 169(7): p. 659-69.
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