We all know how great beans are. Yes, they are rich in fiber, antioxidants, protein and now a study published online last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that the consumption of beans improved glycemic control and reduced estimated heart disease risk.
The researchers from the University of Toronto had 2 groups of people either consume a low Glycemic Index (GI) bean diet by increasing bean intake by 1 cup a day or a low GI diet by increasing insoluble fiber through consumption of whole wheat products. Glycemic Index is a measure that shows how quickly blood sugar rises after we eat a certain food. At the end of the study both groups had a reduced HbA1C levels, a measurement of glucose usually from the past 1-3 months. The reduction in HbA1c with the bean diet was greater than with the wheat fiber diet. Also there was a greater heart disease risk reduction on the bean diet, which according to the researchers is due to a greater e reduction in blood pressure.
As it was commented, it is not clear if these results are because beans have a low GI or because they are high in fiber, and what about antioxidant content? Whatever it is, all those factors are beneficial, whether you are trying to protect yourself from chronic disease or just trying to lose weight.
As I have mentioned, the traditional Greek diet is rich in beans manly due to the fact that religious fasting prohibited animal products for over 180 days a year. Today, even though Greeks do not fast as much anymore, beans are consumed once-twice a week, even though for many they are considered the poor man’s meat and many Greeks avoid them for that reason. In recent years though they have been gaining popularity again in restaurants, but to get the benefits it is not enough to have a bean dish once a while in a restaurant, you need to incorporate them regularly in your diet.
Obviously beans in any form will be of benefit, but considering the ingredients used in the Greek way of preparing beans you can get additional benefits; Olive oil is used adding the good monounsaturated fats and additional antioxidants. The tomato that is added either in the form of fresh tomatoes or tomato paste/sauce helps us absorb more iron from the beans, and if tomato is not used lemon juice is added, also a source of vitamin C aiding in the absorption of iron.
So, try and find ways that you can enjoy beans on a regular basis (you can find some ideas here too). It really is worth it.