Beans are an extremely beneficial component in all diets because they are high in complex carbohydrates, protein and dietary fiber, low in fat, calories and sodium, and completely cholesterol-free. As little as a half-cup of beans added to the daily diet can be very helpful in reaching important nutrition goals.
Beans are an excellent, non-fat source of protein. Just one cup of beans provides as much as 16 grams of protein.
Why is protein so important? The body converts protein into amino acids which make up and repair muscle and bone tissue. Protein also fights infections, helps heal wounds and regulates enzymes and hormones.
Beans are loaded with complex carbohydrates - the nutrient that provides energy to the muscles and brain. Just one cup of beans can provide 15 percent of the carbohydrates needed daily. Plus, beans have the best type of carbohydrate for maximum energy - those considered to be low or moderate glycemic index carbohydrates. Beans and other carbohydrates with a low to moderate glycemic index have the unique ability to provide energy over a longer period of time by being slowly released into your bloodstream to provide sustained energy.
Beans are one of the best sources of dietary fiber, containing both insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber, generally thought of as "roughage" that moves quickly through the digestive system, is important in our diets because it helps promote a healthy digestive tract and can reduce the risk of some types of cancer. During digestion, soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance, which helps the body handle fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates. Soluble fiber plays a role in helping to lower blood cholesterol levels, one of the main risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease.
Like any source of fiber, beans should be added gradually to the diet. Consumption should be increased over a four- to eight-week period, even if it's a bite or two per day, with a goal of one-half cup beans per day. It is also important to drink plenty of liquids when adding more fiber to your diet, because fluids help reduce the natural side effects of digesting fiber-rich foods. The key is to continue eating beans once the body's system is adjusted.
For more info check out www.americanbean.org.