Why and How You Should Eat Beans

(The following report is based on several sources, given in and below the article.  In some cases I have completely quoted the sources, being too far removed from school, I have lost my discipline for such things, but I take no credit for any of the following work and encourage you to follow the links to read the works by the authors.)


Beans can help you lose weight, reduce your chance of getting cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Although a serving size of beans and meat contain about the same calories, the beans have fiber (meat does not) and higher water content than meat. The fiber is beans means the beans are digested more slowly and provide the fiber most of need to have more of in our diet.  One cup of beans contains about 12 grams of fiber which is ½ female RDA of fiber and 1/3 male RDA of fiber.  Fiber helps increase satiety, reduce hunger and help control appetite. (Kovacs)

Beans are low in sugar (have a low glycemic index) and that along with the fiber prevents insulin in bloodstream from spiking and causing hunger. They are good for managing insulin resistance diabetes and hyperlipidemia. Beans contain both soluble which helps to lower blood levels of LDL cholesterol without compromising the level of good HDL.  And insoluble fiber which helps to attract water and enhance transit time of waste through the color.  This may help with constipation, colon cancer and other conditions that affect the digestive tract.  (Raatz)

Beans are a source of low-fat protein (less than 2% of content) and contain primarily unsaturated fatty acids (less than 15% of the fat is unsaturated). They are cholesterol free. Beans are sodium-free, contain copper, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium.  Most beans are a rich source of iron. They also contain thiamin, folic acid, riboflavin and vitamin B6. (Raatz)

Here are some study results.  Bean eaters weighed on average 7 lbs. less and had slimmer waistlines than bean-avoiders, even though the adult bean-eaters on average consumed 200 more calories. (Kovacs) A multicultural study showed than bean consumption was the only dietary component related to longevity. (Kovacs citing Darmadi-Blackberry)

Beans also contain phytochemicals, which meat does not.  Phytochemicals include antioxidants which incapacitate cell-damaging free radical.  Free radicals are associated with aging, cancer, lignans may play a role in preventing osteoporosis, heart disease and certain cancers.  Flavonoids may help reduce heart disease and cancer risk.  Plant stenol esters may help reduce blood cholesterol levels. (Raatz)

Beans are also a low cost food.


The latest dietary guidelines increase the recommended bean consumption from 1 cup to 3 cups per week. (Kovacs)

Dr. Fuhrman, author of Eat to Live, recommends 1 cup per day at lunch and says that they blunt the desire for sweets and prevent mid-afternoon cravings.

You can buy canned or dried beans. It is best to use either within one year of purchasing.


Canned beans contain sodium, but you can reduce the sodium by 40% if you drain and rinse them.

Canned are more expensive than dried but require less work.

Canned beans at Traders Joes contain no BPA.


Dried beans contain no sodium.  Dried beans are cheaper than canned, but require more cooking time.

To prepare dried beans, first, you must sort through them.  You are looking for pebbles or other non-bean elements.

Second, and there’s a controversy—soak or not?  Recipes almost always say to soak, but one article (“Don’t soak your dried beans!” By Russ Parsons  http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-dont-soak-dried-beans-20140911-story.html) advocates not soaking.  (The article did refer to some analysis that said that most Central and South American cooks do not soak beans.)

According to this cook, not soaking the beans results in more flavor and only increases the cooking time from about 1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours.  Additionally, this cook found that cooking beans covered in water and in a covered pot in the oven at 250 degrees was the least labor-intensive method.  You only need check the beans every 30 minutes to make sure there is sufficient water.  (Also, increasing the temperature to 350 degrees reduces the total cooking time.)

Soaking also does not reduce flatulence-producing qualities, according to the same cook.  More on this topic later.

Salt or not salt during cooking? Again, the same cook said that salting during cooking requires about 1 teaspoon per lb. if you salt at the beginning but required more than 2 times that if you wait to salt after cooking.

Other cooking tips: using acid, such as vinegar, lemon juice, tomatoes, molasses or wine after beans have been cooked fully increases the depth of flavor.  Onions, herbs and spices (oregano, thyme, garlic, parsley, and any other herbs) enhance the flavor and can be added any time during the cooking, but these flavors diminishes the longer they are cooked.

Beans and Flatulence

Beans cause flatulence because of two things: fiber and complex sugar called alpha-galactoses (mainly raffinose and stachyose). Anyone who has added fiber to their diet knows this has to be added gradually. The sugars, however, are different.  Humans do not produce enzymes to digest these sugars.  They pass undigested until they reach the large intestines then ferment there, causing flatulence. Some say that soaking the beans will reduce these sugars, but it doesn’t.  There is a complicated blanching/soaking method, but it doesn’t completely eliminate it and reduces the flavor.  (Parsons)

If you eat beans regularly, the microflora which ferment the sugar-causing gas adjust.  One study looked at adults 26-57, giving them ½ c of beans per day for 8-12 weeks.  Less than ½ reported increased flatulence in the 1st week.  Of those who reported it, greater than 70% said the increased flatulence has gone away in the 2nd week.  AND 3-11% of the control group who did not have flatulence-producing foods reported increased flatulence.  Of the bean-eaters, after 2-3 weeks, flatulence returned to normal levels. (Hutchins) So the takeaway from this is to east small portions of beans at first, 2-4 tablespoons per day, to let the microflora adjust, and make sure you drink enough water because of the added fiber.

Bean recipes

Here’s a cute article on the recipe site, epicurious:


Two of the more interesting recipe ideas on the Bean Institute site are a smoothie containing berries and great northern beans and a black bean brownie recipe.  I’ve included these below


The most common recipes at that site are appetizers (for example, dips using mashed beans or salsas with beans), soups both with and without meat, salads, and beans added into often non-bean fare, such as pasta, shrimp, omelets.  Try some out and report back to the Healthy Lifestyles Group. I am going to make the brownies first.

I’ve also included a recipe from Lisa Leake’s 100 Day of Real Food site for slow cooker baked beans.  She mentions that soaking is optional.


Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

Categories: Easy Recipes

Recipe by Liz Weiss, MS, RD and Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD

Our flourless fudgy brownies are gluten free, and we’ve never met a child yet who didn’t love them. No one has to know they are made with black beans, though if you choose to reveal your secret, they’ll still disappear the second you serve them. Our kids are especially fond of these brownies after school with a tall glass of low-fat milk.


One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, optional
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil or coat an 8 X 8-inch baking pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Place the black beans in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.  Add the eggs, oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, peppermint extract as desired, baking powder, and salt and process until smooth.  Add ¼ cup of the chips and pulse a few times until the chips are incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing into 2-inch squares.

Yield: 16 Servings
Serving Size: One brownie (2” by 2”)

Nutrient Information per Serving: 120 calories, 5g fat (1.5g saturated, 0.3g omega-3), 95mg sodium, 18g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g protein

Berry Bean Smoothie

Categories: Appetizers

Featured at the 2013 Beans For A Better Life seminar in Dallas, Texas.
Yield: 8 servings, 6 oz. each

  • 15 oz. cooked and cooled Great Northern beans (substitute a can of beans, drained and rinsed, if desired)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups quartered strawberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple with juice
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 6-8 ice cubes (crushed works best)

In a blender or food processor process all ingredients, except ice cubes.
Add ice cubes and blend until smooth.
Serve in glasses.
Tip: Add a banana for thicker, smoother texture.

Nutrient information per serving: Calories: 127.13; Fat: 0.41g; Protein: 4.84g; Total Fiber: 5.68g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Calcium: 51.85mg; Iron: 1.41mg; Sodium: 3.07mg; Carbohydrates: 27.84g


Slow Cooker Baked Beans



  • 2½ cups dried navy beans (optional, but recommended: soak beans in water in the fridge for 6 to 8 hours and then drain)
  • 8 oz bacon, cooked and diced (organic and/or local recommended)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 – 15 oz can plain tomato sauce
  • ¾ cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black or red pepper, to taste


  1. Place the beans, bacon, bell pepper, and onion in the bottom of aslow cooker. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the tomato sauce, syrup, mustard, vinegar, chili powder, salt and pepper. Pour over top of bean mixture and then add 3½ cups of water. Turn the slow cooker onto high and cook for 10 to 12 hours. Discard onion pieces and serve warm.


*To make this recipe Vegetarian, omit the bacon.
We recommend organic ingredients when feasible.

Works Cited

Darmadi-Blackberry IWahlqvist MLKouris-Blazos ASteen BLukito WHorie YHorie K.. “Legumes: the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15228991

Fuhrman, Joel, MD. Eat to Live.

Hutchins, Andrea, PhD, RD. “Beans and Flatulence: Unfounded Fear or Fact of Life,” handout on the Bean Institute site http://beaninstitute.com/consumer-handouts/

Kovacs, Jenny Stamos. “Beans: Protein-Rich Superfoods,” WebMD the Magazine http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/beans-protein-rich-superfoods

Leake, Lisa.  “Slow Cooker Baked Beans,” on the 100 Days of Real Food site http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/06/03/recipe-slow-cooker-baked-beans/

Miller, Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RD. “Beans 101,” slideshow on The Bean Institute site http://beaninstitute.com/beans-101/

Parsons, Russ. “Don’t soak your dried beans! Now even the cool kids agree” LA Times http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-dont-soak-dried-beans-20140911-story.html

Raatz, Susan, PhD, MPH, RD. “Nutritional Value of Dry Beans,” handout on the Bean Institute site http://beaninstitute.com/consumer-handouts/

Stockwell, Anna.  “7 Things You Can Do with That Lonely Can of White Beans,” from epicurious.com: Menus, Cooking Articles & Food http://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/a-can-of-white-beans-just-saved-winter-article