Beans: 9 benefits and recipes

Carioca beans, black beans, white beans, green beans or string beans, whatever the variety, the Brazilian passion for this legume is undeniable, which is the main component of several dishes and is present on the menu from north to south of the country. 

This is because in addition to being tasty and combining with almost anything, beans are a super complete food, being full of nutrients and essential amino acids, bringing several health benefits.

Just to have a little idea: the legume helps regulate the intestine , gives more energy, improves memory and even prevents and treats iron deficiency anemia and this is just a small part of the numerous advantages of adding it to the diet.

Do you want to learn more about this darling of Brazilians? So keep reading, because we’ve separated 9 benefits of beans for your health and also some easy and healthy recipes for you to prepare for your family. Don’t waste time and check!

9 Incredible Benefits of Beans for Health

1. Gives more energy

“Leguminous plants (beans, lentils, chickpeas, broad beans and peas) have 50% of carbohydrates in their internal part, especially starch, which makes them good sources of energy”, specified nutritionist Janiele da Silva Rodrigues in interview with Homemade Remedy .

Each shell full of cooked carioca beans, on average 140 grams, has 21.4 grams of total carbohydrates and 11.5 grams of available carbohydrates, the kind that is used immediately by the body and gives an energy spike right after consumption, according to the data presented in the Brazilian Table of Food Composition (TBCA). ( 1 )

After being absorbed by the small intestine, carbohydrates travel through the blood to the liver, where they are converted to glucose, which is the main source of energy for cells and muscles. ( 2 )

The consumption of the legume keeps energy reserves full. That’s why it’s an ideal food to withstand a busy day without losing momentum and before doing any physical activity, where there is a greater expenditure of energy.

2. Favors muscle mass gain

Want to increase muscle gain by exercising? Add beans to your daily menu. A shell of cooked food has almost 7 grams of protein, a nutrient that directly participates in the regeneration of muscle fibers , which provides an increase in mass. ( 1 )

The nutritionist director of the Brazilian Society of Food and Nutrition (SBAN), Sueli Longo, informed that the combination dear to Brazilians, rice and beans, is the best choice to optimize the absorption of this type of nutrient.

This is because “both rice and beans are considered foods with low biological value protein, that is, they do not provide all the essential amino acids in their composition. When we combine the two foods, the limiting amino acids of one complete the limiting amino acids of the other and enable the supply of all essential amino acids to the body”, said the professional.

3. Improves memory

Did you know that eating beans regularly is also good for your memory ? Yes, and this is because the food, like all legumes, is a good source of folate, also called folic acid , as Janiele explains.

Each 100-gram serving of cooked carioca beans contains 98.5 micrograms of this nutrient. This represents almost a quarter of what is indicated for the daily consumption of an adult person. ( 1 , 3 )

“Okay, but what does this nutrient have to do with memory?” What happens is that folic acid is essential for the development of the nervous system and is part of the metabolism of new neurotransmitters , which are responsible for maintaining communication between the various parts of the brain.

Because of this, it protects the memory, mainly from the degeneration caused by aging.

But that’s not all, as the improvement in brain communication facilitates learning and memory even for young people, as it favors access to stored information. Cool, isn’t it? ( 4 )

4. Aids in weight loss

Yes, beans not only can, but should be on the menu of those who want to lose those extra pounds and this is due to a set of factors.

The first is that “most beans are low in fat , having only about 5%”, guaranteed Janiele. This is something that contributes to reducing the amount of fat, an element that accumulates in tissues and causes overweight when consumed in excess.

In fact, this low level of fat is what makes beans a low-calorie food. The director of SBAN informed that “when consuming an average scoop of cooked carioca beans (approximately 100 g – 50% grain and 50% broth), your body will receive an average of 70 calories”.

Sueli also explained that combined with moderate energy value, the food is rich in dietary fiber, which makes it increase the feeling of satiety , which is also an interesting factor for weight loss, as it makes the person eat less during and between meals. Thanks to this, there is a moderation of calories ingested throughout the day.

Furthermore, Janiele emphasizes that “proteins are all about weight loss , since they also provide satiety, in addition to helping burn calories.”

But be aware, because “by adding oils and fats, as well as meats and sausages to the preparation, you will increase the calorie content depending on the energy from these ingredients”, as stated by the SBAN professional.

5. Reduces cholesterol and triglycerides

Another reason to love beans is because they help reduce and control blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Eating four or more servings of beans a week can reduce the total cholesterol circulating in the blood by up to 15% and this is due to the presence of compounds known by the name of polyphenols, which prevent the oxidation of all this fat.

As a result, the legume reduces the risk of developing coronary artery disease by up to 22%, which is the accumulation of fatty plaques in the arteries that hinder the delivery of blood to the heart, and up to 11% the risk of cardiovascular problems. (5)

Attention: this is when taking into account the preparation of beans without the use of oil and other types of fat.

6. Control diabetes

Eating beans, especially when mixed with rice, is excellent for preventing and controlling diabetes.

According to Janiele Rodrigues, this happens “because both are rich in fiber, being able to slowly release glucose into the blood, warding off hunger for longer and, consequently, avoiding the excessive production of insulin, a hormone that favors the accumulation of fat and also the appearance of diseases such as diabetes”, he stressed.

The legume also showed the potential to inhibit the release of some types of enzymes, mainly glucosidase, which are responsible for transforming all the carbohydrate ingested into glucose. ( 5 )

In addition, beans have a type of compound called phytate, which is considered an anti-nutrient as it prevents the absorption of some minerals, but which has some health benefits. Among them is blood glucose control. 

These compounds slow down the digestion of starches, which can also contribute to reducing the amount of sugar that is released into the blood. ( 6 )

7. Provides a healthier pregnancy

Eating beans regularly also increases your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and this is because these beans are rich in folate, as mentioned above.

This is because the nutrient reduces the risk of malformation of the fetal central nervous system, so its supplementation is indicated for women who want to become pregnant and during the first months of pregnancy. ( 4 )

The correct intake of folic acid can reduce the baby’s chances of developing several problems by up to 75%, in particular: spina bifida (when the spinal cord does not develop), anencephaly (brain underdevelopment) and encephalocele (skull does not close properly). ( 3 )

8. Prevents and treats anemia

Beans also “fight iron deficiency anemia caused by iron deficiency and if combined with foods that are sources of vitamin C, the body absorbs the mineral even better”, explained Janiele.

First of all, it is necessary to know that iron is a micronutrient that acts in the transport of oxygen to the cells and in its storage, being more concentrated in hemoglobin, a type of protein that gives the blood red color and anemia causes precisely the decrease of this protein.

Because of this, its deficiency, which is the most common cause of anemia in the world, causes symptoms such as difficulty breathing, dizziness and weakness, and beans come to prevent the production of hemoglobin from being insufficient. ( 7 )

But Janiele warns that “the iron present in beans is less bioavailable than the iron present in meat, which can be improved in the presence of concomitant vitamin C”, as the vitamin “sticks” to the mineral and makes it more recognizable by the body and therefore is better absorbed.

9. Regulates the bowel

Finally, because it is a food rich in fiber, about 7 grams per 100 g serving, beans also promote good intestinal functioning, as nutritionist Sueli Longo attested. That is, it works to prevent gastrointestinal problems such as constipation and diarrhea .

This is because the fibers pass whole into the intestine and absorb a lot of water along the way. Thus, it keeps the feces hydrated and also increases the mobility and size of the fecal cake, which directly contributes to the elimination of these residues.

Fiber, together with starch and polysaccharides found in beans, ferment and strengthen the intestinal flora, which is the body of beneficial bacteria. ( 8 )

3 easy and healthy recipes with beans

Tropeiro beans

Ingredients 

  • 500 grams of carioca beans without the broth
  • ½ cup of manioc flour
  • 1 large onion
  • eggs
  • 50 grams of bacon or sausage
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon of dehydrated herbs or mineiro seasoning.

Preparation mode

The first step is to cook the beans for 20 minutes after boiling or until the beans are very tender, but without letting them fall apart. That done, drain the broth with the aid of a sieve and set aside.

In another pan, fry the bacon in oil, add the onion and herbs of your choice. When everything is golden, add the eggs and stir until they are cooked through. Finally, add the beans and flour, mix well and the dish is ready. If necessary, fix the amount of salt during preparation.

This recipe was taken from the booklet “Beans and Rice: The Perfect Pair of Brazil” prepared by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). (9)

Fit feijoada

Ingredients 

  • 150 grams of black beans
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 150 grams of loin
  • 100 grams of dry meat without fat
  • 1 tablespoon of oil or butter
  • 1 bunch of cabbage
  • bay leaf
  • Salt to taste.

Preparation mode

This dish needs to be prepared in advance, as it is necessary to soak the meat to remove excess salt, preferably this should be done a day before preparation.

The next day cook the beans, until the beans are tender, about 20 minutes after boiling. Then saute the cut into small pieces, the onion, garlic and bay leaf in a non-stick skillet with oil or butter and add to the beans pan. Check if the salt needs adjustment and serve.

This recipe was taken from the booklet “Beans and Rice: The Perfect Pair of Brazil” prepared by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). ( 9 )

Vegetarian bean broth

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups of cooked beans (can be any type)
  • 2 cups of bean broth
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 medium onions
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation mode

Place the beans and stock in a blender, beating well until it becomes a smooth mixture. In a pan, saute the garlic and onion, then add the stock and cook for at least 10 minutes. Finally, season everything with salt and pepper.

Tips for preparing beans

Nutritionist Sueli Longo also gave some tips that help improve the benefits of beans during preparation. The first is to add spices, such as garlic, onion, green scent, peppers or even aromatic herbs, as they “add extra flavor and nutritional benefits, due to their bioactive compounds, without changing the calorie content”, he explained.

Furthermore, these seasonings help to reduce the use of oils, meats and sausages, which increase the calories in the food.

Finally, “leaving the beans to soak and discarding this water before cooking is important to reduce anti-nutritional factors and cooking time,” she explained.

What is the best type of beans?

There are several varieties of beans on the market. In Brazil, the most common are carioca beans, black beans and black beans, also called cowpea in some regions, but they all have very similar nutritional properties. Therefore, all are great for health and there is no one that is better than the other.

According to Sueli, carioca beans, for example, have about 70 calories, 4.77 grams of protein, 8.20 of available carbohydrates and an average of 7g of dietary fiber.

Black-eyed beans, on the other hand, have 65 calories, 5g of protein, 6g of carbohydrates and 7.47g of dietary fiber. Black beans, in turn, have even less calories per 100g serving, with only 61 plus 4.48g of protein, 5.6g of available carbohydrate and 8.4g of dietary fiber.

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

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