Legumes, including beans, chickpeas, and lentils, are among the lowest glycemic index (GI) foods and have been recommended in national diabetes mellitus guidelines. However a new study addresses the question of whether they can be used to lower the glycemic index of your diet as a whole.
Not only did the researchers find that the legume-rich diet helped study participants better control their blood sugar levels, it also lowered their blood pressure. Both of these factors amount to an 8% reduction in heart disease risk.
Adding Beans to Your Diet
Now the trick is to find creative ways to include more beans in your diet. Here are a few tips from experts at the Mayo Clinic:
- Prepare soups, stews and casseroles that feature legumes.
- Use pureed beans as the basis for dips and spreads.
- Add chickpeas or black beans to salads.
- Snack on a handful of soy nuts or edamame rather than on chips or crackers.
Here’s one delicious beanie recipe from the cookbook, Wholesome Temptations, which was developed by experts in supporting good health through nutrition.
½ white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 (14.5 oz) can red beans, drained, rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can garbanzo, drained, rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can pinto beans, drained, rinsed
1/3 c. chili powder
4 c. chopped tomatoes, canned or fresh
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (opt.)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil. Add beans, tomatoes and seasoning. Simmer for 1 hour, then remove bay leaf. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 10 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: Calories 91; Total Fat: 3 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Sodium: 197 mg; Carbohydrate: 13 g; Fiber: 4 g; Protein: 3 g.
Reducing Bean “Side Effects”
Beans and other legumes can lead to the formation of intestinal gas. Luckily there are several ways to reduce this unfortunate side effect.
- When making dry beans, change the water several times during soaking. Don’t use the soaking water to cook the beans. The water will have absorbed some of the indigestible gas-producing carbohydrates
- Try using canned beans — the canning process eliminates some of the gas-producing sugars. But remember to rinse the beans well to reduce any BPA than may leach out of the can lining.
- Simmer beans slowly until they are tender. This makes them easier to digest.
- Try digestive aids, such as Beano, when eating legume dishes to help reduce the amount of gas they produce.
Also, as you add more beans and legumes to your diet, be sure to drink enough water and exercise regularly to help your gastrointestinal system handle the increase in dietary fiber.