Doctor’s Tip: Beans associated with longer life
In his book “How Not to Die,” Dr. Michael Greger (website nutritionfacts.org) lists his daily dozen, foods we should be eating every day and why. In recent columns I have talked about two of them: nuts/seeds and cruciferous vegetables. Today I would like to talk about a third, legumes, which includes beans of all kinds, lentils, chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) and split peas. Dr. Greger recommends three servings a day, with serving sizes being 1/4 cup of hummus or bean dip; 1/2 cup of cooked beans, split peas, lentils, tofu or tempeh; or 1 cup of fresh peas or sprouted lentils. Hummus is healthier if it has no added oil, so you can make your own or buy Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Plant Strong hummus at Whole Foods, which has no added oil. Lentil sprouts, which you can grow yourself, have even more nutrients than mature lentils.
According to Dr. Greger, the most comprehensive analysis of diet and cancer ever performed was published in 2007 by the American Institute for Cancer Research. Their recommendation was to eat whole grains and/or legumes with every meal. In Japan, with one of the healthiest populations in the world, breakfast almost always includes beans in the form of miso soup with tofu. Legume intake is consistently associated with longer life span.
Here’s why legumes are so good for you:
• They have even more protein than most vegetables.
• They contain iron, zinc, fiber, folate and potassium.
• They have phytates and other cancer-fighting nutrients.
• They lower cholesterol.
• They help regulate blood sugar immediately after a meal and for anything eaten for several hours later (the latter is called the “second meal effect”).
• They help with weight loss, particularly belly fat, which causes insulin resistance/pre-diabetes. According to Dr. Bale and Dr. Doneen in their book “Beat the Heart Attack Gene,” insulin resistance is the driver of 70 percent of cardiovascular disease.
When increasing bean intake is discussed with patients, they often express concerns about gas. It is true that for several days after increasing the fiber in your diet, more gas occurs, but once you are on a consistent high fiber diet this problem resolves. And remember, gas is normal part of life.
Furthermore, if you are totally plant-based, the rotten egg smell in the flatus of meat and dairy eaters is no longer present, for many reasons including healthier gut bacteria. Here’s what Kaiser Permanente recommends in its pamphlet “The Plant-Based Diet, a Healthier Way to Eat,” to cut down on gas as you start eating more beans: Put the beans in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water, bring to a boil for 3 minutes, cover and set aside for 1 to 4 hours, then rinse and drain well.
So eat more beans, and canned beans are just as healthy as home cooked, as long as it says no added salt on the label. Here’s an easy way to get the recommended amount of beans every day: Put a small handful of frozen edamame in your cooked oatmeal in the morning, along with cinnamon and berries, nuts and chia and flaxseeds. Also put 1/4 or 1/3 of a can of unsalted black beans on top of a big salad for lunch, with a non-oil dressing such as balsamic vinegar on top.
Next week’s column will be about soy, and the bad rap some people unfairly give it.
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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