Many folks are “dissing” beans these days, be them lentil, refried, kidney, soy or black. We’re so concerned about the capacity of some of the bean compounds (called anti-nutrients), such as lectins, saponins, protease inhibitors and phytates to induce damage that we forget about the copious bean benefits, including the cheap cost, protein, fiber and minerals. And all of those anti-nutrients have beneficial aspects, too. Take phytates. Yup, they do indeed limit the bioavailability of some essential minerals. We need to be aware of this potential and deal with it by soaking beans before cooking. But these same phytates remove toxic metals- such as lead and cadmium- from absorption as well. Dr. Richard Lord, my mentor at Metametrix Laboratory routinely recommended increasing bean consumption for this particular benefit.
Beans (the lectin and saponin compounds) can contribute to intestinal permeability- they’re probably best-known for this issue. Particularly in folks who already have some baseline gut damage. This is one of the main reasons why I remove most or all forms legumes from the diet of individuals with autoimmune diseases. And many beans with their extraordinary ability to feed gut bugs (beans are a powerful prebiotic), are a problem in people with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. But taking all beans out of the diet needn’t be a forever change for these people.
Blue Zones are regions around the globe where individuals live a lot longer and healthier than the rest of us (check out www.bluezones.com). There are high numbers of centenarians (living to 100+ years) in these zones. Places like Loma Linda, California; Sardinia, Italy and Okinawa, Japan are considered Blue Zones. By investigating what these people are doing so successfully, we can glean important ideas for our own lives. Blue Zone people have really strong community and family connections, they’re happier, they move around and get outside a lot. Some of them drink a good amount of wine and eat a ton of carbohydrates.
Common among all the Blue Zoners? Beans. They eat them. Often.
So if you’re a healthy individual with good gut function, there really isn’t any reason why you should be banishing the beans.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you eat beans? Which kinds are your favorites? Comment below!