Bring on the Beans

It’s no secret that fiber is good for your body. One of the best ways to incorporate fiber into your diet is to eat more beans. They are one of the most naturally rich sources of fiber, as well as protein, lysine, calcium, iron, potassium, B vitamins, and minerals! If beans tend to give you indigestion or gas, you can try eating smaller portions to start, or try smaller beans that are easier to digest like black beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils.

A high-fiber diet has many benefits, which include:

  • Normalizes bowel movements. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may also help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool.
  • Helps maintain bowel health. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease). Some fiber is fermented in the colon. Researchers are looking at how this may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.
  • Lowers cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that fiber may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
  • Helps control blood sugar levels. In people with diabetes, fiber — particularly soluble fiber — can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Aids in achieving healthy weight. High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat. Also, a high-fiber diet tends to make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. And high-fiber diets also tend to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.

How to incorporate more beans into your diet:

  • Add a handful or chickpeas to a green salad.
  • Instead of a cream based dip, try dipping chips or pita bread into a delicious white bean dip.
  • Replace meat with black or kidney beans in your favorite stew or chilli recipe.
  • For breakfast, try scrambled eggs with black beans.  Top with salsa and avocado slices.
  • Replace potatoes or rice with a side of sauteed beans.
  • Try minestrone, split pea, black bean or lentil soup for lunch.
  • Add cooked white kidney beans to a tomato-based pasta sauce for a Mediterranean inspired meal.

The Cancer Survivors Guide by Neal D. Barnard, MD and Jennifer K. Reilly, RD