Other Beans

Below are a few beans that are not part of the Common Beans group nor the Vigna genus beans but are common in our diets (and quite healthy).

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Chickpeas ★★

Chickpeas are a great source of iron, fiber, and protein. It’s also an excellent source of manganese, copper, and folate. They go great with red peppers because peppers are high in vitamin C, which helps you absorb the iron. One serving of chickpeas has about half of the recommended fiber for the day. The fiber helps lower your cholesterol and keeps you full. It is low on the glycemic index so its a good to eat to help prevent type 2 diabetes and keep your blood sugar levels from spiking. Look for dried chickpeas instead of canned ones to get more food for your money.

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To make Hummus:

– Purée a 15-ounce can or a 2-3 cups of cooked chick peas,

– ¼ – ½ cup of fat-free plain Greek yogurt

– Mix with olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of paprika.

– Serve with toasted whole-wheat pita or whatever chips or bread you like and with fresh vegetables for dipping.

 

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Fava Beans

These beans have the same health benefits as most other beans. They are high in fiber and slow digesting starches. However, some people may suffer from a condition called favism, a condition brought on my eating fava beans or inhaling the pollen from its flower. Favism is a genetic defect that causes red blood cells to burst. Some of the symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness and then severe anemia. Those from the Mediterranean region are the most susceptible to this genetic defect as well as African Americans.

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Soybeans ★★★

Soy has had its ups and downs in regards to its health reputation but it seems like it’s going up and staying up this time. The primary issue was the effect soybeans had on women and their risk for cancer. It turns out that soybeans can help decrease the risk for cancer in women especially breast cancer as long as you are eating whole soy foods. These are foods like Edamame, Tempeh, Tofu, Natto (Nato), Soy nuts, and in most cases Soymilk. Soymilk is technically a processed food but it is minimally processed and many of the healthy compounds are not lost so it’s generally grouped with whole soy foods. Soy supplements on the other hand are quite processed and are not considered a whole soy product. Honestly, we really don’t need to be taking soy supplements. It’s not practical and it’s more beneficial for you to eat whole soy foods instead.

 

Soy Scale

Foods are listed from least processed to most processed

  1. Tempeh (fermented whole soy food)
  2. Edemame, Tofu, Miso and Soymilk (Soymilk has some soy protein isolates and some healthy protein is removed by processing but is still quite healthy. Look for whole soybean milk or whole bean milks. Make sure none of the sweeteners are syrups or evaporated cane sugars. Expiration date is key, soymilk with a long shelf life means more additives and preservatives)
  3. Soy chips (much more refined soy)
  4. Soy burgers (even more refined, looks healthy but it isn’t)
  5. Soy protein bars (even more isolates and contains processed flours and a bunch of sugar)

 

Soybeans are a complete protein, which means it has all the essential amino acids we need in order for our bodies to function. It is the only source of complete protein that is not from an animal. It is a great source of fiber, magnesium and potassium, which is great for our digestive system and nervous system. This also means that it’s great for lowering your LDL cholesterol and decreasing your risk for heart disease.

Soy contains antioxidants called isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens (or plant estrogens). This is what gives soy its reputation as a cancer fighter. Soybeans also have a powerful antioxidant called Genistein. It is a very good at preventing angiogenesis in cancer cells and it can do this at concentrations that we can get by eating soybeans (versus eating soy extracts or supplements).

winnond / freedigitalphotos.net
In one study, women who ate either 1-cup of soymilk or a ½ cup of tofu daily reduced their risk of getting breast cancer by 30%. Studies are not sure whether soy can help fight off cancer once you get it but it seems to be a better preventer of cancer than it is a fighter of cancer. Also, after looking at studies, it seems that women who drastically increase or decrease the amount of soy they eat tend to lose out on the benefits, and, may perhaps increase their risk for cancer. Your best bet is to gradually increase the amount of soy you eat over time to get the best out of it. This is no sure fire method but it seems like a reasonable course of action given the results from studies.

 

 

Based on dietary guidelines it is recommended that we do not consume more than 25 grams of soy isoflavones daily. 1-2 servings of soy per day is what we should aim for.

1-2 servings of Soy equals:

  • 1 cup of soymilk
  • ½ cup of Tofu
  • Approx 1 cup of Edamame (or ½ cup of the seed pods)
  • Approx 3 tablespoons of Soy nuts

Soy can help support your thyroid and not cause hypothyroidism but it may affect how thyroid medication is absorbed so avoid eating it if you’re taking any thyroid medication.

 

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Edamame ★★★

Besides having all of the health benefits of whole soy foods it also has an amino acid called tryptophan that causes you to produce a hormone called serotonin. This hormone controls your mood and sleep. Turkey has tryptophan in it, which is why we can get so sleepy after a thanksgiving meal. Tryptophan also causes you to produce a compound called GABA that calms down the entire nervous system.

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Natto

Natto is a fermented soybean dish. It contains Vitamin K2, which is excellent for bone growth and help to reduce general aches and pains due to aging. Natto contains an enzyme called nattokinase, which has the ability to reduce the risk of blood clots and break up the plaque on neurons associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The fermentation process also makes the phytoestrogens more available for our bodies to absorb. The fermenting process makes Natto healthier than Tofu or Soymilk. Some in Japan eat it for breakfast on a bed of rice with an egg on top. It has a “smell” but the taste isn’t so bad. You can also mix it with tuna, ginger, radish or Okra.

On top of that, Natto is a great prebiotic, meaning, it can boost the healthy bacteria in your gut.

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Tofu

Tofu is essentially a block of coagulated soymilk. It’s rich in calcium, which is great for your nerves. It is high in Omega 3 fats, which is a powerful anti inflammatory and excellent for your brain and it can lower the risk for dementia. This food can be especially beneficial for women because of the high calcium and omega 3 fats.

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