Bring on the beans for better health

By Shayna Brouker • Published: January 1st, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

A popular New Year’s dish in the South is a mashup of beans, peppers and onions called “hoppin’ John,” believed to bring good luck for those who eat it. Southerners have the right idea — it’s smart to start off the New Year and every day after with beans, legumes and greens. New research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that beans and other legumes like chickpeas and lentils do a stellar job of keeping blood sugar levels steady to improve heart health and reduce your risk for heart disease.

The study followed two groups of people with Type 2 diabetes, both on very healthy diets for three months. One group of participants went heavy on the beans — and had much better control over their blood sugar. What’s more, they enjoyed a lower risk of heart disease, too, because of the beans’ effect on blood pressure — which surprised researchers. Beans are known as a low-glycemic food, which means they keep blood sugar levels steady after ingestion. High-glycemic foods, on the other hand, cause blood sugar to spike, spelling trouble for those with diabetes.

But the real hero of the diet, say scientists, is not just the beans, but the high fiber. For example, a cup of navy beans boasts about 19 grams of fiber. To help lower heart disease risk, people with diabetes should get about 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day to improve total cholesterol and L-D-L or “bad” cholesterol.

Need some more ways to fit fiber in to your diet? Start your day with whole-grain cereal and top it off with fresh fruit. Apples, pears, bananas and berries are all top picks. And of course, all veggies have some fiber. Artichoke hearts, green peas, spinach, corn and broccoli boast the most.

So if you’re looking to lower cholesterol, control blood sugar or just stay regular, beef up on fiber.