The health benefits of black beans include the prevention of cardiovascular disease and a reduced risk of certain types of cancer. Consuming black beans can also aid in digestive health and the regulation of the body’s blood sugar levels. Black beans can also be beneficial for various nervous system functions, can reduce the chances of birth defects, neutralize the negative effects of sulfites, and even prevent impotence in men.
Black beans are a simple and delicious dietary addition that can increase your overall health in many ways!
Introduction to Black Beans
Black turtle beans, more commonly known as black beans, are shiny, black members of the common bean family, Phaseolus vulgaris. It is most commonly found in and has been popularized by Latin American cuisine, and it is known by many different names in various cultures throughout South and Central America. There are six main types of black turtle beans, with relatively similar appearances and nutritional values.
Although they have been cultivated and cooked with for thousands of years in South America, black beans did not cross the Atlantic until the 1500’s in the boats of European explorers.
The general form of black beans can be changed without losing the nutritional benefits, although some may be lost when they are made into soups or when ground up and exposed to high temperatures. Its’ widespread growth and low cost is what initially made black beans a cultural staple, but as more information is learned about the benefits of adding black beans into healthy diets, it is being pursued for a number of other reasons.
One popular preparation technique is to soak black beans in water before cooking or eating them. By allowing the beans to soak in water, studies have shown that certain phytates and tannins are removed, which lowers the nutrient availability, and the beans also retain beneficial “resistant starch” while losing some of the total carbohydrate content. In some parts of the world, beans are given an independent box in the Food Pyramid, because they are such a beneficial and vital part of those cultural diets.
Black beans are very popular with vegetarians, because when they are combined with brown rice, a “complete protein” is formed. A common problem in vegetarian diets is acquiring proper amounts of protein, so black beans and brown rice can offer a simple and inexpensive solution.
Nutritional Facts of Black Beans
For such an unassuming little legume, black beans are packed with nutrients that affect our bodies in countless ways. Black beans are very high in fiber and protein, and rich with vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, calcium, iron, and manganese. Black beans also have high levels of flavonoids, which have antioxidant abilities, particularly anthocyanin, and contain some omega-3 fatty acids, which is considered a “good” form of cholesterol.
Black beans are a great source of folic acid in a diet, and have abnormally high levels of the rare compound molybdenum, which is very difficult to add naturally to a health regimen.
Health Benefits of Black Beans
Cardiovascular Health: One of the best benefits of adding black beans to your daily or weekly diet is the high level of fiber that they contain. Black beans have high concentrations of soluble fiber, which has been proven to help lower blood cholesterol. Soluble fiber attracts water and turns into a gel during digestion, whereas insoluble fiber adds mass to food and helps it pass through the digestive system faster. Lowering blood cholesterol can reduce thickening of the artery walls, which in turn can prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Black beans also have small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are “good” forms of cholesterol in our bodies that balance the negative effects of omega-6 fatty acids, “bad” cholesterols. They have slightly anti-hypertensive effects, which means that they can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and put less strain or oxidative stress on the cardiovascular system as a whole.
Cancer Prevention: Black beans have been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancers due to the flavonoids found in their seed coat. There are 8 different flavonoids that have been found in the seed coat, and three of them are anthocyanins. Flavonoids are basically color-producing phytonutrient pigments that function as antioxidants in the body to fight disease and free radicals.
Anthocyanins are pigments, but they can have a powerful effect on the body, including everything from the inhibition of blood vessel growth to cancerous tumors, slowing growth of dangerous cells, and increasing the speed of apoptosis (cell death) within cancer cells. The anthocyanins, along with all the other phytonutrients found on the seed coat, make black beans a very powerful weapon in the fight against cancer if you add it regularly to your diet!
Digestive Issues: Black beans are great for regulating digestive issues because they contain unusually high levels of protein and fiber for such a small bean, making them a “super food” of sorts. Protein and fiber both help food move through the digestive tract, allowing it to have its nutrients removed and then the waste expelled in a healthy way. Black beans are also digested slower than meat, which has a similar protein content, so eating beans can leave you satisfied longer. In this way, black beans can clean out a digestive system and help prevent overeating.
Black beans are also smaller than other beans, which people find easier to digest. Over time, with a regular addition of black beans to the diet, the soluble fiber content will absorb water into your stool, which can reduce constipation problems. It is important to add black beans as a regular part of your diet so the beneficial elements can build up in the body’s intestinal systems, and the body becomes normalized fur to to more fiber being involved with the digestive process.
Blood Sugar: Uneven digestive rates can cause unbalanced blood sugar levels in the body, but black beans regulate this issue as well. As mentioned above, the fiber and protein in black beans keeps digestion flowing at a steady rate, so concentrated doses of nutrient uptake does not occur. Rather, a steady removal of nutrients occurs throughout the digestive process. When digestion is unsteady, spikes or crashes in blood sugar can occur, which are dangerous and even fatal to patients with diabetes or similar blood sugar-related conditions.
Sulfites and Sexual Dysfunction: Studies have shown that black beans are extremely high in molybdenum, a rare mineral not found frequently in foods. Molybdenum is important for a number of reasons, primarily because it can break down and detoxify sulfites. Sulfites are acidic compounds found in wines, dried fruits, and some vegetables, and many people are very sensitive to their effects, which include headaches and disorientation. The molybdenum found in black beans counteracts these effects, neutralizing the negative effects so people can enjoy those foods again. Molybdenum also helps in cell energy production and development of nervous system.
Also, molybdenum has been shown to reduce impotence and erectile dysfunction in older men when regularly consumed in the diet. This rare vitamin has regularly been linked to increased energy and interest in sexual activity in older men.
Nervous System: Black beans can also benefit the functions of the nervous system by helping to provide the necessary amino acids and molybdenum. Black beans have many vitamins and minerals, but there is a noticeably higher amount of vitamin B9, or folate. Folate, also known as folic acid, plays a key part in the regulation of specific amino acids that the nervous system requires. Without dietary folate, studies have shown an increase in homocysteine levels, which can be a dangerous precursor to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Regularly adding black beans to your diet can insure safe folate levels in your system, helping to prevent some of these conditions.
Pre-Natal =Health: Another benefit of folate, which is found in such high levels within black beans, is its’ role in protecting infants in the womb. The folate levels in a woman’s body are integral to the normal and healthy development of the fetus in utero, particularly in the brain and spinal cord. By adding healthy amounts of black beans, and therefore folate, into your diet, you can protect your baby while it is still in the womb.
Black Beans: Health Risks
Phytic Acid: Beans have natural seed coats that protect their nutritious contents from predators and insects while growing in nature. One of the components of that seed coat is phytic acid, which protects the seed from premature germination. If the phytic acid is not removed from the bean before eating, it can bind to common minerals like calcium, magnesium, and copper, preventing them from being absorbed as nutrients in the body. These unabsorbed minerals can build up and cause many different conditions, from small irritations like digestive irritability to more serious issues like hormonal disruption and impaired brain function. Basically, cook your beans, and make sure that they soak in water to neutralize the harmful effects of phytic acid!
Oligosaccharides: Black beans contain a complex sugar called oligosaccharides, and the human body does not produce the enzyme that would naturally break that sugar down. Therefore, oligosaccharides ferment in the digestive system and begin to produce methane, which is released from the body in somewhat unpleasant ways. Again, soaking your beans in water and making sure that they are cooked can greatly reduce the amount of oligosaccharides in the beans, along with reducing all of the other organic parts of beans that are difficult to digest or process.