If you’re a fan of Cuban cuisine, you probably don’t need to be told that dishes like black beans and rice are some of the tastiest comfort foods you can treat yourself to. But did you know that these dishes are also incredibly good for you? Black beans have been grown and eaten in Central and South America for thousands of years—and with their popularity growing in the U.S., Europe, and other parts of the world, you can reap their health benefits, too. And some of them might surprise you!
Black Beans Are a Great Source of Vegetarian Protein
Black beans, like other beans, are great for people following a vegetarian or vegan diet. These diets, which are based mostly or entirely on plants, can often lack enough protein for the body to work at its best. However, when combined with whole grains like brown rice, black beans form a complete protein which will provide you with the amino acids which are needed to build and maintain lean muscle mass and are part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
Black Beans Promote Healthy Muscles, Bones, and Joints
Again, the protein that you find in black beans and other legumes is great for building muscle mass and helps you to do this without the saturated fat and extra calories of meat. It is also good for bones because it is high in calcium: as you age, a high-calcium diet can prevent diseases like osteoporosis, which lead to weakening of the bones and fractures. Lastly, because they contain omega-3 fatty acids, beans are able to help reduce inflammation throughout the body and help with conditions like arthritis, which cause joint pain and lack of mobility.
Black Beans Can Improve Your Digestion
Heartburn, upset stomach, constipation—these are common problems in any country where most people live off of processed foods that often are lacking in the fiber. Beans, however, are a great source of this important nutrient. Fiber is one of the best things for your digestive system: it “scrubs” out many toxins or other harmful substances and helps your body move food more easily through the digestive process, making it less likely that you will suffer from problems like constipation.
Beans do have a reputation for giving people gas. However, if you start out with dry beans and soak them in water overnight, then throw that water out and cook them in fresh water, you will greatly reduce the potential for bloating and flatulence afterwards.
Black Beans Help Reduce Your Cancer Risk
Cancer remains a leading cause of death not only in the United States but throughout the world. However, some dietary choices can reduce your chance of developing this disease. Beans are an important part of an anti-cancer diet because of the fact that they contain 8 different kinds of flavonoids, which are plant compounds that studies have shown to reduce free radical damage that changes cells and makes cancer more likely. Also, because they are so high in fiber, beans can prevent the develop of colon cancer specifically.
Black Beans Are Heart Healthy
Everyone knows the schoolboy song about beans being good for your heart—but that actually turns out to be true. The soluble fiber in black beans has been associated with lowered cholesterol levels. Less cholesterol in your arteries means a reduced chance of a heart attack (as well as other serious events like a stroke). Studies have also shown that the omega-3 fatty acids in beans are associated with higher levels of healthy HDL cholesterol and can even slightly lower blood pressure. All of this is great for cardiac health.
Black Beans Are a Great Food for Moms-To-Be
There are a number of reasons why beans are such a great food for expecting mothers. To begin with, they are rich in folic acid which pregnant women need a lot of while their baby is developing. Getting enough of this important nutrient in your diet is the best way to prevent certain neural tube defects such as spina bifida, which can have serious consequences for your baby.
And because beans are so high in fiber, they can also help ease the problems of constipation that pregnant women often suffer from due to the hormonal and physical changes taking place in their bodies as the baby grows.
Beans Help Prevent Deficiencies in Your Diet
If you’re like many people, your busy schedule makes it easy to say “yes” to a lot of processed or fast foods to make it through the day. While this can save a lot of time, it can also mean that your diet is lacking in a lot of important nutrients. These include not only fiber and protein, but minerals like manganese and calcium, antioxidant compounds like anthocyanins (one of the antioxidants that makes blueberries so healthy), and omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with good heart health.
Black Beans Help Diabetics Control Their Blood Sugars
If you or someone you love is diabetic, you know how difficult it can be to keep blood sugar under control. Diet—along with proper medications—can make a big difference, and beans are highly recommended by organizations like the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Why? Because they are so high in fiber, beans take a while to digest. This slower breakdown means that glucose is not released into the bloodstream all at once, and spikes in blood sugar levels are avoided.
Black Beans Are Also Good for Your Brain
Black beans are particularly good for the health of your brain and nervous system. This is because they are a great source of a mineral called molybdenum, which can be hard to get enough of in your diet. It is, however, a mineral which is very important to the health of your nervous system and studies have shown that it can reduce your risk of neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Black Beans Are Easy to Fit Into Your Diet!
If you would like to get more black beans into your diet, but aren’t sure how to prepare them, then here are 5 great and simple recipes to help start you out!
1. Black Bean Loaf
2. Pureed Black Bean Soup
3. Black Bean Chocolate Cake
4. Black Bean Burritos
5. Black Bean Enchiladas
So try one of these easy recipes today and start reaping all the health benefits these amazing black beans can bring!