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The Health Benefits of Black Beans + Five Great Recipes

The Health Benefits of Black Beans + Five Great Recipes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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    2. Pureed Black Bean Soup

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      3. Black Bean Chocolate Cake

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        4. Black Bean Burritos

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          5. Black Bean Enchiladas

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            So try one of these easy recipes today and start reaping all the health benefits these amazing black beans can bring!

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            Brian Wu

            Health Writer, Author

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            Last Updated on January 14, 2019

            7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

            7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

            From Atkins to Paleo to eating gluten-free despite not being one of the rare few people afflicted with celiac disease, fad diets are everywhere. It drives me crazy because I believe these diets do more harm than good. Your body is made up of a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, and losing weight healthily isn’t possible when you fill your body with unnecessary synthetic plastics, sugars, and powders. There’s no easy button in life.

            What you need to do is exercise, which isn’t very appealing to many people. Workouts take work, so there’s already a stigma involved in going to the gym. Starting a healthy workout regimen becomes easier when you make it fun. If you want to live long and prosper, get off the couch and try these methods to turn your workout into a playout.

            1. Take the scenic route.

            Walking is an easy way to transition to a healthy lifestyle, and it’s free. Not only do you burn calories (check out this calculator for how many calories you burn based on your weight), but you see the world in a different way. Hiking in nature is great if you have access to it, but don’t let living in an urban area deter you from walking.

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            Whenever I’m creatively stuck I get my head straight by walking a couple of miles. It’s also how I discover new paths, meet new people, and stumble upon hole-in-the-wall spots I never would have found otherwise. You could drive past the same place every day and never appreciate the beauty, nor even notice it’s there.

            2. Distract yourself.

            No matter what exercise routine you choose, use the time to meditate. You may wonder how marathon runners are able to put so many miles on their bodies. It’s because the pain from running that you avoid is something they’ve learned to harness to enter a transcendental state. If you’re aware of the benefits of meditation and exercise but don’t have time to do both, you can combine them, killing two birds with one healthy stone.

            3. Listen to music or podcasts.

            There are few experiences in life more pleasurable than turning up the music and drowning out the world around you. With so many podcasts and music apps available on your smartphone, you can easily find entertainment options perfectly suited to your personal tastes. Never worry what people may think of you when working out;instead, crank up the volume and get lost in your own world. You’ll be in shape before you know it.

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            4. Bring a friend.

            Some people can’t go anywhere alone. While I highly recommend dining out and seeing a movie in a theater alone, having company while exercising is very helpful. It allows you to pace yourself with someone else, and gives you a coach to motivate and push harder than you may have on your own.

            Many exercises are safer when done with a friend, and some sports can only be played with another person. Involving others in your goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Just remember to continue exercising if the other person flakes, or they’ll be in control of your health.

            5. Accessorize.

            There are accessories that can make exercise easier, and sometimes buying a new toy can add some much-needed fun to your routine. With apps like RunKeeper and Nike+, your smartphone is capable of tracking your vitals and progress. Wrist weights can add a new dimension to your workout, and, if you exercise at night, a headlamp can help you see what’s in front of you so you don’t trip.

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            For urban runners and power-walkers, one of the biggest obstacles is other people. It’s difficult to get in your meditative zone and enjoy your music when you constantly have to dodge people. To resolve this vexing issue, Runbell, a startup in Tokyo, has developed the runner’s version of the bicycle bell. With this lightweight brass bell warning people you’re approaching from behind, you’re free to maintain your transcendental state while continuing your workout. Head to their Kickstarter campaign to pledge your support.

            6. Compete.

            A little healthy competition can motivate you to push yourself further in your workout regimen. There are apps like Zombies, Run! which turns your run into a video game, and MyFitnessPal which allows you to connect with others in the exercise community. Whether you’re directly competing with a friend, an online community, or against your previous self, setting goals is the key to reaching them. Running with no destination can feel like an impossible task, and it’s easy to get distracted.

            7. Relax.

            The best part about exercising is how much you enjoy the downtime. If you think laying on your couch all day is enjoyable, it has nothing on that hour you spend as a couch potato after a rigorous workout. Jay-Z said it best, “in order to experience joy, you need pain.” The harder you push yourself while exercising, the better you’ll feel when you’re relaxing.

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            With that said, don’t relax too much, or it loses the effect. It’s okay to indulge every so often. Treat yourself to some junk food you’re craving, imbibe a drink here and there, and spend a day vegging out on your couch. Staying healthy doesn’t have to be torture. Just turn down when you can and dedicate some time to better the health of your body. You only get one.

            Featured photo credit: tpsdave via pixabay.com

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