Thursday, March 7, 2013

Beans: They Really are the Magical Fruit

Beans, beans, the musical fruit

The more you eat, the more you toot

The more you toot, the better you feel

So let's eat beans with every meal!


Beans are meat for the vegan or vegetarian. Now, with Tim Ferriss coming on the scene with his 4 Hour Body and 4 Hour Chef books, beans are becoming a much more important part of a lot of meat eater’s diet, as well. The big attraction is the amount of protein you can get from these legumes. However, beans are packed with many essential nutrients.

(note: the below links to Amazon are affiliate links. By clicking on those links, I stand to profit - thanks in advance if you do! I have all of Tim's books and they simply provide an awesome new look on life in the 21st century.)

The most economic and health conscious way to consume beans is by buying dried beans in bulk and going through the lengthy preparation process. In the real world, canned beans are available on the shelves of every grocery store. The only downfall to this is the amount of sodium that comes along with the preservation process.

All numbers used in this article are provided by Unico, a food packaging company based in the Greater Toronto Area. I have no affiliation with the company. Unico simply is one of the most popular and readily available brands of canned beans in Canada and their website provides a wealth of information. All serving sizes are 125 grams. A typically can of beans is 540 grams. Therefore, there are close to 4.5 servings in a can.

The beans we looked at were Black, Broad, Garbonzo (Chick Peas), Faba, Lentils, Lima, Lupini, Red Kidney, Romano and White Kidney. Lupini, or Yellow Lupin, is not that readily available and is in world of its own. Anyone with food allergy issues may want to avoid Lupini all together.

The great thing is that none of these beans contain and cholesterol. With the exception of Lupini, which contains 6g of fat per serving, all had no more than 2g of fat per serving. Broad beans contained no fat while Lentils and Lima beans contained just 0.5 grams per serving. All are also very low in sugar. However, Garbonzo beans are high in carbohydrates at 29g per serving, compared to Lima beans at the low end of the scale at just 13g.

With Tim Ferriss and vegans worldwide, the big number is the grams of protein. Lupini contains a staggering 22g of protein per serving. The next highest is Faba beans at 11g and the lowest is Lima beans at just 3g per serving. All others range from 7 to 10g. This is significant in maintaining a healthy body.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is stated at 56 grams for the average male adult and 46 grams for the average female adult. The ‘average’ is 154 lbs. for a male and 110 lbs. for a female. It is suggested by some that these numbers are way low and reflect a sedentary lifestyle. For active adults, the number might need to be almost doubled.

As you can see, eating just one can of beans can nearly meet the RDA for protein. As a vegan, I often suffered from headaches. Since moving to a bean based diet in December of 2012, the headaches have all but disappeared. Also, I simply feel better and have more energy late into the day.

Of course, the other question that is asked of all that don’t consume meat or dairy: “How do you possibly get enough calcium?” We all know that calcium shows its face in some amount in nearly all vegetables. However, beans are an especially great source. If you can stomach Lupini, you’ll get 15% of your RDA in just one serving. All other beans mentioned here will provide 2-6% of your RDA per serving.

Besides the major benefits, all the beans are high in fibre and low in sugar. All are a great source of iron. Lima beans are the only ones with a significant amount of Vitamin C at 6% of the RDA per serving. Garbonzos are the only ones that will provide Vitamin A at 2% of the RDA.

How do you down 1-2 cans of beans per day?! Surprisingly, after several months, I’m still good with a can of beans (drained and rinsed) cooked in a pot along with a can of diced tomatoes, a bit of EVO, some oregano, paprika and cayenne. Sometimes, I’ll split into two meals. Sometimes, it goes down in one shot. I mix the type of beans up but prefer Romano or Kidney (white or red, doesn't matter).

Just a quick summary of the benefits I’ve found:

·         Headaches gone

·         Weight stabalized

·         Injury free – the muscles seem to better take abuse (something very handy when playing hockey and snowshoeing in the wilderness)