Part 2: Beans
While part one focused on the frugal nature and ultimate practicality of rice, the other half of the famous rice and beans equation focuses more on nutrient density. For a long time people have erroneously thought that staple starches are incomplete proteins. Not true, even though many cultures have a tradition of combining a legume with whole grains. That is because beans, peas, and lentils have lots of nutrients, not just protein that complements rice.
Poor Man’s Meat
Beans are often thought of as what poor people eat when they can’t afford meat, and that social stigma has led people to believe that plant protein, including beans, is inferior to meat and dairy. Not so. Not only is the protein just as good, more importantly, the overall package is much healthier. Here’s what beans offer:
- carbohydrate: due to some of the carbohydrate being resistant starch, this is slow burning energy that lasts a long time.
- fiber: fiber is absolutely necessary for health, and the average American gets something like 12g a day compared to the 75g or so we evolved with.
- protein: plant protein is more easily digested, and a better balance of amino acids.
- phytochemicals: while not as powerful as green vegetables, beans have plenty of disease fighting phytonutrients.
Here is what Dr. Fuhrman says about the nutritional power of beans:
“Beans (and other legumes as well) are a powerhouse of superior nutrition, and the most nutrient-dense carbohydrate source. They act as an anti-diabetes and weight-loss food because they are digested slowly, having a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, which promotes satiety and helps to prevent food cravings. Plus they contain soluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol levels.14 Beans are unique foods because of their very high levels of fiber and resistant starch, carbohydrates that are not broken down by digestive enzymes. Fiber and resistant starch not only reduce the total number of calories absorbed from beans, but are also fermented by intestinal bacteria into fatty acids that help to prevent colon cancer. Eating beans, peas, or lentils at least twice a week has been found to decrease colon cancer risk by 50%. 15,16 Legume intake also provides significant protection against oral, larynx, pharynx, stomach, and kidney cancers.17”
In contrast, animal foods contain protein that appears to be disease promoting according to T. Colin Campbell, saturated fat and cholesterol. All bad. Beans FTW!