Originally published at www.breakingmuscle.com
A lot of paleo diet advocates caution against eating various foods for good reason, processed foods and dairy being amongst these foods. But to me, the concept of omitting beans from your diet, with the exception of those with digestive problems or diseases, doesn’t make much sense. Those who caution against eating beans cite the presence of phytates and lectins as some of the main reasons why they shouldn’t be eaten. But as you’ll see below, the hysteria over these so-called “anti-nutrients” in beans is overblown. Quite simply, beans are some of the most nutrient-dense, energy-boosting, and disease-fighting foods you can include in your diet. Here’s why:
Reason #1: Most Phytates Are Actually Beneficial
The craziness over phytates originates from astudy done on puppies and published in 1949. The study suggested that high-phytate diets prevent the absorption of calcium and other minerals, and therefore have a bone-softening effect.1However, newer studies on humans strongly suggest that those who consume the highest amount of phytates actually have the strongest bone density.2
Reason #2: Lectins Are Neutralized by Cooking
When it comes to lectins, there shouldn’t be any cause for concern either. There are many kinds of lectins, most of which are not toxic, and those that are toxic are neutralized to tolerable levels when beans are cooked. In particular, the lectin that receives the most attention, phytohemagglutinin, is reduced to safe levels after cooking. Saying that beans shouldn’t be consumed because they contain lectins is the same as saying chicken shouldn’t be consumed because it gives you salmonella poisoning. Doesn’t that sound silly? Moreover, just like phytates, lectins (particularly those in soybeans) seem to be incredibly beneficial for combatting cancer cells, fungi, bacteria, and viruses and are prevalent in many other plant foods such as tomatoes, corn, nuts, seeds, and some fruit.3
Reason #3: Beans Contain Resistant Starch
Beans contain the highest amount of resistant starch of any food. Resistant starch, although technically a carbohydrate, acts more like fiber because it’s resistant to digestion and doesn’t break down into sugar. It’s also a prebiotic, meaning that it feeds and promotes growth of probiotics – the healthy bacteria that you need in your gut.
Furthermore, when the resistant starch is broken down by the probiotics, it creates compounds that enhance immune function and help to protect against colon cancer.4,5Eating beans or other legumes at least twice a week has been shown to reduce colon cancer risk by 50%.6 Black beans contain the most resistant starch of any bean with 26.9% resistant starch (and 42.6% fiber) per 100 grams dry, and most legumes are over 20% resistant starch. So, if you’re watching your carbohydrate intake (for whatever reason), be aware that a significant portion of the carbohydrates in beans is not digestible.
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