When you think of black beans, think of fibre. One cup of cooked black beans contains a whopping 15g of fibre (for comparison, 1 cup of cooked oat bran contains 6g fibre, and 1 medium banana contains 3g of fibre). This massive fibre hit should be enough of a perk to peak your interest, but wait, there’s more! Black beans are a great vegetarian source of protein (massive 15g protein per 1 cup cooked beans), and they have a beneficial arrangement of anthocyanins, flavonoids, and phytonutrients.
Black beans are one of the few foods that have been studied (as a whole food) for their health potential. Research as recent as 2017 is showing an exceptional anti-diabetes potential[i]. A 2015 study concluded that the inclusion of black beans into a typical western-style meal reduces the post meal insulin response and moderately enhances the post meal antioxidant benefit[ii]. An additional study from 2017 confirms this response by finding that black beans added to white rice significantly improves the glycemic response post meal[iii]. Not only is this great news for those with metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes, but it has the potential to be fantastic news for those at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
Being that menopause itself puts you at risk of both metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, I strongly recommend you look into black beans and how to incorporate them into your meals. Beans used to be known as the great ‘meat extender’, and maybe that should be widely recognised again.
Black beans come as either dried beans (found in the soup section of your supermarket), or as canned beans (found in the canned veg section of your supermarket). As a naturopath, I prefer the dried version as I like to stay away from canned foods (too many toxins in the lining of the can), however, choose what works for you. Canned beans are already cooked and just require rinsing before adding to your meals. Dried beans require cooking. There are two ways of cooking dried black beans with the end results being very similar. You can either soak the black beans for 4-6hours (or overnight), before cooking for 50-60mins, or you can simply cook (boil) the beans for 60-90mins before adding them to your meal. Soaked beans require less cooking time, but more forethought.
Traditionally, it is common to keep the boiled water of these beans to consume it as a soup ingredient, as a broth, or as a seasoning to colour other dishes.
If you need more convincing, maybe this will help. 1 cup of cooked black beans contains 64% of your daily folate needs (hello MTHFR people!), 38% of your manganese needs, and 181mg of omega 3 fatty acids (plus a whole lot more goodness). Their rich fibre content makes them great for satiety, and their mild flavour makes them a great sneaky addition to meals like spaghetti bolognaise, pasta dishes (or vegetable ‘pasta’ dishes), stews, pies or salads.
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[i] Mojica, L., et al. (2017). “Black bean anthocyanin-rich extracts as food colorants: Physicochemical stability and antidiabetes potential.” Food Chem 229: 628-639.
[ii] Reverri, E. J., et al. (2015). “Black Beans, Fiber, and Antioxidant Capacity Pilot Study: Examination of Whole Foods vs. Functional Components on Postprandial Metabolic, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation in Adults with Metabolic Syndrome.” Nutrients 7(8): 6139-6154.
[iii] Winham, D. M., et al. (2017). “Glycemic Response to Black Beans and Chickpeas as Part of a Rice Meal: A Randomized Cross-Over Trial.” Nutrients 9(10).