MBC DIetitian Blog

Diabetes and the Benefits of Beans

If you or a family member have diabetes or pre-diabetes, eating healthy, balanced meals is the key to overall health. Good nutrition not only helps you control your blood sugar levels, but it also lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol and keeps you energized and satisfied.

When your kitchen is stocked with the right foods, it’s much easier to stick with your healthful meal plan. Michigan Beans have a nutrient profile that makes them a perfect food for controlling blood sugar levels. They are nutritious, as well as versatile, affordable, convenient and delicious! Let’s take a look at the many health benefits of beans:

Complex Carbohydrates: The kind of carbs found in beans are a combination of starch, resistant starch (digested by beneficial bacteria in the gut), and small amounts of non-starch polysaccharides (also digested by beneficial bacteria). Beans also contain some complex sugars called oligosaccharides which are non-digestible, fermentable fibers. These fibers are what can cause gas production. The good news for people with diabetes is these carbs have a low glycemic index which means they are less likely to cause blood sugar level increases and can help you manage diabetes and a healthy weight. 

A serving of beans for carb counting purposes is 1/2 cup (1/3 cup for baked beans) and that’s “counted” as one carb choice plus one lean protein choice.

Dietary Fiber: Beans are a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber traps dietary cholesterol in your intestinal tract. The cholesterol can then be excreted versus being absorbed which can help lower blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. The substantial amounts of insoluble fibers attract water to the stool and helps keep you regular. This may help prevent constipation, colon cancer and other digestive disorders.

Protein: Beans are a good source of plant-based protein and serve as a meat alternative. Protein can help keep you feeling full for a longer period of time and can slow the digestion of carbohydrate. According to The Bean Institute, beans are 21% to 25% protein by weight, which makes them higher than other sources of vegetable protein.

Vitamins and Minerals: Most beans provide potassium, a mineral that can help promote healthy blood pressure, along with copper, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium. These are all nutrients that many individuals have a shortage of. Many beans are also a rich source of iron and an excellent source of the B vitamins thiamin and folic acid. In addition, they are a good source of riboflavin and vitamin B6.

Beans and Diabetes:

For individuals with diabetes, beans are a very good food choice. One of the important benefits is their fiber content as mentioned previously. Studies have shown that including foods that contain soluble fiber in particular, can help lower blood sugar levels and A1C levels by approximately half a percentage point.1,2 It is recommended to try and include 1 cup of beans or lentils everyday as part of a healthy, low-glycemic dietary plan.

Tips for consuming beans:

  • If you haven’t eaten a lot of beans, start slowly to reduce gassiness.
  • Dry and canned beans are great! Click here for easy instructions on cooking dry beans in an Instant Pot. Make a batch and freeze for multiple meals. Canned beans are super convenient. Just look for low sodium varieties or rinse and drain thoroughly.
  • Get creative with adding beans to meals. Include them in soups and stews. Sprinkle them on salads or create a delicious, versatile Plant-Powered Black Bean and Beef Blend to use in a variety of recipes.

Keep your healthy eating plan on track during the winter season with this easy cold-weather soup that delivers on taste and nutrition.

References:

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