(Including Pinto, Kidney, Navy, Great Northern, Lima, Garbanzo, and Green Beans; Lentils; and Sugar Snap and Green Peas)

Copyrighted Material*

Also called legumes because they have a pod with seeds inside, beans are among the best sources of vegetarian protein. One cup of lentils, for example, has about the same amount of protein as two ounces of extra lean sirloin steak, but the steak has about six times more fat. One of the best things about beans is their ability to help you stabilize your blood sugar level, which is the key not only to weight control but also to reducing your risk of a wide range of serious chronic diseases.

Legumes are low on the glycemic index, which means that they don’t cause the blood sugar level to spike; they’re also low in calories and inexpensive. In addition to being a good source of vegetarian protein, beans contain high amounts of dietary fiber, prebiotics (the key for health-promoting probiotic bacteria), and polyphenols, as well as other bioactive phytonutrients.

A number of studies have shown an inverse relationship between a legume-based diet and the rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. The consumption of non-soy legumes is correlated with small waist circumference, low body weight, decreased systolic (the top number) blood pressure, improved blood glucose level, and a reduced rate of all of the causes of cardiovascular death.

Markers, in medicine, are traits, conditions, and very often blood chemicals that, when present or elevated beyond what has been established as “normal,” indicates the presence of or a probable increased predisposition for a condition or disease. Beans are high in magnesium as well as in fiber, and both have been correlated with reduced levels of C-reactive protein and other markers for inflammation.

For all of these reasons, we in the United States would be wise to follow the lead of many traditional diets in other parts of the world and add more beans to our diet.

*This brief summary contains copyrighted material from SuperFoods HealthStyle by Steven G. Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews. Copyright © 2006 by Steven G. Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews Inc., published by HarperCollins; and from SuperFoods Rx For Pregnancy by Steven Pratt, M.D. Copyright © 2013 by SuperFoods Partners, LLC, published by Wiley. All rights reserved.