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Beans - Superfood Or A Dangerous Gut Inflammatory Poison?
IF Insider No. 49
In our last issue (IF Insider No. 48) we looked at intermittent fasting and supplements, particularly which ones you should take (or not!) In this issue, we are going to take a look at beans and specifically examine some of the controversial claims made by one physician that beans are basically poison!
For our premium subscribers, in this week’s Research Spotlight, we are going to look at the latest study on coffee (coffee is a bean, right?!) that aims to solve the controversy over whether coffee is good or bad for your heart.
Plus our paid subscribers also get one of Ellen’s recipes each month and access to a live Q&A call. Last month, we showed you how to make your own Oat Milk Creamer. This vanilla and honey-infused plant milk is delicious as an ingredient in an iced coffee latte, and we included instructions on how to make that as well. This month, we bring you a delicious, authentic bean recipe, Cuban Black Beans, from our friend and colleague, Adela Rubio.
The paid option also includes a monthly live Q&A call with Ellen and Denise held on the second Tuesday of each month at 12 Noon Eastern (9 AM Pacific) time. The next call is on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.
Looking for a supportive group that “gets” your interest in IF and other cutting-edge health information? Our free intermittent fasting Facebook group, with over 1800 members, is a wealth of info, in addition to our Fast Factor Circle membership.
Beans - Should You Believe The Hype About Lectins?
All this controversy over beans started with cardiothoracic surgeon Steven Gundry’s claim that beans, along with a list of other foods including, peanuts, lentils, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, fruits, wheat, and other grains should be completely avoided because they contain high levels of lectin. These naturally occurring lectin compounds are found in many plants and are believed to serve a protective function for plants as they grow.
Gundry’s thesis is that lectins wreak havoc on the human body by causing inflammation, and actual intestinal damage, contributing to weight gain. But the bulk of actual scientific research does not support this conclusion. There is some research that seems to suggest that raw lectins consumed in very large quantities could have some negative health effects.
But the amount you would need to consume every day to reach these lectin levels is much higher than is included in a typical diet. Also, research shows that lectins break down when they are cooked or processed, so in the case of beans, we really don't know of any culture that routinely eats them raw, so lectins in cooked beans would be of no concern.
Endocrinologist Robert H. Eckel, who is past president of the American Heart Association, says that the diet advice promulgated by Dr. Gundry is contradictory to “every dietary recommendation represented by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and so on" and that because Dr. Gundry’s own research does not include any control groups, it’s impossible to draw any meaningful conclusions from his studies.
The other big red flag for us is that Dr. Gundry sells expensive supplements, and has created a supplement formula that will supposedly “block” the detrimental effects of lectins. This is a common money-making formula: write a controversial book with scary stories about how a particular thing damages health, then just happen to create something for sale that will solve that very problem. Buyer beware!
The evidence for beans as a valuable, healthful nutritious addition to the human diet is overwhelming. Many ancient peoples depended on beans as a food source, including the Egyptians and Greek cultures. Humans have a history of legume consumption that stretches back more than 20,000 years in some cultures of the East.
Plus, according to the Blue Zones website, whose work chronicles the dietary habits of the world’s longest-lived people, “Beans are a foundational ingredient in the world’s blue zones, from garbanzo beans in Greek hummus to black beans in Costa Rican soup and soybean tofu in Japanese dishes.” Residents of the Blue Zones consume about a cup of beans per person per day, about four times as much as the average person.
Here are just a few of the reasons beans are so good for you:
One - Beans are naturally low in fat.
Two - Beans are high in fiber, which helps decrease “bad” cholesterol levels and can help lower blood pressure.
Three - Beans are rich in both complex carbs as well as protein.
Four - Beans are a good source of B-vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Five - Beans contain antioxidants that can help prevent cell damage as well as fight disease and aging.
So, in our opinion, unless you have a specific sensitivity to lectins, you should definitely include beans as part of a healthy diet. Beans are economical, are very varied, and can be used in a wide variety of ways in different recipes.
Do you have a favorite way to cook beans? Let us know in the comments below!
Reference - Mullins AP, Arjmandi BH. Health Benefits of Plant-Based Nutrition: Focus on Beans in Cardiometabolic Diseases. Nutrients. 2021; 13(2):519. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020519
Why It Matters
While it’s important to keep up with current information on nutrition, be aware that not everything you read on the internet or even in books written by medical professionals is accurate. Sometimes, it just amounts to nothing more than…well…a hill of beans!
“With my husband, I do really appreciate the fact that we - even though we're different kinds of Asian, there is a cultural shorthand between us, and I don't have to explain anything. I've dated guys before who weren't Asian-American, and it frustrated me when I would have to defend why beans belong in a dessert.”
~ Ali Wong (b. 1982) - Writer, actress, and American comedian, Ali Wong is best known for her Netflix stand-up specials Baby Cobra, Hard Knock Wife, and Don Wong. She was included in Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020.
What We Are Reading 📚
With each issue, we bring you a short blurb on what we are currently reading or watching, including books, articles, podcasts, videos, movies, and research papers of value.
Denise - I’m obsessed with brain health. While reviewing a file of articles I’ve collected to share with members of our Fast Factor Circle, I was reminded of this one: 8 Go-To Foods This Nutritional Psychiatrist Eats For Better Brain Function.
Take a look at what food is at the top of the list! Black beans are my primary go-to bean, followed by pinto beans.
Ellen - I’m reading a book about beans of course!
Joe Yonan, two-time James Beard Award-winning food and dining editor of The Washington Post and author of way too many cookbooks to list here, has done it again with his 2020 love letter to beans: Cool Beans - The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World’s Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes.
Joe’s creativity, passion, and unabashed love for the lowly bean come through in this masterpiece of a cookbook.
Did you like this article and learn something new? If so, please let us know in the comments! Questions and suggestions for future articles are welcome, too!
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