Monday, May 9, 2011

Beans for Health?

Eat Poison To Lower Cholesterol
If it is a stretch to say that eating beans is "eating poison to lower cholesterol", still it's only a little bit of a stretch (HT: @dreades).  Humankind's love affair with beans is mostly based on humankind's commonly experienced poverty and hunger since subjecting itself to the vagaries of agriculture.  Not to over-romanticize the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, as I'm sure there were issues, but with floods, storms, and other variants of pestilence, the adaptation of the agrarian life brought a new meaning to the word feast or famine.  For one, there was the sheer dependence of one group of humans - city dwellers - on those actually growing the food.  Two, there was the fact that if in any year the crops went bad, the recourses were few for that year.  All of a sudden, what affected one group of humans affected many, many more.  Three, agriculture brought a significantly increased birth rate, thus, more people to be affected by whatever went wrong.

From the article:
Red kidney beans has the highest concentration of the toxic agent Phytohaemagglutinin (PHA). It is a lectin (sugar binding protein in beans) which causes food poisoning when red beans are consumed in it's raw, soaked or under cooked form. The FDA measures the unit of toxin, hemagglutinating unit (hau) to be from 20,000 to 70,000 hau in raw kidney beans while the fully cooked beans contain from 200 to 400 hau.
Continue reading on The truth about red kidney beans - Toronto Fresh Foods |

"If you eat like crap, beans might be an upgrade."

So, soak 'em well and cook them thoroughly or enjoy that food poisoning, which is apparently not unheard of but is difficult to diagnose and therefore not widely known, per the article.

Outbreaks were reported in the UK in the 1970s and 80s, with clusters in US and Canada. This does not mean that people do not fall ill after consuming raw or undercooked beans, but it just indicates that identification or isolation of the source of the food poisoning can be cumbersome due to their generic symptoms.
Nutritionally, red kidney beans or red beans or rather Phaseolus vulgaris is a high fiber legume with many beneficial properties. Red kidney beans offers 333 calories, 23.58g of protein, and 24.9g of fiber per 100g or approximately ½ cup of dry beans. For detailed nutritional analysis, click here. It's high fiber content makes it an excellent candidate in aiding in cholesterol reduction, and glucose management in diabetics. Red kidney beans is also high in iron and folate, both equally important for pregnant women.  In short, enjoy their immense health benefits by cooking them right.

"Immense health benefits."  Ahem.  In other words, if you are eating a diet which is poor in iron and folate, you can avoid deficiencies by eating beans.  If you are eating an unnatural diet, with sugar and wheat, and need fiber to be "regular", eat beans.  If you vastly overconsume sugars and grains, and therefore have abnormal glycemic control reflecting your abnormal dietary intake of sugars and grains, eat beans so that you can get more carbohydrate, but slowly (just what you need, eh).  If you over-consume carbohydrate and believe the latest fads about low fat and low cholesterol leading to improved health, eat some beans.  Oh yes, if you are unable to get real protein from animals, beans do have a jolt of low quality protein, which you can mix with rice or meat to make a complete protein (so hopefully you have rice or meat to go with your "high in protein" beans). 

In other words, the case for the 'immense' benefits of bean consumption boils down to "if you eat like crap, beans might be an upgrade."  I freely admit that beans are better than starvation, and they won't kill you outright (assuming you prepare them correctly).

Or, you could just eat beans because you've learned to enjoy them and if so - bon appetite.  My comments are aimed at liberating you or your loved ones from any mis-impression that your health will be better served by consumption of beans, as there is virtually no case in which that will be true.  Health is the human birthright, not the result of any magical foods.  Lack of health is the evidence of a poor diet.  We cannot gain health by eating magical foods, but we can live with the health our genome was designed for if we eat the foods our genome was designed for - this is the essense of the paleolithic model of nutrition.
(edited for style 1248 CDT)

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