Beans are great healthy foods – and economical
Blue Zone residents are people who live in a very specific areas of the world with a far higher proportion of hundred-year-olds than you would expect. Zones include parts of the Mediterranean, Costa Rica and Okinawa, Japan.
The stand-out common denominator in their diet is legumes – the family of plant foods that includes beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas – but especially beans.
In Sardinia (one of the Blue Zones), chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) and fava beans (or broad beans) are their main legumes, eaten in a minestrone soup almost daily.
Colin Rose is a Senior Associate Member of the Royal Society of Medicine, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
He is the Founder and Director of Research and Innovation of Uni-Vite Healthcare and author of a recent book: Delay Ageing: Healthy to 100, where he reveals how to slow ageing and, therefore, help prevent later-life illness.
Micro-nutrients, protein AND fibre in legumes
The micro-nutrients in legumes include copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, zinc and the amino acid lysine.
And there's lots of protein and fibre.
Less than 15% of us get enough fibre, yet fibre creates the highly important fatty acid butyrate in the gut.
Butyrate is a type of short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that has been shown to reduce inflammation in humans and improve cognitive functions in animal studies.
The production of butyrate by gut bacteria stimulates the production of a hormone called FGF21, which has been associated with longevity. It also regulates energy metabolism.
Levels of butyrate generally decrease with age due to reductions in the populations of gut bacteria producing it. Low butyrate is a cause of ‘leaky gut’ and of ‘inflamm-ageing’, meaning persistent low-grade inflammation that generally increases as we get older.
The important fatty acid butyrate
♥ Has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
♥ Helps improve the health of the gut barrier, helping prevent the leakage of pathogens, toxins and allergens into the bloodstream (Leaky Gut)
♥ Is a “histone deacetylase inhibitor” (HDAC inhibitor); meaning it helps prompt the destruction of cells that could turn into cancer cells
You increase butyrate by eating more legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Mix and match beans for different nutritional profiles
Each type of bean has a different nutritional profile.
Fava beans, also known in the UK as broad beans, are packed with the antioxidant lutein.
Black and dark red kidney beans are full of potassium and chickpeas have lots of magnesium. All are good for the heart.
All beans are high in plant protein, which has more nutrients with fewer calories than animal protein.
Rice 'n' beans (gallo pinto)
When I visited the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, where there is another Blue Zone, most people start their day with Gallo Pinto, a national dish also called in English Rice 'n' Beans. It’s a combination of beans cooked so it becomes almost like a gravy, then seasoned with onion, green pepper, and some herbs like basil, thyme and garlic.
This is then mixed with yesterday’s white rice. This is significant because the starch in the rice becomes resistant, which means the body resists fast absorption, so your blood sugar doesn’t spike as highly.
Finally, a tip to avoid the infamous gas associated with beans.
Start with a couple of tablespoons a day and work up to four tablespoons and then a whole cup – which is an ideal portion, because the recommendation is for 20g of fibre a day. But less than 10% of us get that!
Who would have thought that beans on toast was a longevity food??
Thanks for reading
I spend my time researching the new science of healthy, successful ageing. And how to extend health span rather than just lifespan.
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