Foods with super-healing powers: Beans
Beans are a miracle food. They lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and insulin production, promote digestive health, and protect against cancer. If you think of fiber, protein, and antioxidants and immediately think whole grains, meat, and fruit, think again -- beans offer all three in a single package.
An assortment of phytochemicals found in beans has been shown to protect cells from cancerous activity by inhibiting cancer cells from reproducing, slowing tumor growth. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reported that women who consumed beans at least twice a week were 24 percent less likely to develop breast cancer, and multiple studies have tied beans to a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancers.
Beans deliver a whopping amount of antioxidants, which help prevent and fight oxidative damage. In fact, the USDA's ranking of foods by antioxidant capacity places three varieties of beans (red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans) in the top four -- and that's among all food groups. Beans are a great source of dietary fiber, protein, and iron. They also contain the amino acid tryptophan; foods with high amounts of tryptophan can help regulate your appetite, aid in sleep, and improve your mood. Many are also rich in folate, which plays a significant role in heart health. And depending on the type of bean you choose, you'll also get decent amounts of potassium, magnesium, vitamin B1 and B2, and vitamin K. Soybeans are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
In Chinese medicine, various types of beans have been used to treat alcoholism, food poisoning, edema (particularly in the legs), high blood pressure, diarrhea, laryngitis, kidney stones, rheumatism, and dozens of other conditions.
How much: Aim for a minimum of two servings of beans per week.
Tip: Adzuki and mung beans are among the most easily digested; pinto, kidney, navy, garbanzo, lima, and black beans are more difficult to digest.