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Bean counter: New survey ties health benefits, lower weight to nutritional powerhouse

January 12, 2009

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www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes.htmSee the complete report of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey at this site.

www.wehealny.org/healthinfo/dietaryfiber/Information on adding more fiber to your diet as a well as an alphabetical food chart listing grams of fiber and calories for each item.

Bring on the bean-filled chili and soups.

A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 8,300 adults compared those who commonly ate beans with those who seldom ate them. Those who ate an average of 1.5 servings per day had a 22 percent lower risk of being obese, a 23 percent lower risk of having a large waist size and tended to have lower blood pressure.

Another survey found that adults who eat beans weigh 6.6 pounds less, yet eat 199 more daily calories than adults who don’t eat beans.

“Beans are a powerhouse of nutrition,” says Staci Hendrickson, owner of Healthy Balance Inc. in Lawrence. “They are high in iron and fiber, and they are also really good sources of other vitamins and minerals as well. So they are really good for us.”

Hendrickson, also a dietitian, recommends them for everyone, but especially for those looking to shred some extra pounds.

“They are very filling,” she says. “So for people who might be trying to watch their weight, they can be a very good choice.”

It doesn’t matter what type — pinto, black, kidney, garbanzo, lima, navy — they are all packed with nutrients and low in fat and cholesterol, according to Pete Beyer, associate professor in the Dietetics and Nutrition Department at the Kansas University Medical Center.

The dietary guidelines for Americans recommends three cups or more of cooked beans a week.

But how can we eat more without paying the embarrassing price?

“We don’t digest part of the fiber that’s in the bean. It’s the same as broccoli or cauliflower or some other foods,” Hendrickson says. “They can cause problems, but we do know that the more often you eat them the better your body is able to handle them. So, you can slowly ease into eating more beans.”

If you aren’t a bean eater, Beyer recommends starting by adding them to soups, stews, mixed vegetables and casseroles, and then working your way up.

“It affects everyone the same, but the more frequent users of dietary fiber and legumes in general will have less problems with it over time,” Beyer says.

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