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As humans evolved and foraged for nuts, seeds, tubers, grains, fruits and vegetables, beans were the one cherished food that we discovered could weather the winter without spoiling.
Beans fall off the vine in the fall and lie dormant all winter, in order to sprout in the spring. Grains do much of the same, but they lack the super strong protective shells and anti-nutrients that beans have, and do not weather the winter as well.
Because beans can survive winter unharmed, Ayurveda considers them a spring food. Spring is a low-fat, austere time of year when it comes to the foods that are harvested. Spring greens, sprouts and roots don’t provide sustainable nutrition on their own, so foods that could be preserved through the winter to provide spring nutrition were extremely valuable. Beans provided an excellent source of proteins, fiber, minerals and vitamins that were scarce in the early spring.
They are considered astringent, which means they can have a drying effect on the body and intestines. In the winter, beans can be too dry, but come spring when the earth is holding onto more water and moisture, they provide the perfect antidote to the dampness of spring.
According to the book, The Blue Zones, beans are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Ayurveda considers mung beans a superfood and, around the world, rice and beans have been a staple for thousands of years.
The Power of Beans
Beans are a critical part of the new MIND diet that has been found to protect the brain from cognitive decline as we age. (1) We know that early cognitive decline is related to incremental increases in blood sugar, even in those without diabetes. (2)
Beans have repeatedly shown to be one of the most protective foods against blood sugar concerns and cognitive decline. In one study, a meal of black beans was compared with a high-fiber meal and high-antioxidant meal to find which meal was more effective support for healthy blood sugar. Black beans outperformed both, suggesting that the benefits of beans reach beyond the high-fiber or antioxidant content that is the typical explanations of how beans support blood sugar.
Black beans have about 15 grams of fiber per cup. When we compare the hunter-gatherers – who consumed about 100 grams of fiber per day – to our 15-20 grams per day, consuming just 50 grams of fiber per day might prove difficult, but is very possible. While fiber is linked to heart health, it is also critical for the protective health of the intestinal skin. (6) If the intestinal skin breaks down, the beneficial gut microbes disappear and the lymphatic drainage system that lines the gut will congest, resulting in accelerated aging and degenerative health concerns. (7)
The black coating on black beans has been shown to support fat metabolism and healthy cholesterol levels. (4) They were also found to help reduce appetite, burn fat, help weight loss, and increase the amount of butyric acid in the large intestine. (5) Butyric acid – which is the primary fatty acid in ghee – is the main driver of gut immunity, fat metabolism, colon cell energy and microbial diversity.
In the spring, when the harvest is austere and low-fat, nature is encouraging the body to burn fat. Beans, the spring food according to Ayurveda, is a natural driver of fat metabolism, weight loss and less desire for food. Traditionally, religious holidays that required fasting happened in the spring, when nature is encouraging us to burn fat.
This spring, let beans be your superfood!
Trouble digesting beans? Try split yellow mung beans, which are Ayurveda’s answer to hard-to-digest beans. >>> Learn more here.
No time to cook beans? Use a crock pot and let them cook all day. Or try a programmable pressure cooker called The Instant Pot, which lets you program your beans to start cooking and finish cooking to perfectly fit your schedule. Beans are critical to health and, in our busy lives, we have to strategize ways to make your daily beans happen!