Beans for Good Health

Soybeans, legume, kidney, pinto—so many beans, so many benefits.

| March/April 2000

The classic burrito may be due for a face-lift. If nutritional scientists have their way, the beans and peppers of the future may be grown and harvested to maximize their potential as functional foods, allowing more people to enjoy their health benefits.

Bean Varieties and Research

Soybeans and similar dried legumes are currently the best-known nutraceuticals, or “functional foods.” Beans are inexpensive, tasty, provide more protein than most plant foods, and their phytochemicals are thought to prevent cancer. Yet consumption of legumes in both Western and ­developing countries is surprisingly low. We all know why: Beans are notorious for causing flatulence and take a long time to prepare. Canned beans can be a viable alternative (although not as nutritious), but they may not be available to those living in ­developing countries.

Legume flatulence is caused by the body’s inability to break down several sugars found in beans: raffinose, stachyose, and verbascose. If these sugars can’t be ­broken down, they can’t be absorbed, and thus will pass into our intestinal tract where bacteria ferment them, producing carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane gas.

Researchers for the Spanish National Agricultural Department studied twenty-seven varieties of dried common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) grown in two localities in Spain. (Common North American bean varieties such as green, bush, navy, kidney, and pinto are all varieties of P. vulgaris; the Spanish study used a similar set of varieties with Spanish names.)

The amount of total indigestible sugars in the beans ranged from 18.6 (var. Morada Larga) to 33.2 (var. Cardeno) g/kg indicating that choosing the variety with a lower sugar content could reduce flatulence by nearly half.

Consumers should try to pick the variety lowest in the troublesome phytochemicals. Although this information isn’t yet available to the general public, the new research may lead to more consumer choices down the road. For now, it is best to let your body be the judge—if you’ve found a certain variety of beans that seems to agree with you, your body may be telling you that variety’s indigestible sugar content is low.

Additional reading



September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pennsylvania

Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.


Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds

click me