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Are beans good for diabetes?

By Michelle Tong

Diabetes Qld Accredited Practising Dietitian

 

Did you know not all carbohydrates are created equal?

 

Beans are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fibre, minerals and are an affordable source of protein.

 

Beans topped a list drawn up by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) of beneficial foods for all people, including those living with diabetes. Regularly eating beans may also help prevent other health conditions.

 

Benefits of beans

Although beans contain carbohydrates, they are also a good source of dietary fibre and protein, which gives them a low glycaemic index, meaning they can help prevent significant spikes in blood glucose levels.  However, remember to think about your portion size. Too much of a good thing is sometimes not good.

 

Beans are a complex carbohydrate, which the body digests slowly, helping you to feel fuller for longer and reducing spikes to your glucose levels as the carbohydrate from your bean meal is released slowly into your bloodstream.

 

Apart from keeping your blood glucose level stable, dietary fibre can also offer additional benefits for your heart health, keep your bowel movements regular and may help you to achieve a healthy weight.

 

The Australian Heart foundation states that dietary fibre improves blood cholesterol levels and lowers the risk of stroke and heart disease, reducing the risk of these diabetes-related complications.  

 

Beans are also an excellent source of plant-based protein with little or no fat and saturated fat, which are often found in meat. Protein is essential for body tissue growth and repair.

 

With all these benefits, are there any negative effects if you have too many beans?

Beans are high in digestive fibre and starches which our body's natural intestinal enzymes cannot digest.

 

Instead, a process called bacterial fermentation occurs, breaking down these starches and fibre, releasing extra gas as a byproduct.

 

Although it is not harmful, some people might find it uncomfortable. So if you are new to beans, try to increase your bean intake slowly to prevent embarrassing moments. 

 

Beans are a very versatile addition to your diet. They can be added to salads, casseroles, pies or made into bean burgers.

 

So next time you want something that's high in protein and fibre, low in GI and fat, and packed full of vitamins and minerals, think beans.

 

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