The Health Benefits of Beans, a Diabetes Superfood

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Arvind Sommi

Packed with fiber, protein, and essential nutrients, beans can aid in managing blood sugar levels, promoting heart health, and providing energy. Here’s which beans are best for people with diabetes and which varieties should be eaten in limited quantities.

Beans, with their numerous health benefits and versatility, are an excellent addition to a well-balanced diet for people with diabetes.

To start with, beans are an exceptional source of dietary fiber, which plays a vital role in diabetes management. Fiber helps slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels after meals. It also promotes a feeling of fullness, which can aid in weight management.

Beans are a plant-based source of protein, making them a valuable addition to a diabetes-friendly diet. Protein helps with blood sugar control, as it slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and contributes to feeling full.

Generally, beans have a low glycemic index (GI). The GI is a measure that ranks foods based on their potential to raise blood sugar levels. Eating low-GI foods has less of an impact on glucose levels, helping to prevent blood sugar spikes.

Best beans for people with diabetes

Kidney beans: These reddish, purple beans are rich in fiber and have a low GI. They are also a good source of protein and contain minerals like magnesium and potassium.
Black beans: These commonly found beans are packed with fiber, protein, and antioxidants. They have a low GI and provide steady energy without causing a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Black beans also contain essential nutrients like folate, iron, and magnesium.
Chickpeas: Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are fiber-rich legumes that can help regulate blood sugar levels. They are a good source of protein, folate, and iron. Additionally, chickpeas can aid in weight management by keeping you feeling full for longer.

Beans to eat in moderation

Baked beans: While baked beans (which often contain white beans) are tasty, they often contain added sugars or syrups, making them less suitable for individuals with diabetes. If consuming baked beans, it’s essential to choose varieties with reduced or no added sugar or prepare white beans at home without sugar or with sugar substitutes. It’s always a good idea to check nutrition labels on canned products as even ones branded as healthy, like vegetarian baked beans, can have a lot of added sugar.
Refried beans: Traditional refried beans (which are usually made with pinto beans but can also be made with black beans) are often cooked with lard or other unhealthy fats, resulting in a higher calorie and fat content. Moderation is key when consuming refried beans made with lard as the added saturated fats are not ideal compared to heart-healthy alternatives like avocado, sunflower, and olive oil.
Canned beans with added sodium: Canned beans can be convenient, but some varieties may contain very high levels of sodium. Excess sodium intake over time can lead to increased blood pressure. Opt for low-sodium or no-salt-added canned beans, or consider preparing your favorite dried beans from scratch.

To learn more about healthy diets for people with diabetes, read our other articles:

What to Eat with Diabetes
10 Diet Commandments for Better Diabetes Management
Rethinking Your Carbs
Fighting For a Food Philosophy: What Should I Eat?
Mediterranean Diet Voted Best for 2022: What Do Diabetes Experts Say?

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