Beans are a diabetes superfood, meaning they are an excellent choice for people with diabetes and provide many health and nutritional benefits.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) created a list of beneficial foods for diabetes, or diabetic superfoods, that are "rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber" and may help prevent disease. Beans are at the top of this list.
“Beans are a diabetes superfood, meaning they are an excellent choice for people with diabetes and provide many health and nutritional benefits.”
This article discusses the benefits of beans, their nutrition, and the best types of beans to consume.
Benefits of beans
Beans are an excellent, affordable source of protein, fiber, and minerals. Adding beans to a meal can help people keep their blood sugar levels stable and help keep the body healthy.
The following sections discuss the benefits of beans for diabetes.
Selection of beans in a jar which are good for diabetics
Beans are a good source of fiber and protein.
Although beans contain carbohydrates, they are low on the glycemic index (GI) scale and do not cause significant spikes in a person's blood sugar levels.
Beans are a complex carbohydrate. The body digests this form more slowly than other carbohydrates, helping to keep blood sugar levels stable for longer.
According to the University of California, a ½ cup serving of the following beans contains 125 calories, 15 grams (g) of carbohydrates, 7 g of protein, and 0–3 grams of fat when cooked:
- kidney beans
- black beans
- navy beans
- white beans
- garbanzo beans or chickpeas
- lima beans
- pinto beans
Baked beans may contain more carbohydrate. Cans of baked beans can also contain lots of added sugar, so check the label before buying.
The latest ADA guidelines, published in 2019, state that "there is not an ideal percentage of calories from carbohydrate, protein, and fat for all people with diabetes." Instead, they recommend that people follow a diet based on their individual needs. People can work out their personal diet plan with a dietitian or healthcare provider.
High-fiber foods, including beans, can reduce the impact of high-GI foods on blood sugar levels. This is because fiber slows down the digestive process, which helps keep blood sugar levels stable for longer.
Eating beans will supply a person with a steady supply of glucose instead of the sudden energy rush associated with simple carbohydrates.
Fiber offers additional benefits for heart health. The American Heart Association (AHA) state that dietary fiber improves blood cholesterol levels and lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, and obesity, which are all potential complications of diabetes.
Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein. Protein is essential for body tissue growth and repair.
The body can break down protein into glucose to use for energy. However, this takes longer than breaking down carbohydrates, slowing down the digestive process.
High-protein foods can help people feel fuller for longer, reducing the risk of overeating and obesity.
According to the ADA, a ½ cup of beans can offer the protein equivalent of 1 ounce of meat, but without the saturated fat. They provide a low-calorie, cost-effective way to add protein to the diet.