The Benefits of Beans: from Hearts to Farts
A Childhood Rhyme with a Message for Adults
Everyone in the English-speaking world has heard this popular children's rhyme about eating beans:
Beans, beans, they're good for your heart,
The more you eat, the more you fart,
The more you fart, the better you feel,
Some eat some beans with every meal.
I confess my own boys didn't hear it in the playground – they heard it from me. I will never forget how they laughed and laughed...not only because it was funny but also because mom said it. But beyond the childish humor there's a lot of good, hard truths in those lines that are worth examining for adults – especially for people serious about their diet, weight, and overall health.
What are Beans Anyway?
Beans are legumes, which are edible seeds that grow inside a pod. Legumes are common in the Western diet – besides beans, they include peas, lentils and chickpeas. Green beans (or string beans) technically come from the legume family, but since they consist mainly of the pod rather than the seeds, it's better to think of them as a green vegetable when it comes to planning your diet.
But let's get back to our bean song. Are beans really good for your heart?
Beans, Beans They're Good for your Heart
It turns out they are. Every bean is a magical little protein package that is nutritious and heart-healthy. Unlike meat, beans provide ample protein without extracting a dietary price. Consider these nutritional facts about the bean:
- No cholesterol
- Low fat
- Low sugar
- High fiber
- High in complex carbs, which provide long-lasting energy.
These qualities make beans an attractive meat substitute, especially for people with cholesterol or weight problems. The high fiber is a plus too, since the digestive system takes longer to process it. You feel full for longer and are less likely to gorge. Think about it: when was the last time you couldn't stop stuffing your face with beans?
The More You Eat, the More You Fart
Beans may not extract a dietary price, but they have other risks: you could turn into a gaseous giant (although without the orbiting moons). Intestinal gas from beans is caused by big sugar molecules your body can’t digest. They end up in your large intestine, where bacteria chew them up. Gas is the by-product. It builds up in your bowels and works its way out, sometimes in large volumes and noisily.
The good news is that bean-related farts rarely smell bad. The bad news is that your intestines can produce a lot of it, which can be awkward when you're in company. Luckily, this problem is easy to handle. Before cooking, soak your beans in a mixture of ¾ parts water and ¼ part vinegar. This helps break down the sugar before it gets inside you. You can also by a dietary supplement called Beano that includes an enzyme that breaks down molecules your body can't handle (it works on other foods too).
In short: gas is a potential problem but is manageable.
The More You Fart, the Better You Feel
Most people love to fart, at least when they're alone. If that describes you (if you're a guy, it does by definition), then beans are the perfect food. The pleasure comes from several sources. First, there's our time-honored anal fixation, which is why we have so many jokes about asses, defecation and farting. Then there's the very-real pleasure at feeling built-up intestinal pressure being released. And finally, scientists have learned that most people actually like the smell of their own farts (though few will admit it).
But a word of warning: if you're planning a night of intimacy or expect to be in company, you might want to limit your bean intake.
So Eat Some Beans with Every Meal
It turns out that the grade-school rhyme provides sound dietary advice. Beans are good for your heart, and your overall health. They also make you fart more, which for many people (and most guys) is a plus. On top of that, beans are versatile and easy to cook – especially if you eat them out of a can. So make beans important addition to your diet, and get healthier!
Fun Facts about Beans
- The Bean Song has been around for hundreds of years
- Peanuts are a kind of bean. Coffee beans are not.
- Fresh beans are easy to freeze and can be cooked very quickly.
- Baked beans, sadly, are not healthy: they are loaded with salt and sugar.
- Plant a bean and it sprouts quickly – fun for kids.
- Tofu is made from soybeans. So is soy milk.
- Some beans, like kidney beans, are toxic when raw.