Hey Friends! How’s it goin?
Happy belated Canada Day to my Canadian Friends! It felt really weird to have a day off on a Tuesday, but I’m not complaining 😀
Today’s post is gonna be about the next big holiday. And no I’m not talking about July 4th. Tomorrow, July 3rd, is National Eat Your Beans Day and I decided to use today’s post to talk about, well, beans.
The Truth about Beans
A couple weeks ago a friend of mine got a mild case of food poisoning from slightly undercooked kidney beans. My first thought was WHAT? Beans can get you sick? I thought the worse they did was make you toot!
After that slightly hysterical response, I went into research mode.
Side note: packages of dried beans that I’ve seen do NOT make note of the potential toxicity of beans. What the hell?
But moving on:
Anatomy of a Bean
Beans are a good source of high-fat protein usually found in red meats and are also filled with heart healthy nutrients like soluble fiber, complex carbohydrates, folate and iron.They also contain something called oligosaccharides which normal human digestive tracts cannot properly digest, hence the
However, a little known fact is that some beans also contain a potentially harmful toxin called Lectins.
What are Lectins?
Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that can be found in varying concentrations in foods such as beans, grains, seeds, nuts and potatoes. They are thought to exist in plants as a protective mechanism, as animals who aren’t used to consuming certain types of lectins experience pain or death if they eat them.
Pretty effective if you ask me.
Why are Lectins Harmful?
Some effects of Lectins in humans include nutritional deficiencies and allergic reactions. However, the most common adverse effects occur when Lectins interact with cells in the gut and cause gastrointestinal distress.
Lectins bind to the protein receptors in the intestinal lining, causing damage. Then the lectins can pass through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, Lectins basically have a free-for-all with any carbohydrate containing protein or tissue in the body.
Not exactly sure what that means exactly?
Here are some Examples
Well, insulin is a peptide hormone, which is a protein. So Lectins can bind with insulin, causing it to destabilize and potentially result in diabetes.
Leptin – the satiety hormone – is also a protein. Letptin is made by fat cells and regulates the amount of fat stored in the body. Imagine if the Lectins in beans and grains was able to destabilize leptins? Yep, obesity.
Of course, these are extreme cases, but they’re always a possibility.
So what can you do?
1. Know the Symptoms
If you have consumed undercooked beans, symptoms may include:
- Abdominal Pain
Recovery can be rapid and spontaneous, but if symptoms persist, go see your doctor or to the emergency room. It’s definitely better to be safe rather than sorry in this situation.
2. Cook your Beans Properly
The Lectins found in beans can be destroyed by properly cooking the beans. Give yourself enough time to cook beans thoroughly because you won’t be doing yourself any favours by rushing the process and getting sick.
Most beans should be soaked overnight and then cooked for at least an hour. There are some exceptions of course, but be sure to find out the specific soaking and cooking times for the beans you’ll be making to reduce the chance of getting ill.
Check out this article to figure out the cooking times for beans.
3. Use Canned Beans
I don’t cook dried beans myself because I’m lazy (attack of my inner Sloth, clearly). But now, I’m glad that I don’t, cuz I’m also lazy enough to take short cuts with the cooking time.
Canned beans however, are precooked, so you don’t have to worry about those pesky Lectins. I would advise that you wash your canned beans thoroughly before using them to get rid of excess salt.
Other things to note about Beans and Lectins
- They don’t smell or taste ‘bad’ even when the toxin is still present
- Cooking beans in a slow cooker may not destroy the toxins because of the lower temperature.
- Undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans
- Kidney beans are the most potentially harmful
- The lectin isolate ricin, is used as a biological warfare agent
I don’t plan to stop eating beans – I’ve actually eaten them numerous times since discovering this information – but it’s always important to be armed with information so you can come to your own decision.
If this sparked a need for you to find out more, check out these articles:
- Spill the Beans: Are they Healthy or Not
- Beans! Beans! The Poisonous Fruit!
- What’s wrong with beans and legumes?
- Eating undercooked beans
What about you?
Did you know about the Lectins in beans?
Do you use dried beans or canned?
Know any other healthy foods with hidden dangers?
Share in the comments below!
Subscribe for weekly health tips