The Best Bean

The Best Bean
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Which legume has the highest antioxidant content?

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Don’t get too cocky, though. There are many other magic beans out there. Chickpeas, split peas, lentils, kidney beans, and yellow split peas. This is what the graph looks like. Two of those in that list belong in the same antioxidant-packed class as black and pinto beans, but there are three (relative) loser legumes. Now #3 are those wonderful dark red kidney beans, but what’s #2?

Four left to choose from. Three of these are relative losers, but one is the second most power-packed antioxidant legume on the planet—or at least so far tested. Chickpeas, split peas, lentils, or yellow split peas. 

If you said yellow split peas, “peas” take your seat. Green split peas, also wrong. If you said lentils, you’re right! Lentils #2; chickpeas #7! Chickpeas are still super healthy, but comparatively less so, compared to these superstars.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Don’t get too cocky, though. There are many other magic beans out there. Chickpeas, split peas, lentils, kidney beans, and yellow split peas. This is what the graph looks like. Two of those in that list belong in the same antioxidant-packed class as black and pinto beans, but there are three (relative) loser legumes. Now #3 are those wonderful dark red kidney beans, but what’s #2?

Four left to choose from. Three of these are relative losers, but one is the second most power-packed antioxidant legume on the planet—or at least so far tested. Chickpeas, split peas, lentils, or yellow split peas. 

If you said yellow split peas, “peas” take your seat. Green split peas, also wrong. If you said lentils, you’re right! Lentils #2; chickpeas #7! Chickpeas are still super healthy, but comparatively less so, compared to these superstars.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

For more on the health benefits of beans:
Beans, Beans, They’re Good For Your Heart
Canned Beans or Cooked Beans?
Increased Lifespan From Beans
Diabetics Should Take Their Pulses

And check out Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart to learn more about beans’ beneficial effects. If you’re worried about the gassiness of beans, see my blog post Clearing the Air

For more context, check out my associated blog post: The Best Foods: test your nutrition knowledge.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

50 responses to “The Best Bean

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  1. Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out “Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart” to learn more about beans’ beneficial effects. If you’re worried about the gassiness of beans, check out my blogpost Clearing the Air. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!




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  2. I’m allergic to every bean (I get the dangerous kind of hives) except for soy (white, or black), garbanzos, favas, peanuts and lentils. Could I be allergic to an antioxidant? Is there any way I can neutralize the allergenic component of these foods and safely eat vegan bean burritoes?




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  3. Rohit: I believe that food allergies occur because of an intolerance to a specific amino acid (protein). You cannot neutralize this component of the food, unfortunately. There IS hope for you to enjoy a vegan burrito! I have used lentils as the bean filling and even pureed soybeans to get the same texture as the re-fried pinto beans. Add some veggies and salsa, and you’ll still be able to enjoy the vegan goodness of a burrito!




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  4. You can increase black bean consumption by making your own black bean hummus with the following recipe:

    Blend 2 cups of cooked black beans, 1/4 cup of tahini, 3 Tbsp lemon juice, 3 Tbsp olive oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp ground cumin and 1/2 tsp salt. Optionally, add some black pepper/cayenne to taste and garnish with parsley or cilantro.




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      1. To further explain, it seems that all lentils fall in the category talked about in this video, but red lentils appear to be the healthiest option.




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  5. The topic states Best – here you are using antioxidants the key for all you judgements.
    I wonder if there are other things which must be considered in the makeup of these plants which should be considered to judge thier value in nutrician.




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  6. Hi Dr. Greger,

    Is there a risk of eating too much beans, particularly soy or black beans?

    I’ve substituted beans in place of most of the carbohydrates (bread/rice/oatmeal) in my diet. Per day, I eat 2 cups of dried beans (soaked/rinsed/pressure cooked):

    1lb (1 1/2 cup) of dried black beans
    1/2 cup of dried soybeans

    Is there any risk to eating this many beans?




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  7. A tasty way to incorporate the bean with the most antioxidants
    and the apple highest in antioxidants; at least it was until this newest
    study (http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-healthiest-apple/).

    Apple Chili

    -3 cups cooked black beans
    -1 large red onion, chopped
    -4 cloves garlic, minced
    -2 large organic red delicious apples, chopped
    -4 medium tomatoes, chopped or jar of tomatoes
    -½ cup water/homemade vegetable broth
    -1-2 tbsp chili powder
    -1 tsp oregano
    -1 tbsp cinnamon
    -½ tsp cayenne pepper
    -black pepper and sea salt
    -maple syrup to taste (optional)

    In a large pot sauté onion and garlic in a splash of water/broth until onions
    translucent. Add remainder of ingredients except salt and cook over low heat until apples thoroughly cooked. Season to taste with black pepper and sea salt.

    If you own a pressure cooker use 1 cup dry black beans (rinsed and sorted). Add all ingredients except salt to the pressure cooker and cook for approximately 15 minutes. Season to taste with black pepper and sea salt.




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  8. Use this guilt-free, nutritious, and delicious dessert to incorporate
    the bean with the most antioxidants and the healthiest chocolate fix (http://nutritionfacts.org/video/healthiest-chocolate-fix/)
    into your diet.

    Black Bean Brownies

    -2 cups cooked black beans
    -1 large very ripe banana, mashed
    -½ tbsp vanilla extract
    -1/3 cup cacoa powder
    -pinch cayenne pepper
    -pinch sea salt

    Mash beans to desired consistency. Mash banana in a separate bowl and add to beans. Add vanilla and stir to combine. Stir in cacoa powder, cayenne pepper, and sea salt until thoroughly mixed. Spread mixture in a glass baking dish and cut into squares. No baking necessary.




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  9. Michael, I’m wondering why you’re basing the “best bean” based on antioxidant content? What about other nutrients? Is there any other type of bean (not listed in the video) that trumps the black bean?




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    1. Bingo2, I think it’s black beans, lentils, red kidney beans, then pinto beans for the top four in order from best to lest. :) You’re right though, the audio is a bit confusing here!




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  10. I think you need to redo the audio on this. I starts in a way that indicates some of the audio is left off. Also, I think you’ve really refined your voice over style and this one is a little slow and Orson Wellish:)




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      1. Thank you. I thought yellow or green split peas were considered one and the same with lentils? If not, so what are examples of lentils?




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          1. Thank you Tommasina, I will save that page. I was thinking that dahl is made of yellow split peas (because when I make it with curry it tastes exactly like it) but I just looked up dahl, and it can be made of a combo of lentils, peas, and beans. I eat mostly chick peas, I like them the best. So I guess I should diversify more with the black beans, etc. The page you gave is very handy for how to prepare.




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  11. Hi — I’m not sure this upload begins at the start of your presentation — I watched it a few times.

    In any case, there’s another lentil – used in Indian cooking — urad dal or black gram. Indians consider it to be especially nutritious. I’ve never cared for its consistency but it would be worth looking into and letting us know about it. It might rate even higher than the red lentil.




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  12. everybody gets too literal… eat beans, all beans. Eat veggies, all veggies, eat fruit, all fruit, eat grains, all grains… nuts, seeds. Keep a varied and colorful kitchen




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    1. Anna: In my opinion, nothing has changed. Here’s my understanding of this story: At some point, there were some initial animal studies that suggested soy *might* be bad for humans. But those studies were not done with traditional soy foods, but with highly processed isolated soy protein. That’s like saying that beets are bad for you, while only testing sugar made from beets. There may have also been some very small number of human studies that also showed a negative effect of soy, but then again – those were done with isolated soy protein, not traditional soy foods like: edamame, tofu, tempeh, and soy milk.

      On the other hand, we have seen many studies on humans based on traditional soy foods that show a very positive health effect of soy. You can learn about some of those studies on this site:
      http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=soy

      So, why all the bad press about soy? I think there are multiple reasons. Here are some of what I guess are the big ones:
      >>> 1) sensational story telling by the media is fun and profitable for them. They don’t care if they ultimately hurt people’s health with their poor “news” reporting. News is business in America. (I can’t speak for anywhere else.) The media is notorious for spreading misinformation about nutritional studies.
      >>> 2) Conspiracy theory: I haven’t checked it out myself, but I have read that some of the negative publicity about soy was funded by various meat industries. Whole soy foods could be seen as competition for meat.
      >>> 3) Non-organic soy in America is almost guaranteed to be GMO. Those people who think most GMO as practiced today is likely to produce negative health outcomes end up equating soy with negative health outcomes. But note that organic soy would not be GMO…

      Hope that helps.




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    1. Sue: If you have a good health store near by, or even a good Fred Meyers, there should be a nice bulk section. And in the bulk section will be bins labeled as lentils. That will give you an idea of what they are. They are a type of legume. Some lentils make great soups, just like yellow split peas, but I believe lentils and split peas are two different things.




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  13. Fact or Fiction? I have been looking up whether the “Nutrition Facts” on food labels are facts or fictions, but I have very few evidence to show any of the listing has facts to support it. One example is pinto beans. On the fns.usda.gov site, it shows 86g of pinto beans contains 8g of dietary fiber and 8g of protein; but, on Diamond brand of pinto beans, it lists 36g of pinto beans contains 14g of dietary fiber and 7g of protein. That variation is a lot more than the 20% allowed for deviation. So, it appears to me the nutrition facts is just a bunch of numbers grabbed from the phone books. What do you think?




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  14. Coconut oil has its advocates. It can be purchased in health food shops and often appears as an ingredient in vegetarian and vegan recipes. However, I have my doubts regarding its proclaimed benefits. I would appreciate your opinion, is it good or bad? Thank you.




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  15. Late watcher, but very pleased to see lentils so high on the list! I am an AVID fan of lentils, and probably have gone through around 20 lbs within the first half a year of really starting to eat them. I sometimes just steam a batch of lentils alone, or accommodated by a brown rice and quinoa mixture.




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    1. Scott: re: lentil fan. Very cool. Do you have a favorite lentil type? I’m personally a fan of the green/french/puy and black beluga lentils. Those are the bigger lentil varieties. I think of them as tiny, tiny regular beans, because they don’t disolve into mush when cooked. Do you like the red and brown kind? And/or the bigger ones?

      Just curious/sharing. I’m also curious if you eat your lentils plain or if you have some favorite seasonings to share.




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      1. I do not discriminate my legumey friends. I love them all, but I tend to have a preference more like your own. I love red lentils, but feel I must be too gentle while cooking them to avoid mush as you said. I recently got a 25lb bag from Amazon that are green lentils, and are absolutely delicious. My SO and I usually use lentils with a bean mix and some brown rice and put organic chili powder, paprika, and a few other seasonings and put them on loaded taco salad (consisting of mainly greens and other veggies). It tastes amazing with organic salsa on top (we also use a small amount of organic greek yogurt to sub for sour cream, although I realize this site looks down upon dairy products). Besides that I love to eat them plain, or in stirfrys we make, or curries (all super heavy in assorted veg and spices).

        How do you usually prefer them?

        P.S. this is my disqus name rather than using my google+ name (I hate google plus).




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        1. Blaice: re: “I do not discriminate my legumey friends.” :-)
          Cool. Thanks for your reply. Your taco idea sounds really good. I’ve seen the idea of using lentils in place of taco meat in recipes before, but I haven’t tried it yet myself.

          re: “How do you usually prefer them?”
          Weeeelllll, I admit that lentils are not my favorite sort of legume. That’s why I was intrigued/interested in your post. I would like to eat them more often. Here is one recipe that I like to use the lentils from. It’s a little bit of work, but the results come out really good and the burgers freeze perfectly. So, I can make a bunch, freeze them and have a good main dish ready in 1 minute if I put them in the microwave:
          http://mouthwateringvegan.com/2013/04/07/my-vegan-burger-king/

          Reading the above blog post is how I first learned that there are really different kinds/textures when it comes to lentils. I find that the black beluga lentils work interchangeably with the puy lentils called for in the recipe.

          Thanks again for sharing.




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  16. Is it possible to buy whole red lentils and sprout them? looking for an easy lentil to sprout high in anti oxidants. I suspect I may have EPI, and psosibly even Pancreatic cancer :( trying to do all I can to fight it before my results come in..




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  17. I’m a bit confused. I looked at the source, but there the entries with high antioxidant content are RAW beans. The antioxidant content of cooked beans is significantly lower, a little more than 1/10 of the same type of beans uncooked. But I assume no one eats the beans raw? Why hasn’t this raised any concern?




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  18. Yes, Xiao Wang. That is just what I was thinking. Defining the “best” bean as the one with the highest ORAC value in its raw state is misleading. How about looking at other factors–such as

    glycine: methionine ratio (Fava, split peas, limas, lentils have lots of glycine and fairly low methionine)
    spermidine content (Does that vary among beans?)
    omega 3:6 ratio (Mungos win that one. They’re very low in 6s and very high in 3s.)

    Source of info: nutritiondata.com

    What other factors would you include when deciding on which beans are “best”?




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  19. There are two types of black beans that I know (until now): the black turtle bean and the green hearted black bean, also know as black soybean. I have two questions: Which one of the two black beans I mentioned is better? (and) How come soybeans didn’t make it to the list? Is it that low in antioxidants? Thank you!




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