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Emerging Evidence on Beans & Blood Sugar – More Reasons to Love Beans!

February 15, 2017

Dr. Dan Ramdath delivering his talk on the positive impact of pulses on blood sugar at Health Professionals Day at the Royal Winter Fair.

It is no secret that registered dietitians love beans. High in fibre, protein, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals, these are an inexpensive and versatile powerhouse food that can make their way into a variety of delicious and nutritious dishes for Canadian families!

I attended Health Professionals Day at The Royal Winter Fair and heard some excellent research on the health benefits of beans for registered dietitians and nutrition communication professionals such as myself. Dan Ramdath PhD, Research Scientist at the Guelph Research and Development Centre at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada presented his evidence on how consumption of just ¼ cup of pulses and beans per day can effectively lower blood glucose levels by 20%. This is incredible evidence for health professionals who help those affected by high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and diabetes make healthy choices for themselves and their families. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association in 2015, about 10 million Canadians are living with diabetes and pre-diabetes. Furthermore, research has shown that only 13% of Canadians consume pulses daily.

So how can we as health professionals promote greater consumption of pulses? One method is not only by promoting beans as delicious and nutritious foods, but through giving simple suggestions on how to increase their intake of pulses.

It only takes 1/4 cup of beans/pulses to lower blood glucose levels! Slide posted with permission from Dr. Ramdath.

Starches are commonly eaten macronutrients in most parts of the world, which include rice, pasta, potato and corn. When cooking starches, a simple suggestion is to substitute half of the starch with pulses, for example lentils, chickpeas and all sorts of beans (kidney, pinto and black eyed peas). Not only would this have a positive result on blood glucose levels, but combining starches with pulses improves the overall protein quality in a meal.

I often hear from clients and consumers that the reason why they do not eat many beans is because they feel like cooking dried beans takes too much time out of their already busy days. A simpler way of getting more pulses into your diet is to use the canned varieties, as they are also a healthy choices for consumption. Rinse off the extra sodium under the tap and the beans can be easily added to many dishes. 

Combining pulses with cereals (aka starches) improves the overall protein quality. Slide posted with permission from Dr. Ramdath [3].

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) declared 2016 as the International Year of the Pulses for their sustainable super food quality and ability to address food security around the world. Watch this excellent 4 minute video from the FAO! With this evidence of more reasons to LOVE beans, let’s give our clients, patients and the public more healthy eating ideas, tasty recipes and usable knowledge about the health benefits of beans!

It was only my second year attending Health Professionals Day at The Royal Winter Fair, and so far I have loved both events! A fun yet educational day, combined with enjoyable visits to see farm animals and shop at various food vendors, I know I will be returning next year!

Michelle Jaelin is a Toronto-based Registered Dietitian, Creative Nutrition Communicator and Writer at Michelle is passionate about using art to teach nutrition. She spoke about this in her TEDx Talk at Ryerson University in 2013. Michelle can be frequently seen in the media, sharing her creative health education messages with the public. 

Facebook @NutritionArtistRD
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[1] Ramdath DD, Renwick S, Wolever T. – OBG Bean MED Study (unpublished)[2] Mudryj et al. 2012.. Br. J. Nutr. 108(S1): S27–S26.

[3] Ramdath, D. (2016). Spilling the Beans on Blood Glucose: a little goes a long way. [PowerPoint slides]. 7, 21.


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