Benefits of Black Beans
Black beans were first domesticated thousands of years ago in Peru, and quickly became a staple of the South American diet. They first came to Europe when explorers came home with them in the 1500s.
They are very high in fiber, folate, protein, and antioxidants, along with numerous other vitamins and minerals. Black beans make a complete protein when paired with brown rice, which is often why they are so commonly included in a vegetarian diet.
Digestive Tract Benefits
The high quantity of both protein and fiber in black beans help to move food through the stomach to the large intestine at a healthier pace. This keeps any one part of the digestive tract from having to work too hard and supports the ideal balance of chemicals and populations of microorganisms required for a healthy digestive system.
Blood Sugar Regulation
The steady movement of protein and fiber through the digestive system allows for a measured breakdown of food into its component parts. This even breakdown of food helps to curtail extremes regarding simple sugar uptake from the digestive tract. An excess of simple sugar uptake all at once can produce an unwanted blood sugar spike. A lack of simple sugar uptake may produce a rapid blood sugar drop. Either extreme can upset blood sugar balance. The quantity of fiber and protein in black beans helps avoid both extremes.
Black beans are abundant in soluble fiber, which is specifically the type of fiber that has been found very helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels. Lowered risks of coronary heart disease and heart attack have both been associated with increased consumption of soluble fiber, particularly from legumes.
Black beans also contain a wide variety of both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which combat cardiovascular disease. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection is particularly important for the cardiovascular system. When blood vessels are exposed to excessive oxidative stress or inflammation, risk for disease development is considerably higher. The prevention of oxidative stress and inflammation lowers risk of acquiring most cardiovascular diseases.
Black beans are also high in folate and magnesium, both nutrients highly associated with preservation of cardiovascular health, and the antioxidant minerals zinc and manganese.
Considering that black beans contain at least 8 different flavonoids with enormous antioxidant potential, and their high content of phytochemicals, it's hardly surprising that studies have connected black bean consumption with reduced risk of certain cancers. Recent studies have suggested considerable effectiveness against colon adenoma, a non-cancerous tumor that can progress into colon cancer.
Nervous System Health
Folate, or vitamin B6, is particularly abundant in black beans. The nervous system relies on folate to produce the amino acids it needs to function. For pregnant women a deficiency in folate can cause the improper development of the fetus's brain and spinal cord. The high iron content of black beans is also particularly beneficial to pregnant women.
Rich in Molybdenum
Black beans are an extremely rich source of the trace mineral molybdenum. Molybdenum serves the useful purpose of breaking down and detoxifying sulfites found in foods like salads and wines. Many people are sensitive to sulfites, and may they cause rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation when consumed. Studies also suggest that molybdenum deficiencies can result in impotence in older men.
Benefits of Butternut Squash
Lowering and preventing high blood pressure
Getting enough potassium in your diet is just as important as lowering your sodium intake when it comes to maintaining a healthy blood pressure.2 According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2% of US adults meet the daily 4,700 mg recommendation.3
Also of note, a high potassium intake is associated with a 20% decreased risk of dying from all causes.3
The risks for developing asthma are lower in people who consume a high amount of beta-carotene, the antioxidant that gives certain fruits and vegetables their bright orange pigments. Look for other orange plant foods like papaya, apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pumpkin and carrots to increase your beta-carotene intake.6
Lowering cancer risk
Beta-carotene has also been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in the Japanese population.4
Among younger men, diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective role against prostate cancer, according to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition.5
Type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower overall blood sugar levels, while type 2 diabetics have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. One cup of butternut squash provides about 6.6 grams of fiber out of the recommended 21-25 g/day for women and 30-38 g/day for men.
Healthy looking skin and hair
Butternut squash is also great for your skin because it of its extremely high vitamin A content, which is needed for sebum production that keeps hair moisturized. Vitamin A plays an important role in the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair.
As an added bonus, one serving of butternut squash provides over 50% of the required vitamin C intake for the day, which is needed for the building and maintenance of collagen that provides structure to skin and hair.
Maintaining a high fiber diet helps to prevent constipation and promote a healthy digestive tract.
Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may even decrease inflammation and improve immune function, consequently decreasing the risk of inflammation-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Increased fiber intakes have also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.
Boosting immune function
Plant foods like butternut squash that are high in both vitamin C and beta-carotene offer an immunity boost from their powerful combination of nutrients. Some studies have shown that high-fiber foods may also offer improved immune function.
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