You've probably heard the folk tale about those magi beans -- but even in the real world, there may be some truth to the notion. Because, if there's one thing nutrition enthusiasts agree on, it's that beans are wonderfully good for you.
"Despite myriad differences in shape, sizes, colors, textures and flavors, beans are surprisingly similar in nutrient composition," according to the website (www.usdrybeans.com) of the U.S. Dry Bean Council. "While beans are naturally low in calories, sodium and sugar, very low in fat and cholesterol-free, they are also good to excellent sources of several key nutrients," the website boasts.
In a half-cup of beans, for example, you'll get 23 percent to 45 percent of your daily value of folate, 11 percent of iron, 24 percent to 36 percent of fiber, 14 percent to 16 percent of protein, and 10 percent of potassium, according to the website.
Beans count as a protein and as a vegetable on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's www.myplate.gov, said Weber State University associate professor of nutrition Joan Thompson.
They are high in complex carbohydrates and heart-healthy soluble fiber, she said.
"I love them. The composition of energy is fabulous. Beans are the highest natural fiber-containing food. Anything else that competes with the fiber content is manufactured, like bran. The soluble fiber binds with acids rich in cholesterol and you poop it out. It has a blood cholesterol lowering effect," Thompson said.
To top it off, beans can lower the risk of heart disease and help with weight loss.