Super Food # 3: Beans
Goal: 3 to 4 servings every week
What it does: Low in fat, beans are a good source of protein and fiber and may have protective effects against heart disease and breast cancer. Beans may also play a role in stabilizing female hormones, says nutritionist Susan Krause, MS, RD.
“Beans have been around so long that most people don’t view them as a fancy new health food,” Krause says. “But in fact, they are among one of the healthiest things a woman can eat.”
In studies published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers found that beans in general, and lentils in particular, may have some protective effects against breast cancer. In research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, doctors found a relationship between a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and a higher intake of legumes. Well known legumes include peas, beans, lentils, and peanuts.
As a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, Krause says, beans can help lower cholesterol, while their level of a nutrient known as isoflavone can help in the regulation of hormones and may aid with PMS, perimenopause, or menopause symptoms. Although soybeans have among the highest levels of isoflavones, other sources include red clover, kudzu, mung beans, alfalfa sprouts, black cohosh, and chickpeas.
“Beans also contain something called protease inhibitors, which may help protect against breast cancer,” says Krause. Protease inhibitors help slow the division of cancer cells and in this way may prevent tumor formation.
Last but not least, if you are in your reproductive years, beans can give you a steady supply of folic acid -- essential if you should become pregnant.