Beans contain the nutrients and benefits found in both vegetable and non-meat protean sources.
Dry beans and other legumes are some of the most widely available, inexpensive and nutritionally complete staple foods. In the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, scientists recommend that adults consume three cups of beans per week to promote health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
As both a vegetable and a non-meat protein source, beans contain nutrients found in both food groups. They are also a nutrient-rich source of complex carbohydrates and contain dietary fiber, proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers and to aid in weight maintenance.
Dietary Guidelines, Dietary Guidance Messages and Government-approved Health Claims
I / The Dietary Guidelines for Americans has been published jointly every 5 years since 1980 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Guidelines provide authoritative advice for people two years and older about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases. They serve as the basis for Federal food and nutrition education programs (see www.hhs.gov). Legumes are specifically mentioned in the chapter FOOD GROUPS TO ENCOURAGE:
1. Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups of fruit and 21/2 cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.
2. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and other vegetables) several times a week.
3. Consume 3 or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.
4. Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.
II / Dietary guidance messages are part of an effort by the FDA’s Consumer Health Information for Better Nutrition Initiative (CHIBNI) to encourage good nutrition among consumers in multiple ways, including promoting and enhancing dietary guidance messages on food labels. Dietary guidance messages are an opportunity to communicate with consumers and remind them about important health and nutrition information. DGM’s draw a general relationship between individual foods or entire food groups and health, though no particular component in the food or foods is highlighted. Beans are included in the only two existing DGM’s:
– Diets including beans may reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers, and,
– Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancers and other chronic diseases.
III / Government-approved health claims, sanctioned by the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration, describe a relationship between a food, food component, or dietary supplement ingredient, and reducing risk of a disease or health-related condition. An ingredient health claim for fiber, particularly soluble fiber, in produce and grain products and fiber’s relationship to heart disease would read: Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain some types of dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber, may reduce the risk of heart disease, a disease associated with many factors.