Black beans could not be more succinctly and descriptively named. They are commonly referred to as turtle beans, probably in reference to their shiny, dark, shell-like appearance. With a rich flavor that has been compared to mushrooms, black beans have a velvety texture while holding their shape well during cooking.
Black beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other legumes. In addition to lowering cholesterol, black beans’ high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as brown rice, black beans provide virtually fat-free high quality protein. You may already be familiar with beans’ fiber and protein, but this is far from all black beans have to offer.
Black beans are an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for detoxifying sulfites. Sulfites are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods like delicatessen salads and salad bars. Persons who are sensitive to sulfites in these foods may experience rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation if sulfites are unwittingly consumed. If you have ever reacted to sulfites, it may be because your molybdenum stores are insufficient to detoxify them. A cup of black beans will give you 172.0% of the daily value for this helpful trace mineral.
Research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry indicates that black beans are as rich in antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins as grapes and cranberries, fruits long considered antioxidant superstars.
When researchers analyzed different types of beans, they found that, the darker the bean’s seed coat, the higher its level of antioxidant activity. Gram for gram, black beans were found to have the most antioxidant activity, followed in descending order by red, brown, yellow, and white beans.
Overall, the level of antioxidants found in black beans in this study is approximately 10 times that found in an equivalent amount of oranges, and comparable to that found in an equivalent amount of grapes or cranberries.
A study published in Food Chemistry and Toxicology suggests not only that black beans may help protect against cancer, but that whole foods naturally contain an array of compounds that work together for our benefit. When researchers fed laboratory animals a 20% black bean diet to see if it would cause any mutagenic or genotoxic activity, not only did black beans not promote cancer, but a clear reduction in the number of pre-cancerous cells was seen, even in animals who were simultaneously given an agent known to promote cancer, the mutagen, cyclophosphamide.