Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Legumes Highest in Antioxidants

If you compared the total antioxidant content of ten different legumes, which do you think would come out on top? Pinto beans, lima beans, red kidney beans, black kidney beans—for which I think they just mean black beans—navy beans, small red beans, black-eyed peas, mung beans, lentils, versus chickpeas. Who can guess the winner and the loser? Quick, pause the video!

Coming in at #10, bottom of the barrel, lima beans. Then, navy beans, both pretty sad. Then, black-eyed peas, then mung beans, which is what they typically make bean sprouts out of. Then, moving into the winners’ circle, kidney beans. I bet there were some of you that guessed that as our #1. But no, they’re just middle-of-the-pack; there are five better. Want to pause again and reconsider?

Next, black beans, and the bronze to small red beans. And who do you think gets the gold? Anyone want to take any bets? Lentil soup or hummus, what do you think? And, it’s…lentils for the win! You can see how lentils pull away from the pack in terms of scavenging up free radicals. Lentils topped the charts based on a variety of different measures, maybe because they’re so small, and the nutrients are concentrated in the seed coat. So, smaller means more surface area? That’d be my guess.

Food vs. Supplements

When pitted against cholesterol in vitro, to try to prevent oxidation, lentils also seemed to stand out, perhaps making it the best candidate “for the development of a dietary supplement for promoting heart health and for preventing cancers.” Uh, or you could just have some lentil soup.

I just throw them in my pressure cooker with oat groats when I make oatmeal. “Aside from lentils, black beans, black soybeans, and red kidney beans” also seem to top the list. Here’s the breakfast. Now, if you also serve a bowl of black bean soup—or, just the amount of fiber in that bowl of soup—or, just the amount of antioxidants found in that bowl of soup, which do you think works better?

Whole plant foods can be greater than just the sum of their parts. “Nowadays, it’s popular to isolate and sell functional components of foods as dietary supplements. However, the [extracted] ingredients may not produce the same effects when delivered outside a whole-food [form].” In this study, for example, they compared “the ability of black beans to attenuate [after-meal] metabolic, oxidative stress, and inflammatory responses” to a crappy breakfast, “and determine[d] relative contribution of dietary fiber and antioxidant capacity…to the overall effect.” Well, it’s kind of a no-brainer. The results of the whole black beans in a meal “improved metabolic responses that could not be explained by either the fiber or antioxidant fractions alone.”

The Effects on Hunger and Gut Health

Beans can even affect our responses to subsequent meals. When our body detects starch in our small intestine, it slows down the rate at which our stomach empties. That makes sense; the body wants to finish digesting before the next meal comes down the pike. So, might “eating a slowly-digest[ing] starch, such as lentils,…trigger these potent…mechanisms to result in a sustained delaying effect on [stomach] emptying”?

Here’s the stomach-emptying rate at a second meal, four-and-a-half hours later, after you eat a quickly-digesting starch, like bread. This is not how fast you’re emptying the bread; this is how fast your stomach is emptying a second meal hours later after you ate bread. But, what about the same meal eaten four-and-a-half hours after eating lentils? Significantly slower, like up to an hour slower, which means you would feel that much fuller that much longer after lunch because you had some beans for breakfast.

Then, when all the fiber and resistant starch make it down to our large intestine, they can feed the good bacteria in our colon. Researchers fed people a little over a cup of canned chickpeas a day, and in just three weeks, some of the bad bacteria—the pathogenic and putrefication bacteria—got crowded out, cutting the number of people colonizing a high “ammonia-producing bacteria” nearly in half, indicating that chickpeas “have the potential to modulate [our] intestinal [microbiome] to promote intestinal health” within a matter of weeks.

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