Do Rice and Beans Make You Fat? ---
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Get Lean Diet for Men

February 5, 2016
By A. Weinberg, Contributing Columnist

“Give me a sister; I can't resist her; red beans and rice didn't miss her.”
While Sir-Mix-a-Lot's preference for the curvier ladies might be a
shared taste for many, beans and rice have a bad reputation for helping
to create not just a big booty, but for real weight gain.

Personally, I'm not so sure, as many people manage to get fat on a
carbohydrate and meat diet, as well.

And when I was vegetarian and eating lentils and rice most days, I
happened to be thinner. The way the body interacts and processes
food is complex, but can we target some foods to definitely avoid? With
beans and rice, it looks like the issue isn't so black and white (or brown
and white, if we're talking pinto beans).

A Little History of Rice and Beans

Rice and beans are a staple combo in many parts of the world, from
Caribbean to South America to many parts of the United States where
Latin and Caribbean cultures have thrived. Also, red beans and rice
have long been a staple of French creole cooking.

Many historians trace the rice and beans combo back to West Africa
and Brazil. So long embedded in African and Latin cultures, calling
yourself or someone "rice and beans" is something of a shorthand for
paying homage to a down-to-earth, authentic, honest spirit.

As NPR radio has noted, the jazz great Louise often signed off his
shows saying "red beans and ricely yours."

We have collected together the scientific evidence for and against
making rice-and-beans a mainstay of your diet:


They Control Blood Sugar and Help Regulate Diabetes

Eating beans and rice controls blood sugar spikes, leaving you with a
smaller appetite. In a 2012 study by Sharon V. Thompson and
researchers at Oregon Health and Science University, they tested a
group of 17 men and women aged 35-70 with type 2 diabetes. After a
12-hour fast, they tried a combination of four different kinds of beans
and rice (rice with pinto, dark red, kidney, and black beans), as well as
just rice for a control. It was discovered that all the different
combinations of beans and rice controlled glycemic response better
than just rice. For those with diabetes, it helps with the processing of
insulin. But you don't have to have diabetes for it to have a positive
effect. Eating a moderate amount of your favorite beans and rice once
per day could help regulate appetite, leaving you fuller longer, and less
likely to grab that unhealthy snack.

They have Necessary Nutrients

A satisfied body is a body that won't feel the need to keep eating. If
you eat a one-cup serving of whole-grain rice and black beans, it has
most of what your body needs: carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium,
phosphorous, potassium, and protein.

Rice and beans are also low-fat and without many calories (216
calories; 2 grams of fat). Just the black beans alone have 30% of the
recommended daily dose of protein, and if you combine them with rice,
you get even more.

If you are vegetarian, eating the rice-and-beans combo can bring an
even bigger benefit because together they make up a complete protein.
Magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium help heal wounds, build
bones, and repair cells, while giving you the energy you need.

And fiber is that magical substance that
controls blood sugar levels, as
well as lowers blood-cholesterol levels. When you need to eat some
“real” food, this is a good choice. It will keep you going for longer, and
you can avoid that extreme post-lunch “carb-drop” you get from eating
pizza or pasta.

They Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

Eating beans (or any kind of legumes) has a dramatic effect on
lowering blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is the leading cause of
heart disease.

According to a 2014 study by Canadian Researchers (including Vanessa
Ha at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Toronto University),
eating one serving of beans daily could lower your LDL (the bad kind of
cholesterol) by five percent.

The cultural introduction of a beans and rice diet could have great
implications for North American society, since in the U.S. heart disease
is the leading cause of death. Incorporating the dish more often to
balance out that meat and pasta intake could be a great way to live
longer and happier.

They Reduce Your Risk of Prostate Cancer and Cancer in General

Beans have properties that fight cancer. According to studies published
in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention in 2000 (based
partially on research from Laurence N. Kolonel at Stanford University),
men who eat beans have a lowered
risk of prostate cancer.

Women also benefit, according to scientists at the Harvard School of
Public Health. They found that women who ate beans twice a week
have a 25 percent lower chance of developing breast cancer than those
who ate beans just once a month. (Read more about
breast cancer risk
in men.)

Cancer, also one of the leading causes of death in North America, can
be fought with some delicious burritos. I’ll be happy to make that
sacrifice for my health.


Beans and Rice are Kind of Bourgeoisie

Despite its reputation for being the staple of poor countries, the
beneficial beans and rice combo is reserved for the middle and upper
classes. Why? Although beans and rice together form a complex
protein, most of the nutrients come from beans. And the price of beans
is rising.

So if you are a person who is not in a...uh... "comfortable economic
situation", you will probably end up eating a dish with a higher rice to
beans ratio, actually decreasing the nutritional value and possibly
negatively affecting your health.

Used Incorrectly, They Can be Harmful to Health and Lacking in

As previously mentioned, you must be careful how you eat beans and
rice. Even though it is nutritious and a great survival food, the rice half
does contain carbohydrates, which can break down into simple sugars
and cause weight gain.

Brown rice in moderate proportions is okay, but too much rice
(especially white rice) can be a real danger.

According to Hannia Campos, a nutrition professor at Harvard, eating
white rice removes nutritional value; it is simply a starchy grain with a
high glycemic index.  It raises blood sugar levels quickly and doesn’t fill
you up.

Even worse, according to a 2012 study by Emily A. Hu and researchers
at the Harvard School of Public Health, eating white rice is associated
with a higher risk of
Type II diabetes.

And while a serving of beans and rice is good for you, it does lack some
necessary nutrients, such as Vitamin A and C. Even the nutrients it does
have can be difficult to obtain.

The type of iron in beans, for example, is not as easy to absorb as the
type of iron in meat. It must be combined with a source of vitamin C,
such as bell peppers. Pick up some extra vegetables and put them on
beans and brown rice to avoid the downsides of this classic combo.

They May Upset your Stomach

Rice and beans provide a great burst of energy, but if you aren’t used
to them, the beans side of the equation can cause gastrointestinal

Gas and abdominal cramping are common symptoms after eating beans
and rice. This is due to the high amount of non-digestible fiber, which is
great nutritionally but not so easy on the stomach.

A few ways to counteract this are to change the water many times
when you cook the beans, as well as staying hydrated and getting
exercise. If you are currently on a diet that doesn’t include many rice
and bean dishes, you can add them in gradually instead of making a
sudden shift.

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Rice and beans can actually help to
lower your blood sugar levels.