All beans are not just red or black but come in a variety of other colors, including green or even purple. Beans get their colors from pigments such as anthocyanins (red, pink, purple, blue, black) and flavonoids (green and cream), both of which are polyphenols; they also get their hues from chlorophyll (green) and carotenoid (yellow, orange, green).

These pigments eliminate active oxygen from the body and help prevent lifestyle-related diseases. Their many benefits include: preventing cancer, arteriosclerosis and heart disease, boosting the immune system, building resistance to allergies and protecting blood vessels.

In premodern times, clinical experience led many to believe that food color was significant to one’s health. Ancient Chinese medicine described its “Theory of Five Colors” which analyzed the effect of colors on life.

According to the theory, each of five colors invigorates specific organs of the body, making them work better: red is good for the heart, green for the liver, yellow for the pancreas, white for the lungs and black for the kidneys and bladder.

Based on this reasoning, it was believed that the natural colors of beans were intimately connected to life processes. Today, modern research is beginning to scientifically unravel that relationship.

Even beans of the same variety can come in different colors. All azuki beans, for example, are not red; azuki can be white. Sasage (cowpeas), which closely resemble azuki beans, come in red, white and black colors. Beans of the same variety might contain the same nutritional components, such as proteins and vitamins, but if their colors are different, they contain different polyphenols. The benefits of these beans, therefore, differ according to their color.

A doctor familiar with the benefits of beans points out that eating the whole bean is very important, saying that:

“One way to look at beans is as a food ‘meant to be eaten whole.’ By this I mean that every part of the bean should be consumed. Beans contain plentiful polyphenols, linolenic acid, saponin, lecithin and other beneficial components, but it would not be appropriate to emphasize any one component individually. The many medicinal benefits of beans only come by consuming the balanced goodness of the whole bean.”

(Translated by Roy Mashima)

(The information provided should not be construed as medical advice or instruction. Consult your physician before attempting any new program. Readers who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of developing serious medical conditions.)


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