Beans: A Cognitive Health Powerhouse

By Dr. Jenna Stedman, DCN, RD, CSSD

Beans are a staple in many diets worldwide, including my own. They are not only rich in nutrients but also offer significant benefits for cognitive health. Beans contain essential nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. I recommend beans to all of my clients.

Beans are particularly high in folate, iron, magnesium, and antioxidants, which are all key to maintaining good brain health.

  • Folate is important for neurodevelopment and cognitive function.
  • Iron plays a role in oxygen transport to the brain.
  • Magnesium supports numerous biochemical reactions in the brain and helps regulate neurotransmitters.
  • Antioxidants, such as polyphenols, protect brain cells from oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.

Deficiencies in these minerals have been linked to cognitive decline and neurological disorders.

Black beans are an excellent source of anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve memory and protect against age-related cognitive decline. Their high fiber content helps to ensure a steady supply of glucose to the brain.
Recipe: Black Bean Brownies

Cranberry beans, known for their creamy texture and slightly nutty flavor, are rich in antioxidants and folate. These nutrients help reduce inflammation and support neurotransmitter function.
Recipe: Cranberry Bean Summer Vegetable Salad

Great northern beans provide a good balance of protein and fiber, along with high levels of iron and magnesium. These nutrients help improve blood flow to the brain aiding in better concentration and memory retention.
Recipe: Israeli-style White Bean Hummus

Navy beans are packed with fiber, folate, and manganese. The high fiber content aids in maintaining stable blood glucose levels, while folate and manganese support neurotransmitter synthesis and protect against neurodegenerative diseases.
Recipe: Spanish Navy Bean Soup

Pink beans, similar in flavor to pinto beans, are a good source of antioxidants, particularly flavonoids. These compounds help protect brain cells from oxidative stress, potentially improving cognitive function and slowing cognitive aging.
Recipe: Avocado Toast with Herby Bean Salad

Pinto beans are rich in folate, iron, and antioxidants. Their nutrients are beneficial for neurodevelopment and cognitive performance, making them an excellent addition to a diet focused on brain health.
Recipe: Breakfast Bean Burrito

Light red kidney beans are packed with antioxidants and fiber. The antioxidants help fight inflammation and oxidative stress, while the fiber aids in maintaining stable glucose levels, which is crucial for consistent brain energy.
Recipe: Bean Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Similar to their lighter counterparts, dark red kidney beans are high in antioxidants and protein. These nutrients support brain cell health and neurotransmitter production, which are vital for cognitive functions like learning and memory.
Recipe: Tempeh Chili

White kidney beans, also known as cannellini beans, are rich in protein, fiber, and essential minerals. These nutrients promote healthy blood flow and provide sustained energy, both critical for optimal brain function.
Recipe: Ginger and Chocolate Cannellini Bean Cookies

Small red beans are loaded with antioxidants and fiber. The high antioxidant content helps reduce oxidative damage to brain cells, while the fiber ensures a steady supply of glucose, preventing cognitive dips and brain fog.
Recipe: Baked Stuffed Vegetables

Aim to incorporate a variety of beans into your meals and bakes. They can be added to salads, soups, wraps, stews, casseroles, and baked goods, or used as a base for vegetarian burgers and dips. I recommend all my clients eat a serving of beans daily, even if it is just some hummus.

Leave a Comment