Many preppers have built dried or canned beans into their survival food plan, under the assumption that beans have a good ratio of carbohydrates and protein. After all, rice and beans have been considered a staple part of the human diet for centuries in many parts of the world.
It’s true that beans and legumes are convenient to store as a survival or emergency food. Whether it’s canned beans or dried beans, they are cheap, with a long shelf life, and easy to prepare (especially canned versions like baked beans, canned red & pinto beans, etc).
However, beans and legumes aren’t the survival super-food staple that they might appear to be. Let’s examine closer:
1. Protein content is low.
It’s difficult to get the recommended dose of protein from beans. The recommended daily dose of 50g of protein would require almost 3 cups of white beans.
This creates a false economy when planning out your survival pantry – it might look like dozens of cans of red beans, baked beans, and kidney beans will provide you with much-required protein in an emergency, but in reality it would take a significant quantity to meet your body’s required protein needs.
2. Protein uptake is poor.
Compounded by the fact that beans and legumes have relatively low levels of protein to begin with is the fact that their bio-availability is low.
When protein is digested, the body converts it into usable nutrients: either amino acids or carbohydrates & nitrogen gas. Beans have one of the lowest conversion ratio which leads to them being digested as carbohydrate & nitrogen gas, rather than amino acids which are the nutrients required to build and repair the cells.
The conversion rate for soy, one of the highest touted forms of vegetable protein is only 17%. If you’re getting 50 grams on paper, after conversion you’re body is getting roughly 8.5g. The rest of those calories are just converted into carbohydrates by gluconeogenesis.
3. Lack of vitamins.
Typical dietary staples like white rice, corn and wheat all lack the vitamins contained in vegetables, healthy animal fats and nuts. Vitamins like A, D, and K are present in healthy animal fats like grass fed meat, offal and liver. The vitamins contained in vegetables range greatly but include B vitamins and vitamin C primarily with a smaller amount of A, D and K (also less absorbable).
4. Inflammatory phytates.
Worse than the fact that legumes contain little vitamins to begin with, is that legumes can sabotage your existing stores of vitamins and minerals. Legumes and some grains contain chemicals called phytates which bind to vitamins. Phytates are intended to produce a new plant, but only under the right conditions – they prevent the seed from sprouting when conditions are poor by binding to the essential vitamins and minerals required from growth.
What does this mean for the human body? In short, gut irritation and inflammation at best, and an inability to absorb the other nutrients at worst.
Phytates are known to bind to minerals which most of the West is already deficient in: calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
There are ways to make beans more digestible and neutralize some of the phytates by sprouting and soaking, and pressure cooking. However, legumes also contain other antinutrients such as lectins and saponins which have inflammatory properties because they irritate the intestinal lining. Fermenting legumes is the only way to significantly reduce lectin content. But none of these cooking or sprouting methods reduces saponin content.
But what about those populations that have survived on beans for centuries?
Some form of animal protein is usually worked into the diets of these populations. The amino acids from meats are necessary to survive. Populations subsisting on only grains and legumes tend to have lower average heights due to insufficient nutrition.
But when there are plenty of other sources of amino acids with high bio-availability which don’t sabotage necessary vitamins and minerals, why would you bother?
Beans have fed decades of bean/fart jokes on playgrounds around the country. Jokes aside, they are not necessarily the best for your survival.