By Lily Anderson
Staff Writer for Wake Up World
Beans, humble yet nutritious, have been a staple food source for centuries, providing sustenance and essential nutrients to countless communities worldwide. However, recent scientific research has uncovered an additional layer of benefits hidden within these unassuming legumes.
A ground breaking study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and CIATEJ in Guadalajara, Mexico, has revealed that certain Mexican bean varieties from the Chiapas region are brimming with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
These unique beans, cherished by Mayan communities and cultivated by indigenous farmers, hold not only cultural significance but also the potential to revolutionize health and wellness.
Preserving Cultural Heritage and Biodiversity
Beyond their nutritional value, these beans have a special place in the hearts of Mayan communities, preserved as heirlooms from past generations. Elvira de Mejia, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois, emphasizes the cultural significance of these beans, stating, “They are important because of their cultural significance and contribution to biodiversity.” Preserving these indigenous varieties becomes a vital act in safeguarding the region’s cultural heritage and conserving the rich biodiversity they embody.
The Powerhouse of Antioxidants
The research team delved deep into the composition of two bean varieties with exceptionally high phenolic content, which imparts the dark red or black coloring to their seed coats. Phenolic compounds are bioactive substances known for their potent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants play a vital role in neutralizing free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells and lead to oxidative stress.
According to David Fonseca Hernández, lead author of the study, “The black beans had high quantities of anthocyanin, in particular delphinidin, petunidin, and malvidin glucosides, which have antioxidative properties.” Anthocyanins, the pigments responsible for the vibrant colors of many fruits and vegetables, are particularly powerful antioxidants. The presence of these compounds in black beans underscores their potential in combating oxidative stress and reducing the risk of chronic health issues such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Pinto Beans: Potent Inflammation Fighters
While black beans exhibited remarkable antioxidative properties, the pinto beans showcased a unique ability to combat inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a wide range of health problems, including various skin conditions and autoimmune disorders. The researchers found that the extracts from pinto beans demonstrated significant potential in inhibiting enzymes responsible for inflammation.
Fonseca further elaborates, “When the skin is exposed to air pollution and sunlight, it produces higher quantities of free radicals, and inflammation pathways are activated. The extracts, especially from pinto beans, could inhibit and reduce the activity of these enzymes.” This discovery holds promise for the cosmetics industry, offering a natural and potent ingredient that can help address skin health issues caused by oxidative stress.
Seed Coat Extracts: A Multi-Purpose Resource
The researchers’ findings extend beyond the realm of nutrition and health, revealing potential applications in both the food industry and cosmetics sector. Due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the seed coat extracts from these unique Mexican beans could serve as valuable additives for enhancing the health benefits of various food products. Incorporating these extracts into food formulations could not only contribute to flavor and color but also provide additional health-promoting properties to consumers.
Furthermore, the cosmetic industry stands to gain from these remarkable discoveries. The bioactive compounds found in the seed coat extracts hold great potential as natural ingredients for formulating skincare products targeting skin-related diseases and aging. Fonseca highlights his research focus, stating, “One of the main issues with aging skin is the oxidative stress that results from environmental factors. The extracts, particularly from pinto beans, could offer a viable solution for skincare formulations aiming to combat aging and promote skin health.”
Preserving Mexico’s Southern Region
Beyond the immediate health and economic benefits, the preservation of these unique bean varieties holds significance for the broader Mexican community. Luis Mojica, a research professor at CIATEJ and Fonseca’s advisor, emphasizes the importance of their research project, stating, “One of the project’s goals was to find cultivars with an interesting profile to be used as a source of phytochemicals for the cosmetic industry.” With the cosmetic industry growing rapidly and a rising demand for natural ingredients, these beans from Mexico’s southern region hold the potential to support regional development and wellness.
The journey of discovering the hidden health gems within unique Mexican beans from the Chiapas region has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. From their cultural significance and biodiversity conservation to their potential as antioxidants and inflammation fighters, these beans hold the promise of a brighter and healthier future for individuals and communities alike.
As the researchers work diligently to unlock the full potential of these remarkable beans, the possibilities are endless. Harnessing the power of nature and traditional wisdom, these beans offer hope for addressing a myriad of health issues and creating innovative solutions for the food and cosmetic industries. With continued support and collaboration, we may soon witness these beans transforming from humble legumes to potent agents of wellness and sustainability.
- David Fonseca Hernández, Luis Mojica, Mark A. Berhow, Korey Brownstein, Eugenia Lugo Cervantes, Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia. Black and pinto beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) unique mexican varieties exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential. Food Research International, 2023; 169: 112816 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodres.2023.112816
About the author:
Lily Anderson is a passionate wordsmith and dedicated explorer of cutting-edge scientific inquiries. Fuelled by a thirst for knowledge, she skilfully transforms intricate ideas into relatable tales, inviting readers to embark on a captivating expedition of revelation. Lily’s efforts play a crucial role in bridging the gap between experts and the wider public, evoking a sense of awe and encouraging insightful discussions about groundbreaking scientific advancements.