Nutraceutical perspectives and utilization of common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.): A review
Consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the health benefits of foods and pay particular attention to the potential disease preventing and health promoting compounds that a given food contains. This awareness, coupled with a well-known understanding of how diet affects our health is motivating a quest for natural health products. There is a growing interest in common beans and their products because of the health claims associated with their consumption. Common beans are rich in protein, carbohydrate, fiber, minerals and vitamins. Proteins have always been recognized as the most significant macronutrient in common beans and though the seed is limited in methionine (a sulphur containing amino acid), it is often complemented by methioninerich cereal sources such maize and wheat. Consumption of common beans has been linked to decreased occurrence of chronic non communicable diseases such diabetes, cancer, obesity and coronary heart diseases. Common beans contain a variety of phytochemicals such as polyphenolic compounds, alkaloids, fibre, saponins, steroids, lectins and terpenoids among others. These phytochemicals are believed to offer protective functions and physiological effects in the body. The nutraceutical properties that have been described for common beans include free radical scavenging activity, glycemic index lowering activity, anti-lipase activity, anti- mutagenic activity, cancerpreventive activity, lowering of the plasma cholesterol levels and antioxidant activity. The objective in this paper is to review the major biological activities of common beans as reported in the literature. The paper also reports on the opportunities to use common beans in the formulation of ready-to-use products or products that are quick to prepare in order to increase its utilisation in both the developed and developing countries. It is well understood that one of the factors that discourages consumption of common beans and other legumes is long cooking time. Ready-to-use products or products with short preparation times provide an opportunity for convenient consumption of common beans by consumers in busy occupations.
Key words: Nutraceuticals, Common beans, Health benefits.
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