Spilling the beans: Research links beans to healthy aging

Beans are well known for their nutritional qualities. Research shows that they can reduce the risk of developing chronic disease, which is important for older adults who are at a higher risk. Despite the health benefits, many older adults do not eat beans as part of their regular diet.

In September 2018, Dr. Alison Duncan and her research team from the University of Guelph held an event for older adults called “Spilling the BEANS!” to promote the health benefits of beans. More than 50 community members attended, as well as three representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, who funded the research in partnership with the University of Guelph.

Dr. Duncan opened the event by presenting research linking beans to healthy aging, and her work exploring bean consumption in older adults. Afterwards, chef Kevin Hughes provided a cooking demonstration, preparing simple recipes using beans as key ingredients. Guests were invited to sample four different recipes, including a Blueberry Lemon Loaf and an Orange Ginger Smoothie, both featuring white beans, and a Gingerbread Bar and a Midwest Bean Salad, both featuring black beans.

The recipes, which were adapted from Pulses.org, were tailored so they would be easy for older adults to prepare. The ingredients and instructions are simple, and minimal cookware is required—eliminating the need for large pots or heavy pans that can sometimes be difficult to lift out of the oven. Recipe cards were provided in large print to encourage older adults to prepare the recipes at home.

After sampling the recipes, guests had the opportunity to ask questions of the research team and explore a variety of tools and resources on display. One of the resources was a new Bean Toolkit, which includes a meal planning guide to help older adults add beans to their daily diet. The toolkit also shares recipes for smaller serving sizes, convenient for 1 or 2 people.

After attending the event, 80% of guests said that they were more aware of the health benefits of beans, and 77% said they were more likely to eat beans.

“Very informative—information definitely changed my outlook of beans in my diet. Love the idea of presenting easy recipes.”
– Older adult, community member

The research team would like to extend special thanks to Maryanne Wilford at the Guelph Wellington Seniors Association for helping to coordinate the event, and to the Evergreen Seniors Community Centre for providing the venue.

This project was supported by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)-University of Guelph partnership (project#030193).