What are Velvet Beans and why are they vital for our gut?
Velvet beans, also called mucuna pruriens, are a type of legume native to African and Asian regions. The pods are inedible due to their tough exterior. However, the seeds can be boiled and eaten. They have traditionally been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. Fun fact about velvet beans: they actually have anti-venom properties, so it is effective against snake venom!
The polyphenols in velvet beans contribute to their antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory effects. One particularly interesting polyphenol present in velvet beans is L-dopa. Food sources of L-dopa have been shown to increase the body’s production of dopamine, which is an important neurochemical that plays a central role in the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Dopamine supports overall immune function (including intestinal immunity). Additionally, within the gut, dopamine supports proper intestinal motility, secretion of digestive juices, and water absorption. Intestinal motility is especially important for supporting a healthy gut microbiome and preventing the growth of harmful bacteria, such as the overgrowth of bacteria in patients with SIBO.
Ways to eat it
The outside of the bean is inedible, but after boiling, the tasty beans’ insides are revealed!
Add the dried powdered form of velvet beans to smoothies!
Boil beans in their pods (similar to cooking edamame), remove the beans and discard the inedible pods!
They can be boiled then added to a soup, or even roasted and brewed as a coffee substitute!
Recipe: Vegetable Stew with Velvet Beans
Ingredients (Makes 4 Servings):
2 medium-large onions, diced
3 Tbsp vegetable broth
6 small new potatoes, unpeeled, washed, and diced
4 medium carrots, scrubbed and sliced
2 cups water
1 small head cauliflower, broken into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch baby bok choy, chopped
2 cups fresh velvet beans, boiled and shells removed
2–3 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1–2 tsp curry powder
3 tsp ground turmeric
1–2 Tbsp red curry paste, for those who prefer a zippier taste
1 1/2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed
1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1 pinch black pepper (optional)
Sauté onion in 3 Tbsp of veggie broth for 3–4 minutes over medium heat in a large soup pot.
Add garlic and sauté for another minute.
Add potatoes, carrots, and two cups of water. Bring to a simmer and cover.
Cook for about 10 minutes. Potatoes will not be fully cooked yet.
Add the cauliflower, bok choy, green beans, ginger, and spices. Cover and continue simmering gently for about 10–15 minutes or until veggies are tender.
Mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the soup.
Now stir in the curry paste, if using, being sure that the paste is well mixed.
Allow to simmer on low heat for 5–10 minutes and then turn off the heat and let it sit to blend the flavors until it is ready to serve.
Just before serving, stir in the defrosted frozen baby peas (at about room temperature), adding some pink salt to taste if needed.
Heal With Each Meal!
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Duda-Chodak, A. (2012). The Inhibitory Effect of Polyphenols on Human Gut Microbiota.
Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 63(5), 497-503. https://www.academia.edu/9837941/THE_INHIBITORY_EFFECT_OF_POLYPHENOLS_
Lampariello, L. R., Cortelazzo, A., Guerranti, R., Sticozzi, C., & Valacchi, G. (2012). The Magic
Velvet Bean of Mucuna pruriens. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 2(4), 331–339. https://doi.org/10.1016/s2225-4110(16)30119-5