The Benefits of Beans
Don’t pass by the bean aisle next time you are at the grocery store! These simple, inexpensive pantry staples are not only delicious but a powerhouse of nutrition. There are chickpeas (garbanzo beans), pinto beans, black beans, white beans, lima beans, kidney beans - the list goes on and on. If you’re thinking, "I don’t have time to cook a pot of beans," don't worry - canned beans are a great choice! Just remember to rinse them off to remove the excess sodium before eating them. The nutritional benefits and ways to incorporate beans are just as long as the list of varieties of them, so for now we’ll focus on the top five:
1. Beans are a great source of fiber. Beans contain 7-8g of fiber per ½ cup serving. Fiber is an essential component of a healthy diet and has been shown to help prevent heart disease and diabetes, lower blood cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy digestive system. Daily fiber recommendations are 25g per day for women and 38g per day for men.
2. Beans are packed with protein. Beans also contain 7-8g of protein per ½ cup serving making them a wonderful source of plant-based protein. Protein is an essential building block in in the human body and incorporating plant-based proteins is a win for both your health and the environment.
3. Beans are a naturally low fat food. Beans contain only 0.5-1.0g of fat per ½ cup serving and are free of cholesterol, unlike meat proteins. Although beans are low in fat, they are actually more filling than meat proteins due to their combination of fiber, protein, and slowly digested carbohydrates, making them a good choice for a well-balanced diet and weight maintenance.
4. Beans are full of folate. Beans are a great source of the B vitamin folate, which is needed to produce blood cells, metabolize carbohydrates and prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy. Cooked dried beans provide higher amounts of folate than canned beans, but even one serving of canned beans, such as chickpeas, provides just over a quarter of the daily recommendations for folate!
5. Beans are rich in antioxidants. Beans are a wonderful source of polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants help fight free radicals to prevent cell damage that can lead to inflammation, disease and aging, and help to maintain a robust immune system.
5 Easy Ways to add Beans to your diet
1. Soups and stews. Beans are a great addition to soups and stews. You can use canned or dried beans in place of meat for a hearty soup that is cholesterol-free. Pro tip: If using dried beans, soak them the night before and cook them separately from the soup then add them in at the end. This way you'll have beans left over to add to other dishes as well. Vegetarian Chili is one of my favorite bean dishes!
2. Hummus. Hummus is a delicious and nutritious spread or dip. You can use it as a sandwich spread in place of mayonnaise or as a dip with your favorite crunchy vegetables. You can of course stick with the traditional chickpea hummus, or feel free to experiment making hummus with any beans you have in your pantry.
3. Salad toppers. Give your next salad an extra protein boost by adding a half cup of your favorite beans to the dish. It will make your salad more filling with extra fiber and nutrients without adding fat or cholesterol. There are also several bean salad recipes where beans are the star of the dish. My favorite is Texas Caviar. It can be served as a side dish or with some added greens and avocado to make it a meal.
4. Brownies. Yes, I know this sounds crazy but give it a shot, I bet you will be surprised! Adding black beans to your brownies not only gives you an extra boost of protein but it adds richness to the flavor and texture and gives the brownies a wonderful dark chocolate appearance. Black beans replace the flour in the recipe making them a gluten-free, high protein, and low carbohydrate snack.
5. Beans and rice. The most traditional and affordable way to eat beans. Make a big pot of beans and pot of rice to go with it. Have it as a meal topped with some Pico de Gallo and avocado, stuff them into burritos or tacos, or add some additional veggies, cheese, and enchilada sauce and make an enchilada casserole. Here is my favorite classic pinto bean recipe that is in constant rotation at our house.
So next time you are making your grocery list, add beans! Experiment with different types of beans and reap the nutritional benefits of this simple and often-overlooked pantry staple. We promise, you’re going to love them.
Written by: Stephanie Barnes, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern