Beans So Good, You Won’t Miss the Meat
Beans and legumes, often overlooked in the world of superfoods, are nutritional powerhouses that pack a punch when it comes to health benefits. These humble, affordable staples, rich in protein, fiber, and an array of essential nutrients, contribute significantly to overall well-being. Here are a few health benefits of beans and legumes, showcasing why these small foods deserve a prominent place on your plate.
Benefits of Beans and Legumes
- Rich Source of Plant-Based Protein: Beans and legumes are excellent sources of plant-based protein, making them an essential component of a vegetarian or vegan diet. Protein is crucial for muscle development, repair, and overall cellular function. Incorporating beans into your meals provides a sustainable and cholesterol-free protein option that supports muscle health.
- High in Dietary Fiber: Fiber is essential for digestive health, and beans are a fantastic source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. This aids in maintaining regular bowel movements, preventing constipation, and promoting a healthy digestive system. Additionally, the fiber content contributes to a feeling of fullness, making beans a valuable ally for weight management.
- Blood Sugar Regulation: The complex carbohydrates found in beans and legumes contribute to stable blood sugar levels. These foods have a low glycemic index, meaning they cause a slow and gradual rise in blood sugar. This quality is particularly beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition.
- Heart Health: Beans are heart-healthy foods that support cardiovascular well-being. They contain potassium, magnesium, and soluble fiber, all of which play roles in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Furthermore, the high fiber content helps lower cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Nutrient-Rich: Beans and legumes are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, folate, and B-vitamins. These nutrients are vital for various bodily functions, such as energy metabolism, immune system support, and the formation of red blood cells. Including a variety of beans in your diet ensures a diverse and comprehensive nutrient intake.
- Weight Management: As a low-calorie and nutrient-dense food, beans are an excellent choice for those looking to manage their weight. The combination of protein and fiber helps control appetite, reducing overall calorie intake. The slow digestion of these nutrients also provides a sustained release of energy, keeping you feeling satisfied for longer periods.
Many people may be at a loss on how to cook beans and legumes properly. Don’t cook them long enough and they’ll be crunchy. Cook them too long and they turn to mush. Read these tips on cooking beans and try a few tasty recipes to get the most out of these protein-packed powerhouses.
- Sort beans on a cookie sheet. Check for shriveled beans, pebbles or debris.
- Rinse the beans well in cold water.
- For beans such as chickpeas, black eyed peas, and pinto, it’s best to soak them prior to cooking.
The night before cooking, place the beans in a large storage container. Pour 2-3 cups of purified water into the container to cover the peas. Add the baking soda to eliminate gas and mix well. The baking soda softens the peas and shortens cooking time. Seal the container and place in the refrigerator overnight. Don’t soak the beans longer than overnight as they will become mushy.
NOTE: Lentils don’t need to be soaked because of their small size.
When ready to cook, drain the beans and rinse with cold water.
How to season beans
Pinto beans: cumin, chicken or chicken-style seasoning
Black-eyed peas: basil, chicken or chicken-style seasoning, turkey or plant-based bacon
Black beans: cumin, chicken or chicken-style seasoning
Lentils: chicken or chicken-style seasoning, curry, cumin