Why Include Beans in Your Diet?
June 28, 2022
Beans are fantastic. They are filling, nutritious, versatile, affordable, and oh so delicious. As if we needed more reasons to love beans, there are quite a few benefits of including them in your diet. For health and happiness reasons, stock your pantry full of different types of beans for easy, quick, and filling meal options!
From chakalaka to beans on toast, to chili, you cannot go wrong with feeding your family beans. Dress them up or down, make them for one or for a whole crowd. Let’s get into why you should always include beans in your meals!
The Basics of Beans
Beans are an excellent way to load up on plant-based protein and a heavy dose of fiber. They have been cultivated for thousands of years, feeding our earliest ancestors. Beans are pod-encased seeds that are an important food source across the world.
The most common types of beans in the United States are pinto, navy, kidney, fava, soy, and black beans. Beans can be used to create a vast array of dishes, from dips to stews, to meat substitutes. They are nutritionally diverse, delicious, and vegan for all the plant-based folks out there.
More than likely, you have had many types of beans within your lifetime. Not only are they delicious and nutritious, but they are incredibly affordable on any budget. Both canned and dried beans are renowned for feeding a lot of people for not a lot of money. The next time your budget is tight, opt for a diverse meal of beans!
The Types of Beans
Heading to the bean aisle at the grocery store, you might be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of bean varieties. There are so many types of beans, not including canned vs. dried. Here are some dishes that call for beans and the type that works best for that dish.
Chili – kidney, black, or pinto beans
Escarole and Beans – Great Northern beans, white kidney beans
Hummus – Chickpeas, black beans
Tuscan White Beans – Navy or Great Northern beans
Baked Beans – Navy, kidney, or white kidney beans
Chakalaka – Pinto or navy beans
And this is just a handful of the many types of bean dishes out there! Certain beans are native to certain regions, so you might find a different array of beans at your grocery store. Try them all to find out which bean variety is your favorite!
Beans are an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. A 1-cup serving of black beans contains 14.5g of protein in addition to iron and fiber. Beans are also lower in saturated fat and calories than most other protein sources.
Let’s not forget that soybeans are also a member of the bean family, too! They contain tons of protein, about 18.5g per 1 cup of shelled edamame. Many soy products are excellent sources of protein while being plant-based and very healthy.
Before feeding beans to your family, be sure that no one in your household has an allergy to legumes, namely peanuts and soy. These are some of the most common allergens in humans. Yes, peanuts are considered legumes!
Beans are exceptional in relation to heart health. A diet high in animal protein has been linked to cardiovascular disease. However, replacing your animal protein with beans every now and then can reduce your cardiovascular risk. A diet high in legumes may also lower blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and bad cholesterol levels, or LDL.
Beans are not only good for the heart, but they are also great for your gut and internal organs! The starches in beans help promote fullness, so your risk of overeating lessens. Eating a variety of beans has also been shown to increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut, leading to improved gut function. It can even prevent some diseases of the gut!
Beans can also help prevent fat buildup in the liver, which can lead to fatty liver disease. Fatty liver usually occurs alongside cardiovascular disease or obesity, so replacing some meals of animal protein with beans can help promote a healthy liver. When you have a healthy liver, you have a healthy body!
How to Prepare Beans
Bagged and canned beans are so incredibly easy to make. Of course, gardeners out there can also grow their own beans, many with vast colors and flavors. Whatever beans you like, follow these steps to prepare them.
Canned beans are the simplest to make. All you have to do is crack open the can and the beans are cooked, tender, and ready to go. This is great for quick soups, chili, hummus, and sautees. Some recommend draining and rinsing the beans before adding them to your dish, but this is an optional step. Some bean liquid contains a lot of sodium, so be mindful if you are using the bean liquid. Bean liquid such as aquafaba from a can of chickpeas is often used as a whipped cream or meringue alternative!
Beans from dry are delicious but take a little more time and preparation. They come in a bag or container completely dry, so you must rehydrate them before cooking. Soak your dry beans in clean filtered water overnight to rehydrate them. In the morning, drain and rinse your beans once more, removing any floating beans or grit.
After soaking, your beans are ready to be cooked. Cover them with fresh water in a pot and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the beans for up to 4 hours or until tender. Do not salt the beans until the end of their cooking time, otherwise, the beans may never fully become tender. Now, you can use the hydrated, cooked beans as you would from a can. Alternatively, you can also cook your hydrated beans directly in your slow-cooked soup or stew!
Basically, Buy Beans
Beans are such an important food source for so many people, vegans included! Keeping both canned and dry bean varieties in your pantry will lead to a heart-healthy diet for everyone in your household. Cutting down on animal protein in favor of plant protein sources is great for almost all aspects of health. Beans can help replace any animal protein for a fabulous, protein-packed meal. Now, go stock up on some beans!