Nutrition is important in the food we eat, as are good taste and variety. We stay on the lookout for new foods and healthier options as we feed ourselves and our families each day. Deciding what to eat, as well as when and how to prepare the food that goes into our meals can be challenging.
Eating a plant-based diet with a variety of sources of plants – maybe even participating in the Meatless Monday movement – has been shown to be a healthier meal plan for a variety of reasons. Legumes (beans) are one group of plants that are gaining in popularity due to their versatility and health benefits.
What are legumes? Legumes are plants that are rich in protein and fiber while being low in fat.
Beans of all kinds such as black beans, kidney beans, soybeans, garbanzo beans, fava beans, lima beans, and adzuki beans are in this category. Peas such as black-eyed peas, green peas, snap peas and split peas are also legumes. Some nuts are actually legumes and they include peanuts, soy nuts and carob nuts. Lentils, flat beans, are also legumes.
Legume Health Benefits
The benefits of including all forms of legumes in our meals throughout the week have been validated by research for many years. All legumes are good sources of fiber, protein, antioxidants and rich in vitamins and minerals we need to stay healthy.
Due to their fiber content, beans help us stay full and satisfied longer, which may help us manage our weight.
Studies have shown that components in beans help fight colon, breast and other cancers. These three beans make up the top four foods richest in antioxidants, which reduce the effects of free radicals and thereby prevent cell damage, for the betterment of health — small red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans. Research continues into the beneficial effects of all legumes.
We recently got more good health news about eating our beans! In a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal recently, 26 studies from both the US and Canada were analyzed, revealing that just one ¾ cup serving of legumes a day correlated to a 5% reduction in LDL, or bad, cholesterol.
LDL is the low density lipoprotein that is present in our blood and can form plaque blockages in our arteries and veins leading to stroke and heart disease. Lowering bad cholesterol is a good way to help prevent heart disease.
Legumes In Your Meals
It’s one thing to discuss and understand the health benefits of adding legumes to our diets but we don’t get the benefits, of course, until we make them part of our meals.
- Getting the beans into your family meals can be a tricky goal each week but doing that daily requires some planning. If you don’t normally use them, you may not know how to buy, clean and cook dried beans. We hope this short video will help you get acquainted with beans.
- When eating beans and other legumes more often remember that adding extra fiber to your diet can result in some intestinal problems such as bloating, flatulence, constipation or loose stools. Usually once your bean eating becomes more regular, so will your bowels. Drink enough water to help keep on a regular schedule. If you experience Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you may want to add more legumes into your diet slowly to prevent having stomach troubles or check with your doctor for recommendations.
- To add beans and other legumes to your meals, you can toss your salad with some garbanzo beans and nuts, substitute black beans for meat in burritos or tacos, use your crock pot to cook stews and soups with a variety of beans, add beans such as black-eyed peas or butter beans as a side dish in the place of potatoes, snack on pita chips and hummus, use bean burgers instead of beef, enjoy three bean salad instead of green beans, crunch nuts for a snack, make a pot of chili with red and black beans, use beans for a great veggie dip, go meatless with beans and rice or quinoa and beans, and don’t forget to pass the peas please.
There are truly a lot of ways to make legumes part of our diet, with lots of room for healthy — and delicious — creativity.
Do you have some favorite recipes that incorporate legumes? We would all love to try them so sharing is welcomed!