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Bean-fully Beneficial

5 months, 3 weeks ago

5066  0
Posted on Dec 29, 2023, 5 p.m.

For one reason or another most people overlook beans when planning meals, and that is unfortunate because beans are a convenient, versatile, nutritious, and economical legume that contains a unique combination of plant-based protein and fiber, as well as essential vitamins and minerals that carry a variety of health benefits like promoting digestion, increasing healthy gut bacteria, increasing feelings of fullness, supporting heart health, and improving blood sugar among other benefits. 

Beans are rich sources of complex carbohydrates like fiber that can help to promote the feeling of fullness, regulate the bowels, and assist with blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Not only can eating beans help you reach the recommended daily intake of fiber, but they are also great sources of plant-based protein, iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, folate, and potassium. 

Some of the most popular beans include pinto beans, navy beans, red kidney beans, black beans, great northern beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, soybeans, and peanuts. Beans are available in dozens of varieties, they are flexible and fairly easy to incorporate into a variety of culinary creations such as soups, salads, tacos, stews, dips, chili, and other delicious dishes. However, the flavors of beans can vary, so the kind of bean you choose may depend on what you are preparing. To control the flavor, texture, and sodium content of the beans, consider making them from scratch rather than using canned or boxed options. Additionally, those with gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome may want to avoid beans. 

Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans) are commonly used in chili and to make hummus, one cup of cooked chickpeas contains 269 calories, 14.5 grams of protein, 4.25 grams of fat, 45 grams of carbs, 12.5 grams of fiber, 71% of the recommended daily value (RDV) for folate, 64% of the RDV for copper, 73% of the RDV for manganese, and 26% of the RDV for iron. Chickpeas may provide various health benefits such as reducing appetite and decreasing snacking, supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, and reducing post-meal blood sugar levels. 

Kidney beans are one of the most commonly consumed beans, eating them may help slow the absorption of sugar into the blood and reduce blood sugar levels as well as help to reduce risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure. One cup of cooked kidney beans contains 225 calories, 15.3 grams of protein, 0.885 grams of fat, 40.4 grams of carbs, 13.1 grams of fiber, 24% of the DRV for thiamine, 58% of the DRV for folate, 48% of the DRV for copper, 37% of the DRV for manganese, and 29% of the DRV for iron.

Peanuts are legumes rather than nuts, and they are great sources of plant-based B vitamins, protein, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Eating peanuts (but not peanut butter) is associated with a lower risk of death from many causes including cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. One-half cup of raw peanuts contains 414 calories, 18.9 grams of protein, 35.9 grams of fat, 11.75 grams of carbs, 6.2 grams of fiber, 39% of the DRV for thiamine, 55% of the DRV for niacin, 44% of the DRV for folate, 41% of the DRV for vitamin E, 19% of the DRV for iron, 29% of the DRV for magnesium, and 61% of the DRV for manganese. 

Black beans have a low glycemic index and may positively affect gut health. One cup of cooked black beans contains 227 calories, 15.2 grams of protein, 0.929 grams of fat, 40.8 grams of carbs, 15 grams of fiber, 35% of the DRV for thiamine, 64% of the DRV for folate, 20% of the RDV for iron, 29% of the RDV for magnesium, and 33% of the DRV for manganese. 

Lentils are a great source of plant-based protein that can make a great addition to soups and stews. One cup of cooked lentils contains 230 calories, 17.9 grams of protein, 0.752 grams of fat, 39.8 grams of carbs, 15.6 grams of fiber, 30% of the RDV for thiamine, 90% of the DRV for folate, 55% of the RDV for copper, 37% of the RDV for iron and 23% of the RDV for zinc. Lentils are iron-rich and help your body to make hemoglobin needed for blood to transfer oxygen, this iron boost may be helpful for vegans who may be at risk of iron deficiency anemia. 

Navy beans (haricot beans) may help to reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, assist with weight loss, and promote healthy levels of cholesterol due to their high fiber content. One cup of cooked navy beans contains 255 calories, 15 grams of protein, 1.13 grams of fat, 47.3 grams of carbs, 19.1 grams of fiber, 64% of the DRV for folate, 36% of the DRV for thiamine, 24% of the DRV for iron, 23% of the DRV for magnesium, and 42% of the DRV for manganese. 

Peas are also a legume, they are a great source of high-quality plant-based protein, fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients that contribute to nourishing beneficial gut bacteria, maintaining blood sugar levels, promoting bone health, proper blood clotting and supporting heart health including lowering blood pressure. One cup of cooked green peas contains 134 calories, 8.58 grams of protein, 0.35 grams of fat, 25 grams of carbs, 8.8 grams of fiber, 35% of the DRV for thiamine, 25% of the DRV for folate, 37% of the DRV for manganese, and 35% of the DRV for vitamin K.

Pinto beans are fairly common, being eaten whole, mashed, and fried. Consuming pinto beans may help to promote gut health, reduce blood cholesterol, create energy, and maintain a healthy immune system. One cup of cooked pinto beans contains 245 calories, 15.4 grams of protein, 1.11 grams of fat, 15.4 grams of fiber, 28% of the DRV for thiamine, 74% of the DRV for folate, 42% of the DRV for copper, and 34% of the DRV for manganese. 

The bottom line is that beans and legumes make excellent choices for plant-based sources of protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and many other essential vitamins and minerals that carry a range of health benefits. Some research suggests that beans and legumes may help to reduce blood sugar, boost heart health, promote healthy digestion, and maintain a healthy gut microbiome. They can be consumed in a variety of ways including soups, stews, salads, and chilis, as well as in tacos or on their own for a nutritious vegetarian meal. 

Easy Bean Recipe:

Are you looking for something new to try for Meatless Monday? Have you tried an easy colorful vegetarian taco? This healthy meal is economical, quick and easy to make, filled with a rainbow of vegetables, black beans, and lots of fresh delicious toppings, yum! To go with the bean theme, you can even use roasted chickpea or roasted cauliflower taco/tortilla shells. 

Sauté some red onion, zucchini, mushrooms, red bell pepper, and garlic with some ground cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, and dried oregano with a little bit of water to help everything come together. 

Stir in some cooked black beans with some lime juice and optional cilantro. Then season with ground black pepper and sea salt to taste. 

Serve on the warmed shells and add toppings which could include pickled red onions, shredded cabbage or lettuce, avocado or guacamole, salsa, queso fresco or shredded cheese. 

Feel free to experiment with the ingredients and toppings, have fun with it, and enjoy. 


As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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