Beans are an oft-overlooked addition to the standard American diet, yet they have been (and still are) a traditional staple in many diets around the world.
What are some of the benefits of beans?
- Full of protein, fiber and nutrients
- Nutrient dense
Beans are inexpensive. They are especially inexpensive when you cook dried beans (instead of purchasing canned). If cooking dried beans scares you—as it did me for many years—read about my really easy method of cooking beans. It has not failed me! I can easily buy organic beans for around $2.00 per pound, give or take a little depending on the type of bean. Non-organic beans will even be cheaper.
Beans have protein, fiber and nutrients. Beans are not a complete protein, but when you pair them with a whole grain like brown rice, combined they are a complete protein. (A complete protein means the food possesses the 9 amino acids that humans can not make on their own but instead must consume. If you consume meat, whether or not beans are a complete protein is not nearly as important.) Beans also contain fiber, which assists in keeping your digestive tract healthy. Some of the nutrients found in beans are vitamins (including folic acid and B6), minerals (such as copper and magnesium), lignans, phytosterols and flavonoids.
Beans are nutrient dense. Nutrient dense means that the amount of nutrition per calorie that you receive from eating the food is particularly high. This is true of beans. What a blessing that such an inexpensive food is also such a nutritious food!
Beans are versatile. And they’re versatile in multiple ways. Beans are easily cooked, and they can be eaten immediately or frozen for future meals. Beans can be served as whole beans, mashed and turned into patties (like veggie burgers), added to soups and pasta, and they can be served hot or cold, as the Colorful Double Bean Salad pictured above. Beans can be a stand-alone meal (like rice and beans), served as a side (like this lentil salad), or added to soups and casseroles for texture and flavor, and beans can be added to foods like meatballs or casseroles to extend the meal. Believe it or not, beans can even be added to brownies and other baked goods! (Oh yes, a great way to slip nutrition into your kids without them having a clue.) In my cookbook, my sister and I share some of our favorite bean recipes.
What are you favorite ways to use beans?