The Beauty of Beans (Part 3)

Who knew there was so much to say about beans? We’ve taken an in-depth look at legumes over the past two weeks, and we’ll wrap things up this week with some suggestions as to how to fit beans into your eating plan.

As I previously mentioned, beans are one of those foods that get little respect. People make jokes about them. Or they turn up their noses, considering them to be peasant food. Still others have made up their minds that they couldn’t possibly like beans; that they must taste awful. Years ago, I, too, had decided that I didn’t like beans. My primary exposure to them was on nights when my mother served hot dogs and baked beans for supper; not only did I dislike hot dogs (and still do), I didn’t like the sweet taste and mushy texture of baked beans, let alone the chunk of fat that was nestled on top of them in the can. To this day, I don’t like baked beans. However, after dining with one of my dietitian colleagues who regularly brought beans and rice for lunch, I decided to bite the bullet. I researched some bean recipes and whipped up batches of beans and rice and vegetarian chili. Soon, I too was hooked.

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Not convinced? Well, here’s a list of some fairly well-known dishes that are “bean-based.” See if any of these might appeal to you:

  • Black beans and rice (tasty when made with tomatoes and green peppers)
  • Vegetarian chili (make with two or three different kinds of beans)
  • Black bean and corn salad
  • Lentil soup
  • Split pea soup
  • Hummus
  • Marinated bean salad
  • Refried beans
  • Pasta fagioli
  • Stir-fried vegetables and tofu
  • Black bean soup
  • Minestrone soup

This list is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a multitude of recipes for both traditional and innovative ways to prepare beans. You’re probably eating some of these already. And since the Dietary Guidelines for Americans urge us to eat beans several times a week for good nutrition, what are you waiting for? Here are some ways to get started:

  • Check out the above list and see if anything appeals to you.
  • Pick one or two beans recipes to make over the next coming week.
  • Make your favorite chili recipe without meat—use pinto beans, white beans, and/or chickpeas instead of ground beef.
  • Have an afternoon snack of hummus served with cut-up raw vegetables (beware—hummus can be addictive!)
  • Order a bean-based soup instead of chicken noodle or tomato soup the next time you eat out.
  • Snack on edamame, which are green, immature soybeans served in the pod. These are a great appetizer, by the way.
  • Sprinkle black beans or chickpeas on your salad.

You can probably think of many other ways to boost your bean intake. Be creative! The Internet is full of bean ideas and recipes, too. Check out www.beanbible.com and www.beansforhealth.org. And if you use your slow cooker or Crock-Pot frequently, there are many recipes that call for beans. So do your heart, your weight ,and your diabetes some good. Enjoy!

  • Catherine

    Thank you for these articles on Beans. I have been inspired to start using them alot more in my diet and my boyfriend and myself now regularly eat Three Bean casserole and Chick Pea Curry to mention just two recipes that which have become favourites. I try add them to pretty much everything I cook now. We’ve really cut back on the amount of meat we eat and replaced those meals with yummy bean based fare.

  • Confused82

    I love beans. They were a staple all through my growing up years. They are eaten simply boiled, and accompanied by cornbread.

    I can’t figure out how to include them in my meal plan when just one cup makes up the whole allowed amount of carbohydrate (45g). So the whole meal must be 2/3 cup beans and one very small piece of cornbread.

    Is there any solution to this, or must I remove beans from my diet?

  • acampbell

    Hi Confused82,

    It’s great that you love beans and no, you don’t have to remove them from your diet. However, as you’re aware, they do contain carbohydrate and need to be counted toward your carb goals for your meals. There are a few options you could try: as you already mentioned, eat a smaller amount of beans at your meal, based on 45 grams, and then round out your meal with nonstarchy vegetables and lean protein foods. You could also try eating a slightly larger portion of beans and then check your blood glucose about 2-3 hours after your meal to see what happens. Beans are high in fiber (and fiber doesn’t raise blood glucose) and they also have a low glycemic index, which means they have less of an impact on blood glucose. In other words, you may find that you can actually eat a cup of beans without any great effect on your glucose. But you need to check your glucose after eating to see what happens. Finally, while I don’t advocate overeating, if you do happen to overdindulge a little, make sure you go for a walk or do some other kind of physical activity after the meal.

  • Confused82

    Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll definitely do the test before and after to see the effect. I would never have thought to try that.

    As for rounding out the meal with some other food, that will take some serious thought. While I eat a lot of vegetables (carrot or lettuce or cabbage or tomato or radish with most meals), finding something I like with beans will take some experimenting. Fifty plus years of eating beans as “the meal” is a hard habit to break.

  • acampbell

    Hi Confused82,

    Habits can be hard to break! But try checking your glucose about 3 hours after you eat beans and see what happens. Let me know how things work out.

  • Confused 82

    I tried as you suggested. I tested, then ate a “normal” portion of beans and tested two hours later. Then at the next meal I tested, ate a “larger” portion of beans, and tested two hours after. Everything except the quantity of beans stayed the same, even exercise level.

    The first thing I noticed is that the larger portion seemed like way too much. It wouldn’t have been enough previously. Secondly, the BG was up only 6 points at two hours after the smaller quantity. It was up 37 points at two hours after the larger quantity.

    So the test showed me that the smaller portion is perfectly adequate with much better results.

  • acampbell

    Hi Confused 82,

    Thanks for sharing the results of your “experiment!”