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.

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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.

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!

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