Beans, peas and lentils — all members of a class of vegetables known as legumes — are nutrition powerhouses, packed full of protein, fiber, phytochemicals and folate. A vegetable and a plant-based protein source, beans contain nutrients found in both food groups, making them one of the most versatile and nutritionally complete foods. And unlike meat-based proteins, beans are naturally low in fat and free of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
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With today’s escalating food prices, legumes (especially dry beans) are an economical protein source compared with animal protein. One half-cup of cooked or canned legumes provides 6 to 8 grams of protein and 5 to 11 grams of fiber, which accounts for roughly one-fifth to nearly one-half of the Daily Value for fiber (25 grams per day based on a 2,000-calorie diet). If selecting canned legumes, choose no-added-salt or reduced- or low-sodium varieties. To decrease the undesirable intestinal side effects of beans, make sure they are thoroughly cooked and rinsed. For canned beans, drain and rinse thoroughly to reduce sodium.
Learn about some of the healthiest bean, pea and legume options below.