The Benefits of Beans

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Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 places special emphasis on beans and peas (legumes) as a source of protein and dietary fiber. Including high-fiber plant foods in your diabetes meal plan can lead to improved postmeal blood glucose control. Legumes aren’t widely consumed in the United States, so here are some tips for including these nutrient-packed nuggets in your meal plan:

• The following are considered to be legumes: kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), lima beans, black-eyed peas, split peas, and lentils. Green peas and green (string) beans are not considered to be legumes; green peas are similar to other starchy vegetables, and green beans are grouped with vegetables such as onions, lettuce, celery, and cabbage because their nutrient content is more similar to those foods.

• Legumes can be found in both the “Meat and Meat Substitutes” and the “Starch” lists of Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes. Their exchange value is 1 starch plus 1 lean meat per half-cup of cooked legumes. Each half-cup serving has approximately 15 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein.

• Preparing dried beans is as easy as picking them over for small stones or other debris, rinsing off any dirt, soaking them for 1 to 24 hours, and cooking them. Canned beans can also be used to save time. Rinse and drain canned beans to remove about 40% of their sodium content. Draining and rinsing canned beans also reduces their gas-producing potential.

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