If you’re not eating beans you’re missing out. While they’ve long been known as a healthy food, they’re receiving more recognition recently. Research has shown that including beans as part of a healthy eating plan may slow the progression of certain chronic diseases, as well as help satisfy hunger levels while eating fewer calories.
How can one food offer all of these benefits?
Beans are a nutrient rich food.
Nutrient density is all about getting the biggest nutrient bang for your calorie buck. And beans have it. They’re a beautiful balance of high quality complex carbohydrates and protein, all while providing a great source of fiber, folate, iron, magnesium and potassium. Research in both children and adults has shown that people who eat beans get more of these key nutrients in their diets than people who do not eat beans.
Beans are warriors when it comes to weight management.
Their high fiber and water content help us feel full faster and help maintain that satiety between meals. Including beans in a weight loss plan can help prevent hunger even when calories are cut.
Beans work to combat chronic disease.
Everyone’s eating plan should include foods that help slow the progression of chronic disease. And you guessed it- beans are a winner here too. Unlike meat-based proteins, beans are naturally low in fat, are free of saturated fat and trans-fat, and are a cholesterol-free source of protein.
Research shows that a diet including beans may reduce blood cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease. In addition, studies have linked beans to lower risk of hypertension and some types of cancers. And all of the soluble fiber in beans works to slow the rise in blood sugar after we eat, making them a perfect food for those with diabetes.
All of those health benefits are great but there’s more. Beans are also cost-effective and convenient. Anyone who claims it’s expensive to eat healthy surely hasn’t been cooked with beans. One can of beans (even organic varieties) provides 3 ½ servings and can often be found for just over a buck. That’s only about $0.40 per serving. You can pump up the protein content of any dish by adding beans. Because they are so versatile, they go great in soups, stews, salads and chili but also mix well with greens and a variety of grains. Homemade hummus or bean dips taste great paired with raw vegetables. Just one Tbsp. of hummus adds flavor to wraps and sandwiches or works great as a flavor topping for fish, chicken or other protein picks too.
Try this super easy, turkey and bean chili:
1 Ib. lean white meat turkey
3 tomatoes, diced
1 green pepper, diced
½ onion, diced
1 can kidney beans
1 can tomato sauce
1 pkg chili season mix
1 Tbsp oil
1.) Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onions, peppers and turkey until the meat is well browned and the onions are tender.
2.) Mix in the diced tomatoes, beans, seasoning mix and tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve.
Optional: omit the canned tomato sauce and use an additional diced tomato.
Heather Mangieri is a national media spokesperson, registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition CheckUp in Pittsburgh, PA. For more information visit www.nutritioncheckup.com. You can follow Heather on Twitter @nutritioncheck and join her facebook community at https://www.facebook.com/NutritionCheckUp