Want to plan a balanced meal that is long on nutrition and short on calories, fat and expense…look no further than beans. Beans actually fit into several different food groups and offer a myriad of health benefits. They are rich in complex carbs like breads and starches, they are a plant-based food that is right at home in the vegetable group, offering a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Beans can also be counted as members of the protein group and unlike some meats, offer little to no fat, and are cholesterol-free. And, don’t forget beans are easy on the pocketbook. All in all, it’s hard to find a food that provides so much nutritional bang for the buck.
Here are just a few more reasons we vote beans a top food choice that’s delicious, nutritious, economical, and satisfying.
Beans are so nutritious that the latest dietary guidelines recommend we triple our current intake from 1 to 3 cups per week.
They’re good for your heart. The abundance of soluble fiber in beans, known to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, makes them a “heart healthy” choice. Most beans are about 2 to 3 percent fat, and contain no cholesterol. Because they are so low in fat, beans make a great meat substitute that won’t leave you feeling hungry. Worried about the sodium content in canned beans? You can eliminate up to 40 percent of the sodium by rinsing them in water.
They help eliminate blood sugar spikes. With a low glycemic index, beans contain a perfect blend of complex carbohydrates and protein making them a diabetes management super food. Beans are digested slowly, which helps keep blood glucose stable, and may curtail fatigue and irritability.
They fight against cancer and more. Beans are packed with phytochemicals, compounds found only in plants. They are high in antioxidants, a class of phytochemicals that incapacitate cell-damaging free radicals in the body (Free radicals have been linked to everything from cancer and aging to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.)
They’re a low-fat choice. In one recent study, people who ate beans weighed, on average, 7 pounds less and had slimmer waists than those who did not eat beans on a regular basis, even though they ate 199 more calories per day if they were adults and 335 calories more if they were teenagers.
They are rich in fiber. Beans are an ideal source of fiber – something the average American diet is woefully short on. One cup of cooked beans provides about 12 grams of fiber – nearly half the recommended 21 to 25 grams per day for adult women and 30 to 38 grams for adult men. And, the high fiber content in beans helps to promote regularity.
They’re versatile. Beans are a convenient go to ingredient for all kinds of dishes. You can buy them canned, frozen or dry, or even available in flour form. They can be incorporated into a main dish, a side dish, a salad, soup, appetizer or snack. Stock your pantry with kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas and lentils and you’ll have the makings of an endless number of hearty and nutritious meals.
According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, when researchers ranked the amount of antioxidants found in more than 100 common foods, three types of beans made the top four: small red beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans. Amazingly, three others – black beans, navy beans, and black-eyed peas, were ranked in the top 40.
Wondering what to have for dinner tonight? Try Holly Clegg’s quick and easy recipes for a couple of winter night favorites, Red Beans and Rice and Speedy Chicken Chili from her trim&TERRIFIC cookbook series.
from Holly’s Gulf Coast Favorites Cookbook
In a large nonstick skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, cook sausage over medium heat, stirring, until crispy and brown. Set aside. In a large nonstick pot coated with nonstick cooking spray, sauté onion, celery, and garlic until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add beans, tomato sauce, broth and sausage. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until thickened, mashing some of the beans with fork. Add parsley and green onions, and continue cooking for several more minutes. Cook rice according to package instructions. Makes 10 (1⁄2-cup) servings.
Tip: You can substitute chicken sausage or another sausage of your choice. Always rinse and drain beans to reduce sodium.
Nutritional information per serving: Calories 145 | Calories from fat 4% | Fat 1g | Saturated fat 0g Cholesterol 5mg | Sodium 534mg | Carbohydrates 28g | Dietary fiber 9g | Sugars 5g | Protein 10g | Dietary exchanges: 2 starch, 1 lean meat
from Holly’s Too Hot in the Kitchen Cookbook
In a large pot coated with nonstick cooking spray, season chicken with salt and pepper, and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add next 6 ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for 15 minutes. Add corn and beans, cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes until well heated and bubbly. Serve with condiments if desired. Makes 10 (1-cup) servings.
Nutritional information per serving: Calories 257 | Calories from fat 7% | Fat 2g | Saturated fat 0g | Cholesterol 53mg | Sodium 740mg | Carbohydrates 29g | Dietary fiber 7g | Sugars 6g | Protein 29g | Dietary exchanges: 2 starch, 4 very lean meat