Fit & Fresh

National Nutrition Month – The Benefits of Beans

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Beans, beans, the musical… Ok, we all know how the rest of the song goes, but did you know how beneficial beans, also known as Pulses, can be to the diet? In fact, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recognized how important this food is and declared 2016 “The Year of the Pulses.” You don’t have to climb a beanstalk to get good health, all you need to do is read on to learn about the many wonderful benefits of beans …or Pulses!

What’s a bean?

A bean is a type of vegetable. (Yes, it’s now considered a veggie, but don’t stop eating those greens!) A Pulse is the more specific term used to describe beans that are solely harvested for eating in the whole form. For example, peanuts and soy beans are harvested to eat, but they are also processed to make oils; soy bean and peanut oil. Basically, you wouldn’t find chickpea oil in the supermarket aisle. Why all the attention lately? They contain an insane amount of excellent nutrients for the body!

  • Pulses are a great source of Potassium, Magnesium, Folate, Iron and Zinc. These are minerals key to essential functions within the body.
  • Research shows consuming high fiber foods, such as Pulses, may actually LOWER cholesterol levels!
  • The higher amount of fiber, low-fat nature of the food, and good protein content makes this food a win for the waistline. Consuming higher fiber and protein foods may actually help to curb appetite due to the longer digestion process of these nutrients.

Where do I buy them?

If you aren’t running out to the store already to buy these, you should because they are super AFFORDABLE! Beans are available for purchase at any local supermarket in a can or bag form. A one pound bag is typically available for less than $2, and a can anywhere from $0.50- $2.00 depending on the brand. A true bang for your buck! You can purchase beans in a variety of forms: black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, edamame, peas, and black eyed peas.

How can I get started?

Try one or try them all! If you purchased a can, drain the liquid from the can and rinse the beans in a colander with water. Canned beans are packaged in a sodium rich liquid to prevent spoiling. If you purchased a bag of beans, you’d need to soak them in a pot of water overnight, then boil. Directions are typically listed on the package. Bags of beans are slightly more labor intensive, but cost per serving is cheaper. After that, just let your creativity fly! Below are a few of my favorite ways to eat beans!

  • Swap traditional chicken in a quesadilla for festive black beans.
  • Try adding white beans to a homemade steaming pot of your favorite soup.
  • Sprinkle chickpeas on a spinach salad and drizzle with balsamic dressing and fresh berries.
  • Smash red beans on a crusty piece of whole grain toast, smear fresh avocado on top, and hurry out the door for work.
  • Edamame is the perfect protein addition to a colorful, meatless, stir fry, or just fun to munch on mid-day.
  • Cook a spaghetti squash, add a can of chickpeas, some fresh pesto and a sprinkle of low fat cheese for the perfect meatless Monday dish the family will devour!

I challenge you to try one meatless dish this week. Try a suggestion listed above, create your own, or try out this super simple recipe to start incorporating beans into your diet. Eating healthy should be fun!

White Bean Avocado Citrus Salad

Rich in fiber, nutrients, heart-healthy fats, and lots of produce and protein, this dish is quick and delish!

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white beans (if using canned, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup spinach leaves or lettuce blend
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons raspberries
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice from 1 orange

Instructions

  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; Leave a few raspberries and oranges out for garnish.
  2. Squeeze juice from the orange and olive oil over dish and toss gently.
  3. Garnish with berries and orange slices.
  4. Serve immediately. Enjoy a bean dish your whole family will enjoy!
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