Bean Progress

March 13, 2018 in Food Economics, Health by Joyce Bunderson

It’s not often that I notice that I’ve personally made some progress; but this is one of those days. Today I’m giving myself a gold star on my “Better is the New Perfect” chart. (Not really, but in my mind I am patting myself on the shoulder.) I remember thinking a few years ago of frequently touting the benefits of including beans in the diet; but that I did not remember to do it for my family often enough. During the past few years, I transitioned to becoming a frequent consumer of beans. Not only are beans friendly to our planet, they are an extremely nourishing food.

If you’re still working on finding ways to have a high fiber diet, look no farther; beans are there for you. Beans not only provide complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (plant nutrients) they are an excellent source of plant-based protein. One of the issues to remember with beans is that unlike the meat that they so frequently replace, they don’t have saturated fat or cholesterol and are very slow to raise blood sugar (low glycemic index). Beans are naturally low in sodium; but do be aware that canned beans frequently have sodium added. Either buy the low sodium varieties or at least drain and rinse canned beans. Legumes/beans are an excellent protein source. Remember that research tells us that the old idea that you have to combine complementary protein sources at the same meal – like rice and beans together make a complete protein. This old idea has been replaced by knowledge that if you eat a variety of protein sources during the day, it provides the complete protein sources that you need. If you’re not a vegan, and eat some animal protein (egg, milk, fish, chicken, meat) in the day – that’s the end of your protein calculating. Grains and legumes, like peanut butter sandwich and bean burrito also check that issue off your list. It’s really not considered nearly the huge issue that it used to be.

There seem to be a jillion ways to consume beans and the diversity of both the beans themselves and application to a broadly diverse group of ethnic recipes is legend.

In the same spirit of “Better is the New Perfect,” if you want to take some steps toward eating a more plant-based diet and see that there is room for more beans in your menus, I will give a few suggestions. Honestly, if you only switch out a few of your regular menu items, you may discover that it won’t take long before you too, can proclaim that “you’re giving yourself a gold star.”

Some of the main ways that I’ve improved our bean use includes:

  • Adding a can of drained beans to main dish salads.
  • Making easy beans and greens recipes.
  • Making fast soup with beans (not just minestrone, but chicken tortilla soup with white beans; turkey white bean chili; and lentil and split pea soups.)
  • Making (or buying) hummus for dip, salad dressing or egg filling.
  • Use for taco filling – with meat or by itself
  • Mashing beans to add body to soups, sauces and gravies.

It seems like beans deserve the respect that they’ve never had. Beans are still frequently spoken of as a choice you can look down your nose upon; but in nutritional reality they’re a premier choice. I love using things that are superior nutritionally and not popular. Great value per nutritious mouthful! Because beans are relatively inexpensive, some people equate that with a less desirable food. My hint here is to give your grocery cashier a tip if it makes you feel you ought to be paying more for such a nutritional bargain. In addition to tipping him, time to think about giving yourself your own gold star.