Number one wholesome meals that you’re not consuming sufficient, in response to a nutritionist

“Beans, beans, the magic fruit …”

Yes, yes, yes – we’ve all heard that little ditty (which has certainly stood the test of time since my kids are now singing it themselves).

As a registered nutritionist, I know that beans deserve more respect – and should desist as pranksters.

Yes, beans give you gas – but they do a lot more for your health.

And while we’re correcting the reputation of beans, let’s get one thing straight: the overall bean category is actually called “legumes”. Although the words legumes and beans are used interchangeably, they have different meanings.

Photo credit: Men’s Health

A legume is the edible seed of a legume plant, including beans, lentils, and peas. They are a good source of vegetable protein, fiber, and essential nutrients.

People who regularly pulse in their diet can lower blood cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and help promote healthy weight.

And they are cheap!

To be honest, legumes are possibly the most important food for your health, longevity, and wallet. However, in some quarters they have been accused of having what are known as lectins, which are “anti-nutrients” that block the absorption of certain minerals and cause GI symptoms.

The truth is, these naysayers use nothing more than fear and horror strategies to encourage their way of eating. Are there people who have a hard time digesting beans? For sure. Are there many, many more whose health would benefit greatly from adding legumes to your diet? One hundred percent.

Why are they so “magical”? Where should I start?

What Are the Nutritional Benefits of Beans?

Initially, the USDA counts pulses as a subgroup of the vegetable group and as part of the protein food group, so they provide twice the nutritional value.

“Beans are high in nutrients because they contain antioxidants, fiber, proteins, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and zinc,” says Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN

The story goes on

And then there is the fiber.

A study published in The Lancet found that for every 8 grams of fiber consumed daily, total death and the incidence of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer decreased by five to 27 percent.

To put this into a real food perspective, half a cup of most legumes contains at least 8 grams of fiber. In other words, adding a simple half scoop of black beans, lentils, or chickpeas to your salad or tacos, for example, could save your life.

Research has shown that people in Blue Zones – regions of the world where people lead long, healthy lives – eat legumes every day.

It is certainly not the only secret, but one that cannot be ruled out.

What Are The Planetary Benefits Of Beans?

The truth is, beans are the only food you should eat more of for a variety of other reasons, in addition to their fiber and nutritional power, with sustainability for your body and the planet on this list.

Photo credit: Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman

Photo credit: Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman

“Legumes are considered sustainable, environmentally friendly plants because they have a low carbon footprint, support soil health and use less water than animal protein,” says Bannan.

In other words, by adding legumes to your diet or swapping out legumes for a serving of less sustainable ingredients, you are supporting a healthy and diverse farming and food system.

How do you eat more beans?

You don’t have to give up animal protein entirely unless you want to.

Credit: Daniel Grill / Tetra Images

Credit: Daniel Grill / Tetra Images

Instead, you can take a nice salmon fillet and add a side of lentils or other beans to it. Or maybe, in addition to a variety of brightly colored vegetables, your steak salad also includes half a cup of beans or a scoop of hummus made from chickpeas.

Take a seafood and veggie pasta dish and add cannellini beans (a favorite in our house).

While I’m certainly a fan of simple ½ cup beans added to a salad, tacos, or even pasta, cookbook author and registered nutritionist Michelle Dudash suggested this simple idea for an easy-to-prepare, delicious slow cooker white bean pre-stew with tomato and chard from her upcoming book in June, The Low-Carb Mediterranean Cookbook.

In a slow cooker, combine 1 can of drained cannellini beans, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 bunch of chopped Swiss card, 2 cups of vegetable stock and 1/2 diced onion. Sprinkle in your favorite condiments like Italian seasoning, garlic, liquid amino acids, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Cover and cook at low temperature for 2 to 3 hours.

A generous and hearty 1 1/2 cup serving of this vegan stew only has 182 calories, but contains 9 grams of fiber, 11 grams of protein, and just one gram of fat. This nutritional profile leaves you some room to drizzle with rich, extra virgin olive oil for extra satisfaction, or pair it with a glass of wine or kombucha or a square of dark chocolate.

Or more beans?

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