Beans are good for your heart – and not for the reasons the childish song states. As a nutrient-dense food (meaning they provide lots of nutrition per calorie) beans are packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber and are very low in fat.
Beans are so wonderful, in fact, the FDA has beans on their short list of foods everyone should eat more of. New guidelines recommend those on a 2,000 calorie/day diet eat 1½ cups of beans weekly – more than 3 times what the average American eats now. Vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy should eat four cups per week of beans and peas.
Beans and peas are the manure, edible seeds of plants with seeds that split into two halves, known as legumes. Legumes include pinto, kidney, lima and black beans, garbanzos (chick peas), black-eyed and split peas and lentils. Green beans and green peas are NOT in this category. Soybeans and peanuts, which are legumes, are also not included in the federal guidelines for recommended weekly amounts.
These three key benefits should encourage you to bring more beans to your dinner table:
1. They’re high in fiber. A ½ cup delivers six grams of fiber – about ¼ of what you
need each day – so they make you feel full faster and keep you feeling that way
longer. Fiber has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity
and Type 2 diabetes.
2. They’re rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. There’s a long list of nutritional
benefits in beans: iron, zinc, B vitamins and potassium. Plus the deeper the color
of the bean’s skin, the richer it is in antioxidants that protect against inflammation
and cell damage.
3. They’re cheap eats. Dried beans deliver all that nutrition for about 10 cents
• Canned beans may be convenient, but can be high in sodium, so always drain
and rinse them before using them or buy low-sodium brands – and still rinse
and drain them first.
• Follow direction on bags of dried beans and soak and cook them thoroughly.
Cooked beans freeze well, so don’t be afraid to cook up a big pot.
• Beans take on flavors beautifully. To make the most of the benefits of beans,
though, resist adding fats and salts. Instead couple them with vegetables,
mushrooms, whole grains and herbs.
• Love refried beans? Make your own (simply mash cooked pintos and fry them
in cooking spray on a non-stick pan) or buy fat-free brands.
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