For a while when I first started Kitchen Stewardship, I may have been known as a beany gal. I had lots to say about beans, focused a huge early Monday Mission on eating more beans, and even ran a meal plan analysis series to help people include more beans in their weekly plans. It was clear how I felt about beans.
Lately, we’ve been tackling many other things, and I think it’s worth a big re-visit to the beans topic. Using beans makes the list of my 3 Easy Changes to Make That Won’t Cost Too Much, and I’d put them pretty high up on any list of foundational Kitchen Stewardship habits. I personally try to include them at least once a week in our dinners.
Beans have a lot going for them. When you’re fighting the tensions of the four pillars of Kitchen Stewardship, you often feel the pull: your budget starts to hurt because of the meat, milk and eggs you are buying to be more kind to the earth and improve your nutrition. You’re spending a lot of time preparing healthy grains and wondering how much to spend on organics. It’s tough to balance them all, and that’s why I’m here. I love to focus on any habit that hits all four pillars with a positive impact.
- very nutritious, a source of both protein and iron, among other things
- extremely frugal, especially if you use dry beans
- fairly easy on the earth, with only a plastic bag going to waste with dry beans (or nothing, if you can find them in bulk)
- not time-consuming and can make huge meals that are easy to freeze for simple dinners later
I’m a big fan!
Take One Step Up
For your Back to Basics mission this week, ponder your relationship with beans and take one step forward on the continuum:
- Bean haters: Try sneaking some lentils into taco meat or finding a good hummus you can stand. Start small!
- Occasional bean users: Shoot for beans once a week for the next month in your menu plans (are you with Plan to Eat yet?). Your budget and waistline will thank you!
- Canned bean lovers: Learn to soak and cook dry beans, both to upgrade the nutrition and make more space in your food budget for other things (like next week’s Back to Basics focus, healthy fats).
- Dry bean aficionados: You all have it easy this week. Rest on your laurels a bit, but do find one new bean recipe to try and love.
When I was a child all the way through to somewhere in college, I really disliked beans. Chili was always on my “don’t eat it” list, and I never did refried beans. I’m not sure what happened to my tastebuds – or most likely my texture sensors – but I’ve grown to love them. The more I learn about beans (the legume kind – kidney, pinto, black, lentil, etc.), the more I find to love. My family tries to include beans in at least one meal a week.
My Changing World of Beans
When I was pregnant with my first child, I ate more beans because of the protein and iron content. After a friend of mine went to a nutritionist for PCOS, she learned some information that really got me to appreciate beans. You can always find someone who says there’s something in there that you shouldn’t be eating, but beans have a pretty clean rapsheet. Almost everyone says they’re good for you, and I concur!
This Food for Thought will give you the briefest overview possible of why I’m going to recommend you eat more beans. Read it if you want, or just skip to the Monday Mission to get practical ideas for MORE BEANS.
Nutrition of Beans
Beans will give you the following nutritional benefits:
- Protein (1/2 cup = 7-8 g, 15% RDA, best if eaten with whole grains to form a complete protein)
- Fiber (best if long soaked and long cooked)
- Iron (1/5 RDA, eat with vitamin C to increase absorption)
- Vitamins B1, B6
- Folic acid (HALF recommended daily amount in ½ cup)
- magnesium, copper
- omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
All those nutrients can improve your health:
- lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
- reduce risk of heart disease
- improve digestion/reduce constipation
- low glycemic index = good for diabetics
- fills you up longer = good for dieters
- reduce risk of cancer
- folic acid is especially important in pregnancy for healthy babies!
This is a serious list. If you are pregnant or might become so, diabetic, pre-diabetic, or it runs in your family, have a family history of heart disease or high LDL cholesterol, want to lose weight, have digestive issues, or are just poor and want healthy food…EAT MORE BEANS!
Beans, Beans, Beans
Are you curious about the info from my friend’s nutritionist that really convinced me to include beans more often? First, I’ll tell you that the diet my friend was put on was pretty strict: no sugar or carbs of any kind, no caffeine, 7 servings of veggies, 5 of protein every day…and beans 3 times a day, once at each meal. Three times a day! That’s beans and eggs for breakfast, beans on a salad at lunch, beans in SOMEthing at dinner…every day. Phew. That’s a lot of beans.
The nutritionist explained that my friend’s body was stressed, and that’s why she wasn’t ovulating. Her analogy: If your mother was sick with cancer, what would you do? You would drop everything and help take care of her. Even though you’re not sick, you’ll have a lot of stress. It’s the same thing in the body – if adrenal/pituitary glands are under stress and over producing, your ovaries don’t ovulate. You must get your body to stop freaking out. She needed to put her system into complete rest mode: no sugar, no carbs, no caffeine, because all those things make your body work harder and stimulate your adrenal glands.
There are a lot of impurities that our bodies encounter every day that stress out our system. The job of the liver, of course, is to clean out impurities in the blood. The bile in the liver, however, can only take so much. To maintain it and clean out the bile so it’s not saturated with “junk”, beans will do the job. The beans take the impurities out of the bile in your liver and carry them out of your body. Think of beans as the janitorial crew, worthy of a “Dirty Jobs” episode to be sure.
That’s why the nutritionist starts out her patients with beans three times a day, for major spring cleaning, then as the system starts to regulate, you can level off.
Incredible. Beans are cool. Beans are cheap. Beans do a lot of good for the body. Do move on to the Monday Mission to learn how to prepare and serve beans in delicious ways, including Homemade Refried Beans.
The Everything Beans Book is here!
85 pages all about beans, with science geek info like this post plus 30 recipes, from appetizer to desserts:The Everything Beans Book is on sale now! Inside The Everything Beans Book you’ll find details on why beans are healthy, six arguments against beans and my counterpoints, detailed steps for how to cook dry beans and store extra cooked beans, soaking and sprouting instructions, how to menu plan with beans and even ideas for the bean haters among you.
There are also 30 recipes, many with multiple variations similar to my Healthy Snacks to Go eBook, so the total value ends up being more than 30 different dinners. I also include links to other great bean and legume recipes around the web, furthering your beany reach.
Here are some cameos to give you a sneak preview of what’s inside, but do keep in mind that beans are not always the most photogenic of foods! I’ve been working on my food photography a bit lately, and with my new camera (nothing fancy, a Sony DSC-W290, great all-around family camera, but a huge improvement over my 5-year-old Sony Elph), I’m pretty happy with the results. It’s almost embarrassing to put any of my old pictures next to these new ones, so I think I’ll just share the four dishes I’ve shot in the past few weeks, along with a few other recipe titles to pique your interest:
Chickpea Wraps…good for the bean haters among you!
Pasta with White (Bean) Sauce…even better for the bean haters! (free download)
Sausage, Bean and Kale Soup…one of my favorites! Perfect for summer or winter.
Mexican Beans and Rice…a classic!
You’ll also find recipes for:
- Turkey Vegetable Chili
- Cuban Black Beans and Rice
- Slow Cooker Lentil Rice Casserole
- Black-Eyed Pea Stovetop Casserole
- White Chicken Chili, two ways
- and much, much more!
Disclosure: Plan to Eat is a January sponsor of KS, receiving a complementary mention in this post. See my full disclosure statement here.