Due to their affects on our digestive system, beans, pulses, and legumes sometimes get a bad rap, but they’re some of the most nutrient dense foods available so they’re a beneficial food to include in your diet. They’re also incredible versatile, so you can eat them for days on end and never get tired of them.
Because they can be stored for long periods of time and offer many health benefits, beans are found in most traditional cultures as a staple food. And they’re inexpensive, so you’re getting a lot of nutrients for little money. I love beans, and always keep several different kinds stocked in my pantry at all times. I like to buy dried beans and cook them myself, either in the slow cooker in the Instant Pot, but I also keep cans of beans on hand for those times when I want something quick. There are many reasons to eat more beans, and I’ve listed just a few of them below.
- Beans are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc, making them one of the most nutrient rich foods available.
- They are also very high in protein, so you don’t have worry about where to get your protein on a vegan diet when you include legumes in your meals on a regular basis. (You probably wouldn’t have to worry about protein anyway!)
- The soluble fiber in beans can help reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which helps to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- The fiber in legumes can also cut the risk of developing high blood pressure, and it can help lower it in those already suffering from hypertension.
- The balance of complex carbohydrates and protein in beans provides a slow, steady source of glucose. Studies have shown that they can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- The isoflavones and phytosterols in legumes can help lower the risk of certain types of cancer such as colorectal and breast cancers.
- They’re high in enzymes that are crucial for making skin pigment and connective tissue.
- Beans contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which keeps the digestive system moving smoothly.
- The high fiber content in legumes can also help you feel fuller longer and can stave off hunger, so it’s a good food to include in your diet if you’re trying to lose weight.
- They’re inexpensive and delicious!
As for those unpleasant affects on the digestive system, that often happens when beans aren’t prepared properly. To help with digestibility, use dry beans and soak them overnight before cooking them. Legumes can sometimes cause gas when they haven’t been cooked long enough, so increase cooking time. Add a little kombu or kelp seaweed to the water. They will improve the flavor, add minerals to the water, and help with digestion. Adding cumin, fennel, vinegar, miso, soy sauce, or salt towards the end of cooking will help with digestion, too.
Chickpeas, pintos, lentils, kidney beans, cannellinis – there is such a wide variety of legumes to choose from, and they’re extremely versatile. They’re great in tacos, pasta dishes, soups, and salads. They can be mashed up and made into burgers or pureed and turned into dips. There are endless possibilities!
Reprinted with permission from Dianne’s Vegan Kitchen