January 6th, 2020 is National Bean Day.
Beans and legumes were one of the first domesticated and cultivated plants in the world, dating back to 6000 B.C. These plants also have a unique ability shared with no other cultivated food plant. They obtain nitrogen from the air using the action of specialized bacteria that live within the nodules in their roots. This action is what gives these legumes the protein that we benefit from when we eat them. In turn, when the plant dies, the nitrogen is returned to the ground, creating a more nutrient-rich, more fertile soil. Often the terms beans and legumes are used interchangeably. While there are some distinct differences, so for the sake of this article, we will focus on the health components of both beans and legumes.
Generally speaking, beans and legumes have many health benefits that include regulating blood sugar levels, reducing cholesterol and supporting healthy gut bacteria levels. Let’s review a few types that are very healthy for you as we share a few recipes to add more beans and legumes to your diet.
Chickpeas – Also commonly called garbanzo beans, chickpeas are an excellent source of both protein and fiber. Chickpeas are especially beneficially at reducing blood sugar levels and increasing insulin sensitivity. With 15 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber, these little beans can help you feel full longer. With a delicious nutty flavor and great health benefits, give these a try today. Chickpeas are the main ingredient in most hummus, but we also love them roasted for a crunchy snack.
Begin by draining and rinsing a can of low-sodium chickpeas (garbanzo beans.) Pat dry and toss in olive oil. Season to taste (try Garlic Parmesan, Lime & Chili Powder, Honey & Cinnamon, Smoked Paprika & Cumin… but the options are endless!) Roast at 450 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Lentils – A common source of protein for those avoiding meat, lentils are an excellent addition to soups and stews. 1 cup of cooked lentils boasts almost 18 grams of protein and more than 15 grams of fiber!
Try adding lentils to your favorite soup or stew, or give this recipe a try for something different!
Smoky Lentil Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Preheat oven to 450°F. Wash and dry sweet potatoes. Poke each potato a few times with a fork before wrapping in aluminum foil. Bake on center rack for 60 – 80 minutes, until fork tender.
While potatoes are baking, heat the oil in a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper and lentils, stirring to coat lentils.
Add broth and water and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in chopped walnuts.
Carefully slice sweet potatoes down the middle, lengthwise. Fill evenly with lentil mixture and garnish with toppings of choice.
Kidney Beans – One of the most commonly consumed beans worldwide, kidney beans have a number of great health benefits. 1 cup cooked kidney beans have more than 13 grams of protein, 13 grams of fiber and are packed with vitamins and minerals like folate, manganese, thiamine, copper and iron!
Try this fresh take on a chilled salad:
Mediterranean Kidney Bean Salad
In a medium bowl, combine kidney beans with chopped vegetables and cilantro.
In a separate bowl, whisk together lime juice, oil, mustard, garlic and seasonings.
Pour over salad and combine well. Add a dash of salt & pepper, if needed. Cover and allow to rest in the refrigerator for about an hour before serving.
Tip: This salad can be made the day before, just wait to add the cilantro until the day of to keep it fresh.
There are so many delicious ways to add beans and legumes to your diet to enjoy both their amazing flavor and their health benefits. And with benefits ranging from blood sugar regulation to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, there’s something for everyone in these little bites.
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Written by S. Campbell for Access Health Care Physicians, LLC.
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