Know that eating beans is good for you, but don't know how to incorporate them more into your life?
Remember when I talked about the Blue Zones? Those regions of the world where people are most likely to live to 100 years old?
One of the things that these people have in common is their regular consumption of various types of beans. In fact, if you are following the Blue Zones diet plan, they recommend eating 1/2 cup or more of beans daily!
I admit that even to me, it's hard to hit daily bean consumption, so this article is for me as much as for you!
So why should we do it? Beans are not only associated with longer lifespan, but also reductions in heart disease risk factors, improved insulin sensitivity, better gastrointestinal health, improved weight loss efforts, more satiety, possibly even mediating hormonal conditions (such as soy with menopause, see my other article here), and SO MUCH MORE.
Still, do beans get you worried about that special tune... you know the one that goes, "Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot?"
Well, research suggests that if you stick with regular consumption of beans, you're likely to see a drop in flatulence after a few weeks. So, don't let the fear of "intestinal distress" keep you from the bottom line (pun intended), that beans are a superfood that we should be eating on a daily or regular basis!
P.S. consuming something like Beano or another enzyme complex that helps you digest some of the gas-promoting substances can be very helpful in the first few days or weeks of eating more beans.
Way #1: Bean Spreads
Possibly the easiest way to start adopting beans into your daily routine is with some kind of bean dip or spread, like hummus!
Make or buy some hummus or white bean spread and start dipping away. Use it for dipping vegetables, dipping whole-grain crackers, spreading on pita for a falafel wrap, or using on pizza instead of cheese (trust me, it's pretty tasty).
Way #2: In Central/South American Dish
I'm from California, so one of the predominant food cultures that come to mind when thinking about beans is of course Mexican food.
Black beans, pinto beans, (fat-free) refried beans... these are all super easy and tasty ways to incorporate more beans into your diet.
Start with a burrito like the one in the picture, or make a burrito bowl, tacos made with lentils, serve refried beans on the side of another Mexican dish, use them in enchiladas, or substitute them with some avocado in a tortilla for a vegan spin on a quesadilla.
Way #3: In Another Type of Ethnic Dish
South Asian and African cuisine is especially notorious for using beans to make curry, soups, and main dishes solely with beans and spices.
Need some inspiration? Try googling Ethiopian lentil stew, Indian Chana Massala, or Mediterranean Falafel.
There are over 400 varieties of beans worldwide and many cultures have perfected recipes for them! Get creative and find some ways to use beans in ethnic recipes.
Way #4: In a Soup or Chili
If you are from North America, you are probably used to eating beans in Chili. While most recipes pair beans with meat, you could easily reduce the meat and increase the bean content of the chili to increase your daily bean count.
There are also so many delicious vegan soups from minestrone to lemony lentil soup, to Italian white bean soup, to split pea soup, to tortilla soup, to spinach soup, and so many more.
Way #5: In a Salad or Sandwich
Need something easy for lunch? You could always peel open a can of beans, toss it with some veggies, and top it with a delicious vinaigrette!
There are also some amazing sandwich filling swaps that include beans. For example, try making a tuna salad lookalike with chickpeas, an egg salad filling with tofu, a vegan Bahn Mi sub, or just a simple sandwich of hummus and veggies!
Way #6: As a Side Dish
There are so many ways to use beans as a side dish, from beans and rice to refried beans to baked beans.
You can buy beans already made into a side dish for you (baked beans, refried)- how much easier can it get than heating some of those up to go along with your dinner!
Way #7: Eat Your Peas!
Oh wait, you haven't heard? Peas are beans too! They count, which might be some very good news for those of you who can handle the ideas of peas, but not chickpeas in your pasta.
Peas are a great protein source that you can use in smoothies, feed cold to kids (they love frozen peas), throw into about every dish, or make a soup out of!
Way #8: As Tofu, Tempeh, Edamame, or Soymilk
Soybeans are the foundation for a wide array of healthy foods. Eat them green as edamame, roasted into soy nuts, or processed into tofu, tempheh, or soymilk.
Way #9: As a Burger Patty
This is another easy one as so many companies have already made black or lentil burger patties available to us in the grocery store.
If you have a food processor and are adventurous, then I recommend finding the recipe that is going to be your go-to plant-based burger recipe. This will likely save you money in the long run and be healthier as your patty will end up made with more whole ingredients and have fewer preservatives.
Way #10: In a Dessert or as a Snack
The first person to use black beans to make brownies was a genius, but they definitely weren't the first to use beans in a dessert.
My Chinese mother-in-law is fond of making us a red bean and rice pudding and sweet mung bean soup.
Eating beans for dessert always feels a bit like winning a game by cheating! But hey, your microbes don't care whether they get their healthy fiber from black bean brownies or chili!
Don't forget that cocoa comes from a bean too! So using cocoa powder in your cooking can give you a lot of similar health benefits to eating other varieties of beans.
There are also many baked/crunchy bean snacks out there too! These can satisfy that crunchy/salty chip craving while giving you ample fiber and micronutrients!
So that's it! 10 ways for you to try to incorporate more beans into your diet!
Feeling inspired? I am! Check out my newest recipe that uses beans- BBQ Chickpea Stuffed Sweet Potatoes!
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