Surprise! What follows is a description of one of the most underrated and mind-blowingly nutritious foods out there. They may be tiny, but beans definitely should be at the top of your superfood list. Here is why:
We soak, boil, sauté, roast, and mash beans. They’re tossed into salads, piled high onto taco shells, and pureed into dips and hearty soups. Odds are you have these small but mighty gems hiding somewhere in the pantry but never realized how awesome they are. That’s about to change.
The lowdown on all-things beans….here’s what you need to know about the inexpensive, delicious, and incredibly nutritious ingredient coming in at number one on our superfood list:
What exactly are they?
Beans are the edible seeds of pods. They fall under the legume family and are related to lentils, peanuts, and peas. Dating back at least 4,000 years, beans are among the oldest foods known to humanity.
What’s so awesome about them?
Although small, beans pack a mighty nutritional punch.
- Loaded with protein
Most legumes contain 17-25% protein, which is roughly double the amount in grains and higher than that of most meat and eggs.
People who eat more legumes have a lower risk of heart disease, thanks in part to their high concentration of potassium and magnesium. Together, the two elements remove sodium and water from your cardiovascular system while regulating blood pressure.
- Full of fiber
The fiber in beans provides you with a sustained supply of energy, staves off hunger, and helps you maintain a healthy body weight. Plus, it stabilizes the rise of blood sugar that occurs after eating, which can also help stabilize your mood.
- Rich in iron
Beans are a perfect meat substitute thanks to their high concentration of iron. To put it in perspective, one cup of boiled black beans provides 29% of our daily recommended iron intake.
Nutrition isn’t their only claim to fame — beans are also sustainable.
By enriching the soil, they reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. Additionally, they require very little irrigation and boast one of the lowest carbon footprints of any food group.
And the cherry on top? Beans are an incredibly affordable source of plant-based protein.
In fact, the cost per serving is just $0.10 compared to $0.63 for chicken, $0.73 for pork, and $1.40 for beef.
What’s the difference between each type?
Of the over 40,000 varieties of beans out there, our four favorites are black beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans.
- Appearance: small and black with an ivory flesh
- Taste: earthy, slighty sweet taste that pairs well with smoky chipotle flavors
- How to use: puree into a hearty soup or add to salads
- Appearance: beige and kidney-shaped
- Taste: creamy flavor
- How to use: perfect for garlic bean dips
- Appearance: tan, round, and slightly wrinkled
- Taste: nutty and buttery flavor
- How to use: puree into a hummus dip or deep-fry into falafel
- Appearance: deep red with a tough skin
- Taste: robust, full-bodied flavor
- How to use: key ingredient in chili and other Creole-inspired dishes
What should I know before I buy them?
When purchasing fresh beans in cans or cartons, be sure to read the ingredient labels to avoid ones with preservatives or high sodium contents. Look for beans that are low sodium and organic, with an added bonus of cartons that are also environmentally friendly, resealable, and space efficient.
This article was compiled for Dr. David Jensen by Larry Heinrichs
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