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Healthy recipes > cooking & nutrition tips >

The Benefits of Beans

By Madhu Gadia, M.S., R.D.
Photos by Scott Little and Robert Jacobs.

Serve these protein-packed wonders in tempting new ways and your taste buds and heart will love you.

The benefits of eating beans far outweigh the notorious side effects. Beans, including garbanzo, white, black, red, and navy, are naturally low in fat and contain no saturated fat, trans fats, or cholesterol. They are high in protein, fiber, iron, folic acid, and potassium. In addition to health benefits related to heart disease and cancer, studies also suggest eating beans may help manage diabetes and cut the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

While all beans have health benefits, the more colorful beans, such as red and black, may have an added bonus. It turns out that beans contain eight flavonoids, plant substances that act as nature’s dyes and give many fruits and vegetables their colors. Scientists say these plant chemicals act as antioxidants to give you some protection against heart disease and certain cancers. Serve beans as a side dish or substitute them for meat once or twice a week.

Cooking dry beans can take a long time and may require planning. For convenience, use canned beans to cut the cooking time to minutes. Just make sure to drain and thoroughly rinse them before adding them to a recipe. This reduces the sodium and eliminates some of the sugars that cause intestinal gas.

Beans are versatile: Use them as a base or add them to pasta, rice, or salads. To get started, try our recipes.

Bean Boosters

  • Add a handful of intensely flavored greens, such as arugula, and a touch of Parmesan cheese to perk up a humble bean dish.
  • Combine tomatoes, which are high in vitamin C, with beans, a source of iron, and your body will absorb more of the iron.
  • Reach for red and black beans as often as possible for a more potent nutritional boost.
  • Eat legumes regularly. A recent study found that people who eat legumes (beans, peas, and peanuts) four or more times each week lower their risk of developing heart disease by 22 percent compared to those who eat them less than once a week.
  • Consider that beans can be as effective as oat bran in lowering cholesterol.
  • Remember that 1⁄2 cup of beans provides at least 10 percent of your daily folate needs.
Continued on Page 2: Bean Recipes
 
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