One morning last week I had one of those loop dreams which you may have had at some point, too: I kept dreaming that I had woken up, but of course when I finally did wake up, I realized my alarm had been blaring for ten minutes. My physical body had been doing its best to ignore that I needed to wake up but my subconscious knew I must, so it told me over and over through my dreams to “Wake up!”
I find a similar loop seems to play in people’s minds about beans. If I ask people whether they eat beans, they usually reply that they don’t but that they know they should. That “knowing they should” part is usually because they are constantly being told how good beans are for them and that loop plays in their subconscious even as they consciously ignore the information and continue to not eat beans.
In an email, I was asked this week whether or not the hype around beans is true….
Beans are high in fiber, protein, and antioxidonts, extremely low in sugar and fat, and are cholesterol free, all of which is great for our bodies. Beans also come in so many varieties that your options for cooking them are pretty much endless. They’re also quite cheap which is wonderful for the pocketbook.
At the same time, though, beans are not the answer to life’s health problems as many tout. For many folks, beans cause digestive issues which we don’t need to explain in detail. Also while adding beans to one’s diet can be good, solely subsisting on beans is not, because beans have been shown to have less protein than meats and to contain compounds which may not be great for our bodies in high doses. As well, many people today are actually allergic to legumes (peanuts, beans, peas, etc…).
So what does this mean for folks who are hearing the loop about beans and wondering whether they should or they shouldn’t? “Moderation in all things,” is my answer. It has been shown time and time again that a varied diet of fruits, nuts, beans, veggies, whole grains, small amounts of good fats, and lean meats, fish and chicken is best. So be varied. Add some beans to your diet once and a while to balance out the meat or to simply try something new, but don’t begin eating beans five meals a day because you think it may solve some health problem.
If you’re thinking you’d like to add beans to your diet and wondering how to do so, here are some suggestions:
Ways to Moderately Add Beans to Your Diet:
- Throw beans into your every day dishes: Making chicken enchiladas? Add a cup of black beans. Turning leftover vegetables into a soup? Add a cup of dark red kidney beans to make it a minestrone soup.
- Substitute beans in baked goods: A lot of dessert recipes these days call for beans instead of flour because it’s a good way to add protein and cut back on the carbs. You can use pureed black beans in brownies, white beans in yellow cake, garbanzo beans in chocolate cake… the options are limitless.
- Add beans as a garnish: Toss some chickpeas on top of your salad. If you make a pureed roasted vegetable soup, drop a spoonful of lentils on top.
- Make bean dips: Instead of your usual sour cream dip, try a bean dip. White beans pureed with garlic, thyme, lemon juice, and a tad bit of olive oil is quite yummy. Hummus with chickpeas is great but so much better when homemade. Black bean dip is tasty with tortilla chips.
- Use beans as fillers: Want to stretch your meat for tacos or meatloaf or a hamburger? Add some chopped, cooked beans. Don’t have quite enough leftover chicken for the stir fry? Throw in a handful of cooked beans with the chicken.
- Eat beans as a side dish: Beans are tasty, and with the variety, you can experiment. Make a side dish of black-eyed peas and spinach with garlic and onions. Mix some salsa into black beans. Make a bean salad with three or more different types of bean flavored with some lemon juice and green onions.