Once upon a time, a fairy tale had a hapless young man named Jack trade his cow for a handful of beans. As a story idea, Jack’s choice may have seemed to be a foolish one. Common wisdom today, however, recommends trading at least one meat meal weekly for a vegetarian one. Beans fit the bill neatly.
Available in a confounding number of varieties, and with numerous ways to prepare them, beans show their quality in ways that far surpass their humble origins. Poor, foolish Jack may have been far wiser than previously expected.
1. Recommended for Health
A distressingly high proportion of illnesses and disorders that plague Americans today are caused by dietary issues, whether containing too much salt, too much sugar, or just plain too much of everything. The amount of research conducted yearly to calculate a better balance of dietary components is astonishing- and often provides some eye-opening results.
Recently, beans have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. Newly calculated weekly serving recommendations have leapt from one to three servings weekly. Such an overhaul has been shown to particularly combat obesity- which, in itself, is a prime contributor to long-term dangers like cancer, type II diabetes, and heart disease.
2. Protein Powerhouses
Attention to detail is needed here- vegetarian protein sources must be combined. In order to provide the necessary complement of essential amino acids needed for life, beans alone are insufficient.
That being said, there are countless delicious concoctions of beans and rice that make for satisfying meals. High protein diets have been popular since positive results- in both weight loss and weight management- became apparent.
Beans are loaded with healthy protein without the fatty drawbacks of red meat, making them a fantastic option for the cholesterol- conscious. Supplementing that hefty protein punch are numerous beneficial phytochemicals and doses of powerful antioxidants that just don’t appear in meat.
Beans as antioxidant sources feature highly in a US Department of Agriculture study. Starring on the list were small red beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans; but black beans, navy beans, and black-eyed peas all received honorable mention.
3. Fiber For Fullness and Fitness
Possibly one of the most impressive virtues of beans is their fiber content. Though indigestible, the virtues of fiber are numerous. High fiber diets have long been linked to reduced issues with cardiovascular disease, decreased cholesterol, and lower overall triglyceride counts.
Where heart disease is such a common health issue with Americans, one weekly beaned-based meal is an easy (and tasty) change to remedy an almost universal problem.
Making them even more valuable, beans are rich in both forms of fiber- soluble and insoluble. Together the two forms help to scrub the body of toxins and simultaneously add a sense of fullness. These fibers simultaneously make beans very slow to digest, which prevents sudden spikes in the hormone insulin- a primary cause of an abrupt sense of hunger.
4. Energy Management, Mood Management
As wonderful bonus virtues, consuming beans on a regular basis has a positive effect on mood maintenance and energy levels. While the protein, fiber, and antioxidants combine to feed our physical bodies, more surprising benefits continue to emerge. Because of their low glycemic index and slow digestion rate, beans help keep blood glucose levels steady.
This results in a highly effective slow release energy system. The body is continuously fueled while blood glucose levels remain stable. Positive mood maintenance is much easier through this process- as is the continuous availability of energy available to stave off fatigue. Where hunger and fatigue are to huge contributing factors to irritability, consuming more beans is a simple fix to a complex problem.
5. Tasty Culture
Many cultures feature beans as an element of their ethnic cuisine. Beans are cheap to buy, easy to grow, simple to prepare, and versatile. In particular, their use in Mexican cooking has some fantastic manifestations- especially when you count in the usage of chili powder.
Chili contains capsaicin, a compound familiar as the source of heat in peppers. Used widely as a topical pain reliever, capsaicin also has an astonishing effect on the human brain when consumed.
The burn of hot peppers in food releases natural endorphins, which suppress pain and eliciting a natural ‘high’. Research has shown regular meals featuring moderate amounts of spicy compounds can help improve overall mood and assist with symptoms of depression.
If the idea of introducing these new elements to your family’s regular roster of meals sounds intimidating, try this easy bean soup recipe. Simple, cheap, and deliciously blending beans, spices, and tomatoes, it is a proven crowd pleaser. Featuring a savory, mildly spicy broth and full of beautiful colors, this soup satisfies on many levels. It also freezes well for future stockpiling.
Spicy Bean and Lentil Soup
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chili powder
1 28 oz can of tomatoes, chopped
6 cups of stock- chicken or vegetable
2 cups water
1 cup green or red lentils
1 19 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 19 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 19 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil. Once hot, sauté onions, garlic, and chili powder til fragrant- about 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, stock, and lentils. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in beans and increase heat to medium for 15 minutes, til heated through. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper, stir, and serve.