No matter which relative we visited, walk into the kitchen and there was a big pot of soup beans.
Beans are part of a classification of foods called Legumes which also includes peas, soy, alfalfa, clover, lentils, and even peanuts (no they're actually not a nut). A Legume usually refers to the entire plant while the seed, or pod are sometimes known as pulses.
As a Brand New Vegan, beans should be an important part of your daily diet as they are packed full of protein, fiber, and other vitamins and nutrients. Just how healthy are these little pods? Extremely.
Beans Are Heart Healthy
Beans are "heart healthy" because they contain a ton of soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If you prefer canned beans, you can ditch up to 40 percent of the sodium by rinsing them in water. Personally, I look for the "No Added Salt" varieties (and still rinse the living daylights out of them).
And Low in Fat
Most beans are about 2 to 3 percent fat, and contain no cholesterol (unless they're processed with other ingredients, like lard - yuck). Check those labels.
Not to Mention Full of Protein
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans say we should be eating more plant proteins. About ½ cup of beans provides 7 grams of protein, the same amount as in 1 ounce of chicken, meat or fish.
All of us Brand New Vegans who don't eat meat, poultry, or fish can count on beans as an alternative, healthy choice.
They Also Balance Blood Sugar
With a low glycemic index, beans contain an awesome mixture of complex carbohydrates and protein. Because of this, beans are digested slowly, which helps keep those blood glucose numbers stable.
And Are Cancer Fighters
Due to their abundance of fiber and antioxidants, scientists recommend we consume 3 cups of beans per week to promote health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, like cancer.
Speaking of Fiber...
Beans can promote regularity by preventing constipation.
For optimum 'movement' be sure to drink enough water when eating high-fiber foods. Weighing in at 5 to 8 grams of fiber for every 3 ounces of beans, they are ideal for those with gluten sensitivity.
If you do have food allergies, however, check the label or contact the manufacturer to make sure the product is safe.
You May Lose Weight...
Because beans are broken down more slowly than other complex carbs, they may help in weight loss by keeping us feeling full without being horribly high in calories.
The longer we stay full, the less we eat.
They're Pretty Darn Convenient
Canned, frozen or dry, beans are a cinch to buy, cook, and store.
Canned beans are the most convenient, but can be high in sodium and the cans may have traces of BPA. Eden Foods sells cans that are BPA free. Also look for the No Salt Added varieties to cut the salt.
Bagged beans are way cheaper, but do require soaking overnight to lower their Phytic Acid content.
However some experts suggest that it’s the phytic acid in whole grains and beans that lends them their apparent protective properties against cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Food for thought!
And They're Cheap!
Beans are one of the least expensive sources of protein, especially when compared to fresh meat.
Most Importantly - They're Packed Full of Nutrients
Aside from protein, complex carbs and fiber, beans contain tons of nutrients including antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
The list includes copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans refer to many of these important nutrients as "shortfall nutrients," meaning most of us aren't getting enough of them.
So there you go. You have now graduated from Beaniology 101.
Eat those beans!