Benefits of Beans and Legumes in Your Diet
By Amy Silva
The various health benefits and nutritional value of beans and legumes make them a great addition to your diet. They are packed with vitamins and minerals, and versatile enough that they can be added to almost any dish. They easily become substitutes for other foods, like meat, and they have enough fiber to help keep you feeling fuller, longer. Many vegans and vegetarians use beans and legumes as a staple in their diet for protein, but even those whose diets include meat can incorporate them into their meals to enjoy.
Here are some common varieties of beans.
- Navy beans
- Kidney beans (including cannellini)
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
Here are some common varieties of legumes.
Why Eat Beans and Legumes?
Numerous studies show that some benefits of eating beans and legumes are that they lessen the risk for diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and even some cancers, depending on the type eaten. They may help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and reduce the loss of bone density. There are also studies that show weight loss if eaten a few days each week. Vitamins and minerals found in different varieties include fiber, folate, magnesium, iron, and Vitamins B1 and K, among others. Some beans and legumes include enough fiber to cover more than half of the daily recommended intake. Some have a higher protein content, which is why they easily replace the meat in some dishes as the protein source. Having lower fat is another perk.
Incorporating Beans and Legumes Into Your Diet
Beans aren't just a good side dish, they work just as well in plenty of main dishes, dips, soups and stews and more. Adding beans to chili or tacos can replace meat as a protein source, and there are even protein powders made from pea and soybean proteins. They also make a great addition to salads and can be eaten alone, hot when added over rice, or cold when made into dips (hummus, anyone?). The options are almost endless.
Dried vs. Canned
No matter what kind of beans or legumes you decide to incorporate into your diet, you'll have to choose between dried or canned varieties. There are pros and cons to both. Dried beans and legumes are cheaper but take a long time to soak and cook. Canned varieties cook faster but include sodium, which can sometimes be too much for some people based on their health issues. Buying varieties that have lower sodium can help in this area.
Whether you choose dried, canned, beans or legumes, all of them may lend to a healthier lifestyle.
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