Bean Me Up!

Did you know it is possible to obtain all the nutrients provided in meat just by eating beans in combination with whole grains or dairy? They can help balance blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and promote regular bowel movements. Beans are a great alternative to meat because they are a great source of protein that is naturally cholesterol free, low fat, and packed with vitamins and minerals. Beans contain carbohydrates, but due to the protein and fiber content, do not tend to cause spikes in blood sugar. Not only are they tasty and nutritious, but they are also very inexpensive and budget friendly. Challenge yourself to eat beans this week. Try a different bean or recipe that you haven’t tried before. Here are some ideas to help get you started to incorporating this delicious health food into your diet.


  • Research what beans are available. You have probably heard of common beans such as black, garbonzo, kidney, pinto, refried, and black eyed peas. But have you also heard of or tried adzuki, dal, cannellini, great northern, navy, fava, mung, lentils (red, brown, and green), lima, and soybeans beans?
  • Look up different recipes that feature beans as the main course, rather than as a side dish. When you find a recipe that interests you, jot down the type of bean and list of ingredients you’ll need to make them. If you need some ideas, I have written delicious recipes featuring beans, such as my Classic Three Bean Chili, Red Kidney Bean and Red Quinoa Chili, Spiced Garbonzo Bean “Popcorn,” Black Bean Veggie Bowl, and Lentil Dal with Vegetables.
  • Try a Mixed Bean Salad by mixing red kidney beans, chickpeas, and cannellini beans with herbs, lemon, vinegar, and olive oil to make a quick and delicious salad that serves the whole family. Make soups, veggie burgers, enchiladas, and more. Add onions, garlic, salsa, citrus juices, or plain yogurt. Experiment with Indian, Mexican, or Italian spices for an ethnic flare. Prepare on the stove top, oven, crock pot, or microwave. The possibilities are endless!
  • Purchase beans and all necessary ingredients. You may choose dried beans or canned. Both have their advantages. Making homemade dried beans is more cost effective, produces less environmental waste (no tin cans to recycle), and you can help control gas forming effects by various soaking techniques. Canned is quick, easy, and foolproof since soaking and cooking is not required. Be sure to rinse canned items thoroughly to rid of sodium and preservatives.
  • Confused on how to substitute dried beans versus canned in recipes? It is better to substitute based on volume (cups) rather than weight (ounces). A 15 ounce can will give you slightly less than 2 cups of beans, so substitute about 1 3/4 cups of freshly cooked beans for a can. One pound of beans will give you roughly the same amount as three -15 ounce cans of beans, or about 5 cups.
  • Make a note in your food tracker of any changes in your digestion, especially as you introduce new foods into your diet. If you know beans are an issue for you, begin with 1/4 cup at a time, and then build up to 1 cup or so over the course of a couple weeks.


Beans are famous for causing gas. This is due to a carbohydrate called oligosaccharide in which we lack the enzyme required to break this sugar down. When the sugar arrives in your lower intestinal tract intact, it ferments, creating a buildup of gas. The gas isn’t absorbed into the intestine, so the body needs to expel it. Don’t worry, the more often you eat beans, the easier they will be for your body to naturally digest. If gas becomes bothersome, ask your doctor about taking a Beano tablet before eating beans. Beano contains an enzyme which helps break down oligosaccharides, thus reducing the creation of gas.


Written by Sara Nicole Ansari, R.D.

September 2012