During lean economic times, adding beans and bean dishes to your family's meals is one of the easiest, healthiest and most delicious ways to stretch your food budget.
Jeanette Nessett, RD, LDN, health promotion interventionist at Lifespan's Working Healthy Program, says, “Beans and legumes are a nutritious, inexpensive protein alternative. Adding them to your meal provides a great way to stretch your meal while saving money. They are high in fiber and easily incorporated into many recipes and dishes that you prepare with vegetables and/or grains.”
The modest bean packs a lot of nutrition in a small package. As vegetarians already know, beans are storehouses of protein and a tasty substitute for meat. Paired with other low-cost foods such as rice, lentils, barley, peas and corn, beans can be prepared in an endless variety of delicious ways. Got to have meat? Even die-hard “meatatarians” will find that beans are a tasty complement to many types of meat. Meat lovers can slash their meat bill by purchasing smaller, less expensive cuts of meat and using them in bean-based dishes.
Beans add benefit to any diet. In addition to being high in protein, they are rich in vitamins and minerals, high in complex carbohydrates, sodium and calories, and completely cholesterol free. Beans are one of the best sources of dietary fiber. Eating beans helps promote a healthy digestive tract and actually helps reduce the risk of some types of cancer.
Beans also store a surprising amount of calcium and potassium, helping to build bones and reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. And since beans are naturally low in fat, they can help combat cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Beans are an excellent weight-loss food; they will help fill you up, regulate energy and insulin levels, and can help you feel satisfied for hours after a meal.
Beans are so nutritionally sound that they can be found in two places on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid—alongside protein-packed meat, eggs, poultry and fish, and with vitamin-rich vegetables.
Don't limit your intake of healthy and delicious beans for fear of gas and bloating. If you regularly consume high-fiber foods such as beans, your body will adapt and produce fewer symptoms. You can also cook beans in a way that will minimize gas.