4 January 11 Beans for 2011

In the U.S., eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity. I find this amusing. If black-eyed peas are so lucky, then why not eat them every day?

All kidding aside, black-eyed peas and other dried beans and peas are very nutritious, inexpensive and nutrient-dense foods. Also called "legumes," dried beans and peas are a good source of fiber, protein, carbohydrates, minerals (i.e. copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus), thiamin (a B-vitamin), and they are exceptionally high in folate/folic acid. What's more, all of this comes at a very low calorie cost - only 90 - 120 calories per 1/2 cup of cooked legumes.

Although legumes are nutritional rock stars, don't count on them to meet your calcium requirement. On average, legumes provide less than 100 mg of calcium per 1/2 cup of cooked beans and peas. That is less than 5% of the Daily Value (DV). Edamame (soy beans) and white beans provide a little more calcium - about 7% DV in 1/2 cup of cooked beans. Compare that to high-calcium foods that provide 20% – 30% DV for calcium per serving: 6 oz container of yogurt, 1 oz cheese, 1 cup of skim milk, 1 cup of soy milk, 1 cup of calcium-fortified juice, sardines (with bones) and calcium supplements.

Canned Beans
Canned beans are a huge time saver but unless you buy "no added salt" or reduced salt versions, the convenience will cost you extra sodium. For instance, 1/2 cup of Kuner's No Added Salt Kidney Beans has only 10 mg of sodium whereas their regular kidney beans contain 430 mg for a 1/2 cup serving. If you cook beans from scratch, limit sodium by simply cooking in unsalted water. Legumes are naturally low in sodium.

What about Gas?
Yes, legumes can be very gassy. Over time, you will be able to tolerate more beans/peas with less gas. Some people swear by products such as Beano to help digest beans. You decide for yourself – but in any case, gradually add legumes to your diet to help reduce excessive gas, bloating or discomfort. You might want to start with only 1/4 cup of cooked beans or peas and then gradually build up to 1/2 cup or more. Try adding beans and peas to soups, salads, or in low-fat dips. Build up your intake over time so that you can comfortably digest 1/2 cup or more of cooked beans daily. Other tips for reducing gas: drain the canned liquid or soaking water before cooking and cook the beans well.

If you find that the commonly eaten kidney, black and pinto beans do not agree with you, consider trying Edamame (soybeans) and lentils, as these are more easily digested. Also consider legume recipes from other cuisines. Just because you hate chili doesn't mean you won't love hummus or Indian dahl.

Health Benefits
In addition to being high in nutrients, consumption of beans is beneficial for heart health, diabetes and weight control. The soluble or viscous fiber in legumes helps limit the rise of blood glucose after a meal. It also helps lower blood LDL levels over time by its action in the gut. And finally, the fiber in beans helps you feel full - this will help you avoid overeating calories.

If you are looking for ways to tweak your diet to improve nutritional content and improve your health, then definitely consider adding a serving of legumes to your daily plan. These carbs are worth it.
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Foods & Recipes/"Beans, Peas, & Soy" Holidays / Parties/New Year's Nutrients/"Carbs: Fiber, Starch, & Sugar"

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