Friday, January 13, 2012

#4 of 12 Foods to Eat More of in 2012

4. Beans

Did you know that beans are one of the best sources of soluble fiber? That means they're super-effective at lowering-cholesterol. In fact, one study shows that including only half a cup of beans daily could lower cholesterol by 8%! So if your cholesterol level is 250, we're talking about 20 points. That's a big deal when it comes to your heart.

High fiber foods, like beans, digest more slowly, helping you stay full longer, aiding in weight management. This also means more stable blood glucose levels if you have diabetes. And of course, they keep you regular, so that means a healthy belly. 

Pick any kind you like! Black beans, pintos, kidney, garbanzo (chickpeas) or lentils. Be creative in how you incorporate them--try soups, salad or a bean wrap. Keeping canned beans on hand makes it really easy to add them to meals. Just check the Nutrition Facts label and look for the lowest amount of sodium you can find, then rinse them in a colander before using. I buy Full Circle Organic--only 300 mg sodium in the average can, and rinsing them removes another 40%!

Don't fret over their reputation as the "musical fruit." Any higher fiber food, like beans, can cause some gas when you introduce it to your diet. But gradually begin to incorporate beans and your digestive system will adjust. 

Here's my simple and healthy recipe for a bean wrap. It makes a yummy, meatless lunch!

Combine and rinse:
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

Scoop 1/2 cup of the bean mixture in a whole wheat tortilla or wrap. You can choose to warm the beans first or eat them cold. Top with:
Fresh, diced tomato and jalapeƱo (or salsa)
2 tablespoons shredded, sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon plain, non-fat Greek yogurt. 

Wrap and enjoy! Refrigerate extra beans for more wraps (or salads and soups).

Do you eat beans on a daily basis? How do you incorporate them into meals? Please share your ideas with the other GoodFoodies!

Reference: Winham DM, Hutchins AM, Johnston CS. Pinto bean consumption reduces biomarkers for heart disease risk. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2007;26:243-249.