Bring On The Beans! Legumes Finally Hit Superfood Status

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Hark, it’s the year of the legumes!

While ‘pulses’ do in fact help promote a healthy heart, these pulses we are talking about aren’t that steady indicator that your blood is beating. We’re talking about beans and peas!

2016 has received and official United Nations designation as the International Year of the Pulses, to help bring awareness and interest to a very important plant-based protein, fiber and phytonutrient-rich food category that also uses fewer environmental resources than many of our foods. Legumes.

  • What they are: dry peas, beans, lentils (green, brown, red) and chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans). Beans, of course, come in many varieties, sizes and colors from red kidney to white beans to black beans, adzuki, cranberry, mung and many others.
  • What they have: they are an important source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phyto(plant)nutrients, and also a key plant-based protein. Their combination of protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber has been credited with explaining how beans can help us feel fuller longer. Such an important staple, the United Nations and other major institutions have said that pulses play a major role in helping reduce food insecurity around the world.
  • Health and nutrition: pulses may not enjoy the lime-light like other foods like berries, salmon, nuts and avocados, but they should! Research has shown that regular consumption of beans can help reduce the risk and help in the management of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Some research points to beans being a major ally when it comes to weight management, too!
  • How to enjoy them: there literally hundreds of types of pulses including more familiar lentils, black beans, garbanzos, adzuki, Great Northern (white) beans in a whole rainbow of colors and sizes. From eating them simply seasoned with cumin or familiar hummus dips we’ve all come to know and love to more exotic uses in soups, salads, entrees and snacks, beans are versatile. Here are some fabulous recipes to try:

Creamy Broccoli-White Bean Soup, courtesy of Whole Living.

Lentil & Portobello Roll-Ups courtesy of Miraval Resort and Spa.

Black Bean-Quinoa Burgers courtesy of Vegetarian Times.

  • Healthy environment and planet. Pulses require less water than other protein sources. The growing of beans actually plays a very important role in helping with crop rotation by helping increase organic matter and healthy bacteria, and fixing nitrogen and freeing phosphorus in the soil to improve soil health for the health of the planet and future crops. They also require less fertilizer and have a low carbon footprint.
  • Cost. Particularly dried varieties, but even in a BPA-free can, beans are more affordable than most proteins costing upwards of 5 times less (or more!) than milk, poultry, fish or meat. And their shelf-life is unrivaled. Canned or dried pulses can be stored in an airtight container in a dry, cool pantry for months.

 

Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD

Wendy Bazilian is a doctor of public health, registered dietitian, American College of Sports Medicine certified Exercise Physiologist and freelance writer in San Diego. She is an expert advisor to the spa industry and co-owns Bazilian’s Health Clinic with her husband and business partner, Dr. Jason Bazilian. Dr. Wendy is co-author of Eat Clean, Stay Lean (Rodale, 2015) and author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet (Rodale). Find her onFacebook and Twitter

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