The Lowly Legume: A Nutritional Powerhouse

Americans of all ages aren’t eating enough legumes (i.e. beans and peas). Most adults eat less than half of the recommended amount each week. But lowly legumes pack a potent punch. And there are many reasons that you may want to up your intake.

Legumes include black beans, fava beans, kidney beans, and navy beans, as well as black-eyed peas, lentils, split peas, and more. The benefits beans can offer include:

  • A wealth of nutrients. Beans are a nutritional powerhouse. They’re packed with protein. Full of fiber. And rich in vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, folate, iron, and zinc. Plus they’re low in fat and calories, so they’re nutrient-dense.
  • Two key food groups in one. Are they a vegetable? Or a protein? They’re both—or either. For vegetarians and vegans, beans can be a great plant-based source of protein. For meat eaters, they can count as a vegetable.
  • A host of health benefits. A diet rich in beans can support your health. Studies have found that beans can help support healthy cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. They can also help with weight management.
  • Great value for your money. One cup of black beans, canned, averages about 60 cents. One cup of dried black beans averages 25 cents. In terms of nutritional benefits per cost, beans are one of the best buys around.
  • Endless variety. There are so many different types of beans. And there’s no end to what you can do with them. Puree them for a tasty bean dip. Add them to soups, stews, and chili. Enjoy them in a burrito. Make them the star of a salad.

Worried about the gas factor? You can help tame bean-related gas with a few simple tricks. Soak dried beans in water for 12 to 24 hours, then rinse, and cook. Opt for varieties that cause less gas, like lentils and split peas. Let your body adapt by slowly phasing beans into your diet. And if all else fails, try a product that’s designed to prevent or reduce gas. If you have any health issues, be sure to talk with your doctor before trying any of these products.