What food is a staple for a billion people, linked to a longer life span and rich in fiber, B vitamins and protein? What food do you want to add to your grocery list? What food do you want to be eating more of?
And if you’re thinking, no thanks, I don’t want to deal with the tooting and flatulence, and the associated giggles from the kids, I kindly ask you to reconsider beans. I'll even provide a few tips below on preventing gas.
First of all, this is a food that deserves a gold-medal. Most Americans don’t eat the recommended 25 to 50 grams of fiber a day. One cup of beans, however, can contribute 25 to 30 grams towards what we need to protect our health. More fiber. More regularity. And constipation is. . . yep, another health epidemic.
Beans also provide needed B vitamins. B vitamins aid our brain, skin and blood cells to function properly, and facilitate healthy nerve function. They play a role in converting our food into energy. And who doesn't want to feel great and have more vitality?
America's report card on health is alarming. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity impact young and old. Studies on beans and legumes show that regular consumption protects against these diseases and health challenges and positively influences our cholesterol and blood pressure.
For those of us who may be concerned about our weight, beans are a great way to get low-fat and low-calorie protein. One cup of beans, naturally high in iron, contains 15 grams of vegetarian protein, two to three times more than rice or wheat.
So what stops some of us from eating beans?
Digestive distress in the form of flatulence.
One way that people have noted less to no gas is the "soak-drain-soak-drain" process. Soak the beans for 24 hours before cooking. 12 hours into the soak, drain all the water and add fresh water. Before you cook the beans, drain the water again and add fresh water or veggie broth to your pot, pressure cooker or insta-pot. Cook the beans, eat them and people claim no toots, no giggles.
Why the gas? According to scientists and dietitians legumes contain certain carbohydrates called galacto-oligosaccharide and fructans that are rapidly fermented in the digestive process and can result in gas. Even though beans and legumes contain these poorly absorbed carbs, the promote good gut health for most people.
Another reason people experience gas is that when we start eating food with more fiber, our bodies can react because they are not used to fiber. It may take a while for our bodies to become accustomed to extra fiber. Hydration can help in the digestive process. Drink water before eating the beans, and then half an hour or so after. This helps move the fiber through our digestive track.
While some soak and rinse their beans before cooking and drink more water, others have tried Beano, a product you can pick up at the grocery or health food store. When I first transitioned to adding more beans into my diet, I took a half a Beano tablet and had no problems with gas.
So are you ready to add beans to your grocery list? Are you wondering what kinds of beans? Are you hoping, like I was, that the convenience of canned beans are as nutritious as making beans from scratch?
Good news! Canned beans are nutritious. While making beans from scratch are the best and most nutrient-dense, there are still ample vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber in canned beans. I buy BPA-free canned beans from Costco. Sometimes I buy beans in jars, and I bet you have noticed that manufacturers are shifting from packaging beans from cans to cartons. Don't forget to drain the liquid from the beans as another measure to reduce gas.
One last reason to eat beans is that doing so contributes to caring for the human family and our homeland—planet earth.
Recently, I was listening to a talk by John Robbins, author of “Diet for a New America” and health food expert. He stated that if the whole world became vegetarian, we would have enough food to feed everyone.
Imagine that! Every single person on the planet!
Even if we don’t see ourselves going vegan any time soon, we might consider leaning in that direction once or twice a week. Doing so will be good for our health and a gesture showing that we care for all people and our planet.
For those of you thinking I'm vegan, I'm actually not 100% vegan. I eat salmon on occasion, and I love it. Every now and then, I eat roasted chicken.
I am what I call a “reaching vegan.” When I hear people like John Robbins, I am deeply moved and honored by his courage, scholarship and deep regard for our world. I am reminded of the value of a plant-strong diet for both health and humanitarian reasons. I am influenced to eat more vegetarian protein options.
I invite you to join me. Let’s eat more beans. Let's commit to a healthier and more sustainable way of eating.