Beans are packed full of soluble fiber, protein, and antioxidants; and yet they are one of today’s most overlooked foods, with studies showing that the average person’s diet contains less than a cup of beans per week. This is a long way from the latest dietary guidelines advising us to triple our intake to three cups per week.
In recent years, fiber consumption has been on a steady decline and our hearts and waistlines are losing out because of it. Beans, while not the greatest dinner date choice, are great for the digestive system. One cup of cooked beans provides about 12 grams of fiber – nearly half the recommended daily amount for an adult. Fiber helps to regulate bowel movement and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal problems.
They are also a great low-fat protein alternative. A cup of beans contains 42 g of protein – the same amount of protein as a 175 g steak – but producing that protein is much more sustainable, with much less environmental impact. Bean protein is also a lot easier for the digestive tract to breakdown and utilize compared to meat protein. It is also good news for those of us prone to snacking, as its high protein composition is what results in a longer, slower release of energy, keeping us fueled up for longer.
A study by a team of USDA nutritionists recently listed beans as one of the food groups with the highest antioxidant capacity, with small red beans (like adzuki), red kidney beans and pinto beans as three of the top four foods on the list. Antioxidants are a class of phytochemicals that support your body’s cellular health, meaning that extra serving of beans could offer some great additional benefits!
For their cost and availability, they are one of the best foods we can add to our dinner table. I would encourage you to substitute meat for beans in a meal at least once a week.
Another great way to incorporate beans into your diet is with this easy protein-packed brownie recipe.
Adzuki Bean Brownie
(No flour, butter or refined sugar)
These brownies have a lovely soft fudgy texture and are gluten free. You could also use black beans or chickpeas for this recipe. Healthy, easy and delicious - the best kind of dessert or on-the-go snack.
- 1 can low-sodium adzuki beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 3 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp of freshly ground or instant coffee (optional)
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or grated chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 175C. Grease a nonstick baking pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhand on all sides.
2. Blend the beans, eggs, cocoa powder, honey, coconut oil, baking powder and coffee in the blender until smooth and pour into a bowl. Fold in chocolate chips until combined. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake the brownies until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 to 30 minutes. Allow brownies to cool completely before slicing them into squares.
A few handy tips when it comes to beans.
Canned and dried beans contain similar levels of nutrients, but if you opt for canned beans, it is a good idea to drain the juice and rinse the beans before you use them. Canned beans contain around 400 times more sodium than dried beans, but draining and rinsing will reduce this by as much as 41%.
With dried beans, it is a good idea to soak overnight in cold water and rinse them before boiling, as it releases the indigestible complex sugars that may cause gas. This also means a shorter cooking time is needed, which ensures more nutrients are preserved.
In good health.