If there’s one food I wish I knew more about when I went veg, it’s beans. I ate them in vegetarian chili every once in a while, and I’d have baked beans when everyone else was eating hamburgers and hot dogs. But for the most part, beans were a couple times a year feature in my diet. Nowadays, I rarely go a day without eating some form of bean—garbanzo bean/chickpea, black bean, kidney bean, cannellini bean, and many more (not to mention foods made from beans like hummus).
Around here at SmartGirlVeg HQ, we often say that going veg should be as much about what you’re adding to your diet as it is what you’re removing. So when you make the choice to limit or eliminate meat from your meals, what do you eat in its place? Beans, sometimes also called pulses or legumes, make the perfect swap.
Nutrition-wise, it doesn’t get much better than beans. While the different varieties have varying nutrition profiles, in general, they’re all good sources of muscle-building protein (8 g per ½ cup, which is around 115 calories worth), cholesterol-lowering fiber and disease-fighting compounds like lignans, which may play a role in preventing heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. They’re low on the glycemic index, which means they’re good for keeping your blood sugar balanced, and preventing diabetes. And some beans—white beans and lentils, for example—are great sources of the mineral iron, which many vegetarians have trouble getting enough of.
Here are the vital stats on some of my favorite legumes, per half cup serving:
Cannellini beans (also known as white beans)
Protein: 8.7 g
Fiber: 5.6 g
Iron: 3.3 mg
Best uses: Paired with garlic and herbs like sage or rosemary, like this recipe from Epicurious (to make a speedier version of this, sautee some garlic in olive oil over low-medium heat and add a can of drained, rinsed beans along with your favorite dried herbs; simmer for 15 minutes)
Protein: 8.9 g
Fiber: 7.8 g
Iron: 3.3 mg
Best uses: Hearty lentil soup, like this one from Cookie and Kate
Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans)
Protein: 7.3 g
Fiber: 6.2 g
Iron: 2.4 mg
Protein: 7.6 g
Fiber: 7.5 g
Iron: 1.8 g
Best uses: Tacos, like these roasted veggie and black bean tacos from Cooking Classy (top with chopped avocado instead of queso fresco to make them vegan)
Protein: 7.7 g
Fiber: 5.7 g
Iron: 2 mg
Best uses: Chili, like this quick-and-easy veggie chili from Whole Foods.
Do you love beans as much as I do? My love for legumes recently provoked me to reach out to The Good Bean, a company that makes delicious roasted chickpea snacks to express my affection for their product. The kind people at The Good Bean offered to host a giveaway, so SmartGirlVeg readers can try their products too. In the space below, tell me your favorite way to enjoy beans, along with your email address—on Friday, May 15, I will choose one lucky winner who will receive a gift pack of some of my favorite products The Good Bean has to offer.
Disclosure: The Good Bean provided me with samples of their products after I contacted them to compliment them on the items in their line I’d purchased at my local store and tasted independently. I was not compensated for this post. They are providing a gift for winners of this contest. Thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.