Beans are a super food. They contain many nutrients that play a role in helping your body stay healthy and fight disease. Beans are also a good source of protein. Unlike many other protein sources from animal products, beans are low in total fat, saturated fat and are cholesterol free. This makes beans a great choice for vegetarians as well as people trying to cut back on their intake of higher fat meats.

Many people are surprised to learn that beans are actually a vegetable. In a recent survey, only 43% of Americans correctly identified beans as a vegetable, while 96% knew broccoli was a vegetable. Like other vegetables, beans are a plant-based food that provide many vitamins and minerals. However, they also provide protein and more fiber than other vegetables. In fact, 1/2 cup of beans provides 20% or more of your daily fiber needs. Fiber will help you feel full after a meal, maintain blood sugar levels, protect the colon from substances that can damage cells, aid in weight loss, and reduce blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels. This is due also to the nutrients that high fiber foods contain such as folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. Research shows that children and adults that eat beans get more of these key nutrients in their diets than those who do not eat beans.

Because of all of the health benefits of beans, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we eat three cups of beans a week. The current average consumption is only one cup per week. In order to include more beans in your diet, start by keeping a variety on hand and get creative. Add them to salads, store-bought salsas, pasta dishes, vegetable burritos, potatoes, soups, stews, and casseroles. If you choose to use canned beans, buy low sodium brands and rinse them to get rid of up to 40% of the sodium.

To mitigate the undesirable side effects of beans, add them slowly to the diet and work up to 3 cups per week. Beans contain carbohydrates that normal stomach enzymes cannot digest and are fermented by bacteria in the lower intestine. Make sure you drink plenty of water and don’t be afraid of Bean-0 or other anti-gas dietary supplements. It will take about 2 weeks for your body to get used to digesting beans.

Here is one of my favorite recipes for beans. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Veggies and Beans

1T olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion
3 leeks
1 medium green pepper
1 medium sweet red pepper
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup baby carrots
1 (15.5 ounce) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1(15.5 ounce) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups low sodium vegetable, beef or chicken broth
1T chili powder
1/4 t course ground black pepper
3 cups cooked brown rice
Tabasco sauce, optional

Heat oil in crock pot on high setting. Using a garlic press, crush garlic cloves directly into crock pot. Chop onion into large chunks, as for a stew and add to garlic. Slice white ends of the leeks into 1/4″ rounds, discarding green tops and stir into crock pot. Chop peppers into large chunks and stir in. Chop potatoes into eight pieces each, leaving skins on. Add potatoes, carrots, beans, broth, chili powder and pepper. Stir all the ingredients well. Cover and cook in slow cooker until potatoes are done, 3-4 hours on high, or 6-7 hours on low. Serve beans over bed of rice and add Tabasco as desired.