“Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you—” If Paleo-style diets have taught you to cut all legumes out of your life, read this.
I was standing in line for lunch when the server asked me if I wanted refried beans. I noticed that my friends had disdainfully skipped them, despite loading up on tacos. Being the good Hispanic girl that I am, I smiled and asked for a large helping. The server turned to his friend and made a rude “PFFT!” noise. Putting my head down in embarrassment, I left the line.
This story came from my high school orchestra trip to Colorado, where we celebrated at a traditional Indian pow-wow. Despite the sad tone of the story, I have always loved legumes! Whether it’s the refried beans of my childhood, the lentils of my inter-cultural marriage, or the hummus of my preferred snack, I can’t get enough.
Today, I eat some variety of legumes at least once a day. Legumes are a broad category of plants, which beans belong to, but can also include peas, peanuts and alfalfa.
Beans have the benefit of both protein and fiber, both of which are necessary to a healthy and balanced diet. So, why then do they get such a bad rap?
Sure, you may have heard that all legumes are bad for you- especially if you have ever followed a Paleo diet. The premise behind Paleo diets is that we should eat the same sorts of foods that our caveman ancestors ate, because our biology can handle foods whole, unprocessed foods straight from nature more than the SAD diet we follow today.
Well, beans DO come from nature, and are WAY better for your health than that Twinkie you’re craving in its place. In fact, Chris Kesser posted this passionate discussion of how beans can actually be incorporated into a Paleo diet.
Considering that half the world eats the complete protein provided by beans and lentils, it’s hard to believe that a meat-heavy diet would be better for you.
Do you like beans? Forget Paleo and start passing the gas with more beans for weight… Click To Tweet
Benefits to Eating Beans
- High in fiber and protein
- Cheaper than grass-fed meat
- Can aid weight loss (even quadruple!)
- Reduce belly fat
- Help regulate insulin
- Improve cholesterol and blood pressure
My mother believes that refried beans taste like paste, and refuses to touch them. Some people avoid refried beans especially because restaurants often load them up with lard.
My father would often cook beans in bacon grease, and my grandmother would cook them in lard. Not exactly health food.
Even if you’re not a fan of beans, you can still find legumes you can love.
Lentils you can Love
My husband’s Indian cooking opened me up to the world of lentils, also known as dal or pulses. There are many different varieties of lentils, in practically every color of the rainbow (remember when your doctor told you to eat the rainbow?)
Lentils are the Eastern version of beans, and are often cooked with the same spices such as cumin, garlic and onion. However, lentils are usually cooked in a more soupy-style than beans, and eaten with rice. Rice and lentils is a tasty meal, and very affordable as well. In fact, my Indian relatives call it “poor man’s protein“.
Nutritionists call rice and pulses a complete protein, which is a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. That’s right- you don’t need to gnaw on steak or chicken all day to get a complete protein. Basically, while most legumes are incomplete on their own, all you need to do is combine them with a source of whole grain, nut or seed.
Easily Digest your Legumes
But, don’t legumes make you pass gas? I’ve never had this particular problem, yet people with IBS or who are sensitive to FODMAPS might. FODMAPS are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives. FODMAPs include fructose (when in excess of glucose), fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), lactose and polyols (eg. sorbitol and mannitol).
Here are 3 ways to lessen indigestion:
- Combine them with some other carbohydrates such as rice or bread
- Drink plenty of water
- Soak them at least at least a day ahead, or ferment them. This helps to leech out any gas-producing enzymes.
*As a side note, I heard that while people who eat beans might release more gas, the gas is less smelly than those who eat mostly meat.*
So, why not replace or substitute some legumes for your favorite meat in your next recipe? A little bit of these plant-powered proteins go a long way, both in terms of your health and your budget.