Love Those Legumes!

Research tells us that legumes—beans, peas, and lentils—not only help fight heart disease by improving blood cholesterol levels, but also help lower blood pressure, improve blood sugar control, and may even promote a healthier brain. 

Specifically, new studies report that one daily serving of legumes is associated with a modest but significant reduction in the bad (LDL) cholesterol that clogs arteries.

Eating beans along with certain other foods, such as leafy green veggies and berries, while limiting other foods, like red meat and fried foods, may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Legumes dish up complex carbs, fiber and protein while they are lower in fat and calories than many other protein sources. 

Eating legumes regularly increases our intake of the minerals potassium and magnesium (both linked to regulating blood pressure) as well as iron, zinc and phosphorus.  Beans also add B vitamins and folate to your plate.

Legumes taste great, too! But current data tells us that the average US intake is low – a good reason to focus on adding more beans to your menu!

Soaking and cooking dried beans takes time, but tastes great and costs less. Cook once to eat twice when you prepare extra beans to freeze for later.  Simply cover cooked beans with their cooking liquid in an airtight container then freeze for up to three months.

Not ready to cook them from scratch? Keep a variety of canned beans handy in your cupboard. Use them in soups, salads, and pasta dishes. Did you know that rinsing and draining canned beans reduces their sodium by 40%?  For a double sodium reduction, start with reduced sodium beans!

Stock up on cannellini, pinto, black, garbanzo (chickpeas) for starters!  One half cup of most beans add 7 grams of protein and up to 6 grams of fiber to your meal. Current dietary guidelines for adults recommend eating 2 cups of beans per week.

Quick ideas to add more beans to your day:

For pasta dishes, start with a favorite marinara sauce then use less ground meat and add a can of drained, rinsed great northern beans.

Make a quick lunch by combining cannellini beans, tuna and grape tomatoes with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle of lemon pepper seasoning.

Add black beans and corn to your favorite salsa for added fiber and nutrition. Serve with wavy-cut carrot chips, jicama strips and baked corn chips.

Here is a recipe to get you started on adding more legumes to your meals!

Sautéed Lemon Spinach with Garbanzo Beans and Raisins

Spinach is rich in a number of carotenoids—the most familiar is beta carotene. Enjoy red, yellow, orange and green produce selections daily for their beautiful color, great flavor and carotenoid content!

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup golden raisins
2 6-ounce bags baby spinach
¼ - ½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon no added salt
lemon pepper seasoning
Juice of one lemon

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and garbanzo beans; cook 2 minutes. Add raisins to skillet; add spinach in batches. Cook and stir until just wilted after each batch. Remove from heat; add salt, lemon pepper seasoning and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.  Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 133 Calories, 0 mg Cholesterol, 4 g Fat, 0.5 g Saturated fat, 298 mg Sodium, 21 g Carbohydrate, 5 g Fiber, 6 g Protein.

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