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Healthy Bites: Beans, nature's hidden treasure

We’ve all heard the funny songs, but beans are no laughing matter! Beans provide protection against and reduce the risks of many diseases. The Dietary Guidelines recommend eating three cups every week; this may reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity.

What makes beans so nutritionally powerful?

One cup of beans provides 13 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein, along with other nutrients such as calcium, potassium and magnesium, all together making this a powerhouse vegetable too commonly overlooked.

Focusing on fiber

Beans are an excellent source of soluble dietary fiber. Soluble fiber prolongs the stomach’s emptying time so that sugar will be released and absorbed more slowly. This helps in regulating blood sugar, being very beneficial to those with diabetes. Soluble fiber also tends to act like a sponge, absorbing cholesterol and carrying it out of the body, helping to reduce risk of heart disease. In fact, recent research shows that eating ½ cup of pinto beans daily can reduce serum cholesterol by 8 percent.


Shopping Tips

Buy Canned– Canned beans are just as healthy as dried beans and can be more convenient. Drain, then rinse canned beans for one minute under cold water, washing away 40% of the sodium. Then drain once more.

• Look for Low-Sodium or No-Added-Salt: Low-sodium labels identify a product having less than 140 mg sodium per serving. When the daily recommended goal is less than 2000 mg of sodium, buying low sodium or no-added-salt can significantly reduce your intake.

• Try Vegetarian– When choosing refried beans, look for a vegetarian option. This type will not have the added bacon or animal lard which adds extra calories, cholesterol and saturated fat.

Check Out a Supplement – Skip the bloating and embarrassing gas by eating an anti-gas supplement before consuming beans.

• Storage– You can store dried beans for up to one year and canned beans for up to two years.

Simple to Use

Top off your salad. From lettuce to taco; beans taste great with them all!


Puree them for dips and burrito fillings.

Toss them into your favorite casserole, soup, wrap or pasta dish.

Many cultures grind beans into flour for savory breads, substantial noodles and baked goods. Bean flour can be sprinkled into soups for a creamy base or added to cookie or cake mixes. Bean flour is also a good wheat flour substitute for people with celiac disease.

Try them in a brownie recipe in place of the fat, water and egg! (Don’t drain the beans)

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