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Beans: A Tasty Food Staple to Always Keep on Hand!

Beans pack their punch as a nutritious food that is rich in protein, fiber and a great source of vitamins and minerals! Beans are enjoyed year round but there is nothing more satisfying than a warm bowl of a good bean soup in the fall and winter months!

My dad would be surprised to hear that his dietitian daughter was finally admitting what he had preached for years.  He was in the navy and when I was growing up he always told me how good beans were for you! He was right! They are economical and are packed with protein, iron, zinc and are a great source of soluble fiber. Diets rich in soluble fiber improve blood glucose control and blood cholesterol levels and may even help fight heart disease.

It is amazing how many forms of beans there are in the grocery store. Beans are available dried, canned, frozen and sometimes fresh. Canned beans are a great quick meal addition. If you rinse and drain canned beans, you can reduce the sodium by 40%. They now even have many varieties of canned beans which are reduced in sodium or no salt added.  Beans come in many shapes, colors, sizes and textures.  Beans can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  Bean flour can be used in desserts.  They freeze well and can also be pureed to thicken soups.

Cooked beans can be refrigerated for four days or frozen for up to a year and they do not lose their nutritional quality. So cook more than you need and freeze the extras.  Be careful when adding acidity like tomatoes or vinegar too early because it will slow down the cooking process.  Many individuals fear the side effects of beans, but if you include them in your diet more often and discard the soaking water it will reduce the flatulence which can occur as your body works to digest the indigestible carbohydrate in the bean.

Here are a few facts about a few different bean varieties:

Black Beans

A staple of South and Central American and Caribbean cuisines. They are an excellent source of fiber, folate, iron and magnesium.  They are a deep dark color and a heart healthy boost.  Enjoy them in salads, mashed into burgers, pureed into hearty soups, added to salads or used as dips.

Soybeans (Edamame) 

With nine essential amino acids, they are not only an excellent protein source but are a great source of calcium, iron and potassium. There is some mixed research through the past few years but they may help reduce the risk of breast cancer and bone loss and decrease total and LDL cholesterol.  Enjoy them dried as a crunchy snack, steamed, roasted or stir-fried.

Navy Beans (My Dad’s Favorite!)

Also known as Boston or Yankee beans because they earned their name for the role as a staple diet in the U.S. Navy. They are high in folate and fiber and used to create the wonderful baked bean mixture that many enjoy! They are also perfect in chili, soup or stew.


Available fresh, dry or frozen, Lima beans are an excellent source of fiber and a potassium powerhouse. Simply add them to stew or combine with sweet corn for succotash.

Chickpea or Garbanzo

Chickpeas are one of the most common legumes in the world. Chickpeas are high in fiber and folate, and provide potassium and magnesium. Enjoy the versatility of chickpeas in a creamy hummus, warm falafel, vegetable-rich salad or roasted into a crunchy, high-protein snack.

Red and Kidney Beans

Commonly substituted for kidney beans, red beans are smaller and have a softer flavor. They are great with rice and also good in soups and salads. Kidney beans are kidney shaped and can be found as red or white (cannellini) variety.   They have a thicker skin to hold their shape in dishes with a longer cooking time.  They are great in chili con carne and also in salads and sauces.