Nutrition, recipes

Beans, beans, the magical fruit…

By Kelsey Baumgarten
Dietetic Intern

What comes to mind when you hear the word “beans?” Maybe you think of chili, baked beans, minestrone soup, gallo pinto, burritos. Whatever you think about beans, you may not know how they are related to your health and blood sugar control.

While the old rhyme calls beans a magical “fruit,” they are, in fact, a vegetable! They’re part of a larger group of vegetables called legumes, which includes foods like black beans, chickpeas, lentils, and split peas. When counting carbohydrates, legumes should be counted as a starchy vegetable. However, if you can think of the rhyme, it may help you remember that a ⅓-cup serving of beans has a similar number of carbohydrates as a piece of fruit.

The more you eat, the more you toot…

Many people avoid beans because of their reputation for causing gastrointestinal discomfort. The gas related to eating beans is caused by the fiber and starches your body can’t break down. These are digested by the bacteria in your intestines.

The more you toot, the better you feel…

The fiber is part of what makes beans so good for you! Fiber can help lower your cholesterol and prevent constipation. Over time, your body will get used to it and you will notice less discomfort.

So let’s have beans at every meal!

You don’t need to have beans at every meal like the song suggests, but beans do make a great choice for balanced meals and snacks. Try swapping beans for some of your usual servings of pasta, potato, squash, and bread. You can even replace half of your starch with a half serving of legumes:

  • Eat a smaller portion of pasta, and add beans into the pasta sauce.
  • Mash black beans into a half serving of mashed potatoes.
  • Sprinkle beans on top of a thin-crust pizza
  • Add roasted chickpeas to your salad instead of croutons (just toss dry chickpeas in olive oil and salt, and broil until crispy— about 10 minutes)

Snacking on beans (15-30 g carbs)

  • 2 tablespoons of hummus or edamame dip + 6 whole grain crackers
  • ½ cup of lentil soup
  • ½ cup kidney beans, sprinkled with olive oil and Italian seasoning
  • ⅓ cup soy nuts + 1 piece fresh fruit

Don’t forget:
While legumes are a great source of plant protein, their carbohydrates will still raise your blood sugar. Legumes generally supply 15-20 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Be sure to check the nutrition label of whichever kind you are eating.

Beans can be a great addition to your diet. For increased fiber intake and heart-health benefits, aim to eat 3 or more servings every week. With so many nutrients per serving, they really are a “magical fruit”!

Did you know? You can use beans to make healthier baked goods and desserts!

Cannellini Carrot Muffins

  • BeanCarrotMuffin1 can* cannellini or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups grated carrots
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup oats
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

In a food processor, puree beans, eggs, oil, molasses, salt, and cinnamon until very smooth. Add carrots and nuts and blend on low speed until nuts and carrots are in small chunks. In a separate bowl, mix flour, oats, sugar, and baking powder. Add the bean mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Pour into the muffin tins and bake for 35-40 minutes.

*You can also use beans cooked from dry. 1 can = 1½ cups cooked beans.

Per muffin: 190 calories • 40g carb • 5g protein • 4g fiber • 7g fat

Black bean Chocolate Hummus
(who knew hummus could taste like dessert?)

BeanChocolateHummus
  • 1 can* black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1 tbsp decaf coffee (or water)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Serves 8.

For a snack with 30g carbs, spread hummus over 2 graham cracker squares (1 full sheet), or use as dip for 1 serving of apple slices or strawberries.

Per serving (about 2 tbsp): 150 calories • 20g carb • 5g protein • 5g fiber • 7g fat

*You can also use beans cooked from dry. 1 can = 1½ cups cooked beans.

 (Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s