We've all heard the rhyme "Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you..."
This is a family friendly site, so I'm not going to finish the rhyme, which I remember my classmates gleefully singing at the top of their lungs during recess in elementary school. That rhyme always makes me think of how many of the beliefs we hold as adults started as misconceptions we had when we were children. I know dozens of people on healthy eating plans who recoil from the idea of eating beans and other legumes, at least in part because they believe that the gassy side effects of beans will ensure they're eating alone for the foreseeable future.
The thing is, you can control the intestinal gas legumes sometimes cause, and healthy eating is much more diverse and nutritious when you add them to your diet.
- Legumes are fiber rich.
- They're a source of essential vitamins and minerals.
- Legumes are a protein rich alternative to meat.
- Legumes may be effective at preventing heart disease and some kinds of cancers.
As a bonus, legumes are low on the glycemic index, stabilizing your blood sugar and making them an essential addition to a healthy eating plan.
Beans, peas, and lentils all fall within the legume family, though beans are probably the most commonly consumed and widely available. They're also incredibly versatile. Legumes can either be the centerpiece of your healthy eating plan, or a side or garnish to provide heft to soups and salads. Here are a few ideas for adding legumes to your diet:
- Top salads and sandwiches with alfalfa. Alfalfa sprouts aren't only a salad topping that makes your meal seem more earthy, they're also packed with protein, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamins C, D, E, and K. If you're dedicated to healthy eating, bring 'em on.
- Include beans in soups and dips. Because beans are such a fiber rich food source, they're incredibly filling. Adding beans to a soup means you can cut out the half sandwich you were going to eat as part of your lunch and make the soup the centerpiece.
- Use legumes as a meat substitute. Legumes are cholesterol free. If you're at risk for heart disease, substituting beans for red meat is a great way to cut out foods that raise your cholesterol without substituting essential protein.
- Keep dried or canned beans in your pantry for crunch times. We've all had moments when we just don't have time to make dinner before running out. Beans are a quick and easy meal, one that's much healthier than anything you'll pick up at a drive thru.
As for what you're all thinking about: yes, beans can increase intestinal gas, but there are ways to control it. If you're cooking the beans yourself, don't use the same water you soaked them in, as the water absorbs some of the indigestible sugars that cause gas. You can also simmer the beans, which makes them more easily digestible.