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By Casey Seidenberg
The bean, or rather the “pulse” (the more inclusive term used by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization) includes all dried beans, legumes such as dried peas and lentils, chickpeas, and all seeds that are grown in a pod.
What is so noble about these foods? They provide more protein than any other plant. They also deliver calcium for bones, magnesium for the heart, potassium for muscle health, and more iron than meat, helping with healthy blood and energy. What’s more, beans are extremely filling and favorable for digestion because of all the fiber.
I’m not above jumping on a hot trend if it helps my family eat more healthfully.
Luckily, beans take on the flavor of whichever spices or ingredients they are paired with, so they are incredibly versatile. They work in an Italian pasta dish, an Indian stew, a Moroccan tagine or a Mexican feast.
Unfortunately, the image of a bean seldom drums up enthusiasm — especially among kids. So here are some ideas for making beans and legumes appealing to the little ones:
Dried beans are simple to prepare in a slow cooker, in a pressure cooker or over the stove. Canned or boxed beans work well, too; just be sure to choose low-sodium and BPA-free containers.
For those of you who feel bloated when you eat too many beans, soaking them first with a pinch of baking soda, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar can help…. Chewing thoroughly is essential, as you are more likely to have digestive problems if you allow solid pieces of beans to travel into your digestive tract. Lastly, begin by eating small servings to allow your body to adjust to the amount of fiber and the specific carbohydrates in beans that contribute to the bloating.
Studies show that diets that include beans and legumes help people lose weight and contribute to a decreased waist circumference. Bean consumption also correlates to increased overall nutrition.
So buy and eat more beans this year, first because they are good for your health and waistline and second because some believe that your purchase will ultimately support the grander goal of international food security and sustainable nutrition. The bean suddenly doesn’t sound so boring anymore.
Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a Washington, D.C.-based nutrition education company, and co-author of a collection of healthful recipes and advice.