"Beans, beans they're good for your heart. The more you eat..." well you get the idea! This catchy tune we all heard growing up has some hidden nutrition messages we should really pay attention to. These small vegetables are packed full of protein, minerals, fiber and vitamins that can help reduce the risk for heart disease and certain cancers. They come in a large variety and can be cooked, mashed, eaten raw and replace more expensive meats in many dishes!
Let's talk fiber; fiber has two main purposes in our bodies. First is to help remove bad cholesterol from our bodies, the second is to help provide roughage when we use the bathroom. It might sound nasty, but fiber plays a very important part in keeping our bodies working properly. Fiber is also great in that meals containing fiber will help you to feel fuller longer, which assists in preventing you from overeating. Have blood sugar problems? Fiber can help to maintain normal blood sugar levels during and after your meal and with one serving giving you 20% of your daily recommendation of fiber you are off to a great start.
So how can you get your family to eat these power-packed foods? Beans come in different colors, shapes, tastes and textures so if your family is not crazy about one variety, just try another kind. Black beans can be added to store-bought salsa for added bulk and flavor. Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, can be added to a tossed salad or mashed into a hummus spread! Sauté onion, garlic and pinto beans until cooked through then mash for a home-made refried beans for your burrito. Beans can be added to a cold vegetable salad for more protein or combined with spaghetti sauce and whole grain pasta.
Canned beans are easier for those last minute meal ideas, just be sure to rinse them off under running water to remove the extra salt. Purchasing dried beans is more cost efficient, however you will need to soak them according to package instructions before using in recipes so plan ahead. Whatever variety your family enjoys beans are sure to give you a nutritional pack for your buck!