What do you think of when I say "beans"? For a long time, I thought of 2 things: black beans and refried beans! I almost always associated beans with Mexican food, or chili on a wintery day. And of course, the not-so-desirable "side effects" of eating a whole lotta beans out of nowhere may come to mind, too!
There was even a time when I bought into the "beans are bad" school of thought coming out of the Paleo camp, and avoided them completely as a supposedly harmful food. (This does not hold up to research, by the way. You can deep dive on the benefits of beans here or watch some videos!)
If you're ready to take my word for it, though, I'll give you the short list:
they're packed with fiber
they're a good source of plant protein
they're relatively low in calories for the amount of nutrients
they're high in minerals & B vitamins (zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, folate)
they're linked to lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
they're a naturally gluten free and vegan option
The most comprehensive analysis of diet and cancer ever performed was published by the American Institute for Cancer Research. Sifting through some half a million studies, nine independent research teams from around the globe created a landmark scientific consensus report reviewed by 21 of the top cancer researchers in the world. One of their summary cancer-prevention recommendations is to eat whole grains and/or legumes (beans, split peas, chickpeas, or lentils) with every meal. Not every week or every day. Every meal. (nutritionfacts.org)
So, if incorporating beans daily is the goal, let's figure out some new ways to do it! I'm glad to report I've made friends with beans over the past few years (and not just the refried kind!) and now eat multiple servings a day. And yes, without digestive distress.
Move gradually. Add them slowly, a tablespoon at a time, until your system adjusts. Try different kinds. Try them more than once.
1) It's okay if Mexican food is your entry point.
Why not - it's simple & delicious! Think of a rice bowl or taco salad, or this Black Bean Burrito Bowl with tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, salsa, guacamole... yumm... Then, maybe try to change up the bean itself: same bowl, but now with pinto beans. Then with lentils. Then one of those variations in a burrito shell. Changing one thing at a time in a familiar dish can help increase the variety we enjoy.
2) Make dips & spreads.
Think hummus as an easy entry point. You can pulse up any beans in your food processor (I even use my single serve ninja cup) with your favorite spices, dressing, hot sauce, etc. You can make you favorite tuna salad, but substitute a bean. These are awesome on toast, in wraps, or with dipped veggies.
3) Hide them in your sauces.
If it's a creamy sauce, blend some great northern beans right in. You won't taste them; they'll just make things creamier. This actually works in smoothies, too!
4) Make a soup or chili.
So much flavor & a chunky texture already - what's few more chunks!? Chili beans, black beans, pinto beans, chick peas, split peas... They can go in ANY kind of soup, stew, or chili. Maybe try something like this Cauliflower & Bean Chili
5) Remember the "other" beans - lentils & soy!
Lentil are SUPER packed with protein & fiber. Soy is a complete protein. Add in these options a couple times a week and you'll really amp up the nutritional value of your meals! Soy includes soy milk, edamame, tempeh, and tofu. You could give Lentil Sloppy Joes a try... I'm also currently obsessed with Crispy Air Fryer Tofu!
Most importantly, don't give up trying. You (or your partner, or your parent, or your kid) may still think you/they don't like beans the first, second, or eighth time it's presented... But what about the ninth or tenth? They say that it can take ten or more times of trying something new before our taste buds develop to enjoy it... So stick with it! Your health will thank you.
Two important questions:
What health benefit of beans do you need to continue to remind yourself of?
What new idea or recipe for including beans do you want to try next?
You can leave a comment here or send me a DM on Instagram. I'm curious to see your responses!