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Ultimate Guide on The Health Benefits of Beans and Which Bean is Best for Your Recipe

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We hear so much about beans being healthy for us, and yet they’re still  one of the most underrated nutritious plant-based foods out there. The truth is, beans are an integral part of any healthy plant-based diet. They’re an inexpensive, a great source of protein, and contain healthy carbohydrates that don’t spike our blood sugar, contain potassium for adequate heart health, large mounts of magnesium for healthy overall bodily functioning, and we all know they’re a great source of fiber for optimal digestive health.

Beans also have a large amount of  B Vitamins and iron for energy, and are a simple, non-perishable food source to keep in the pantry. However, if you’re anything like I am, beans aren’t the first thing you reach for when thinking about breakfast, lunch or dinner. I’ve always used beans more for chili, burritos and not much of anything else. It wasn’t until I ate a vegan kidney bean burger that everything changed. I realized beans could be transformed into an array of amazing dishes I hadn’t considered before.

Here’s What Happened When I Ate More Beans:

  • I felt more satisfied and nourished after meals.
  • I became creative with using different beans in recipes.
  • I realized some beans are better suited to dishes than others.
  • I learned the different nutrient profiles of beans.

It quickly became clear to me how many amazing meals and nutrients I had been missing out on simply because I didn’t know what to do with most beans. Don’t make the same mistake!

Check out this easy-to-use guide for all the information you need on beans. Bring it to the grocery store, stick it on your fridge or pack it in your bag for convenient reference.

Okay, let’s get started!

1. Black Beans

Cilantro-Lime-and-Black-Bean-Rice-1200x750

Black beans are small, soft and versatile. According to researchers at World’s Healthiest Foods, black beans are surprisingly high in phytonutrients like these three anthocyanin flavonoids: delphinidin, petunidin and malvidin. They are also recommended for diets geared toward preventing cancer and other illnesses. In fact, they are so vital to good health that in Brazil, they are given an exclusive spot on the food pyramid.

Specific Health Benefits:

-Full of phytonutrients

-Regular consumption may lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes

-Regular consumption may lower risk of cardiovascular disease

-Regular consumption may lower risk of certain cancers

Dish Recommendations: You really can’t go wrong with black beans. Whether in a high-protein soup, a burger, salad, rice bowl or pasta, this bean works well with almost any flavor profile. You can also use them to make a satisfying Black Bean and Corn Salsa as a fun, filling dip!

2. Red Kidney Beans

double-chocolate-vegetarian-chili1

Red kidney beans are larger than black beans and have a notorious kidney-shape. They are also significantly more meaty in texture than other beans. That makes them ideal candidates for replacing many animal products in our favorite dishes. Most importantly though, these beans are chock-full of nutrients essential to healthy living.

Specific Health Benefits:

-Nutrients provide significant protection against heart disease

-High in antioxidants with anti-aging properties

More flavonoids than blueberries and cranberries

Dish Recommendations: Red kidney beans make for an amazing meat-substitute. My favorite way to serve them will always be in burger patties, but they’re also great in vegan chili and a variety of soups and stews.

3. Green Beans 

tato-Noodle-and-Green-Bean-Salad-With-Chive-Dijon-Vinaigrette-Vegan-1200x800

Coming in at only 44 calories per cup, green beans are lower in calories than many other beans. That makes them a great option for anyone looking to boost their intake of nutrients without drastically increasing their caloric intake. Plus, they taste great!

Specific Health Benefits:

-Provide silicon for bone health

-Rich in antioxidants

Boosts the immune system

Regulates the digestive process

Dish Recommendations: Green beans are good for more than just casseroles! Don’t believe me? Try this Zucchini Pasta with Green Beans and Stuffing, or this Potato Noodle and Green Bean Salad With Chive Dijon Vinaigrette.

4. Pinto (or Painted) Beans

Slow-Cooker-Pinto-Beans_blog

Pintos are the light-brown or carmel coloured beans with darker paintbrush-like marks all over them. They have a creamier texture than other beans, making them a great choice in mashes and cream-type sauces. They are also one of the healthiest beans around.

Specific Health Benefits:

-Great source of cholesterol-lowering fiber

-Rich source of molybdenum, an essential mineral for proper metabolism of fats and carbohydrates

-Have thiamine, a B vitamin necessary in brain cell and cognitive functioning

-Contain wide array of key nutrients like iron, folate phosphorous and more

Dish Recommendations: Pintos are a staple in every single chili I make. However, they’re also great additions to vegan burgers, stews, soups, and salads. Try them out in more creative ways like this Slow Cooker Spicy Pinto Beans recipe, or this Pinto Bean, Green Olive, and Sweet Potato Turnovers.

5. White or Navy Beans

Smoky-White-Bean-and-Roasted-Yellow-Pepper-Hummus

Don’t let their size fool you, these little beans pack a lean protein-powered punch of nutrients per serving. In a satisfying 255 calories per cup, these beans contain over 80 essential nutrients for healthy living. They’re high in important nutrients such as: protein, calcium, iron, folate, vitamin B1 and copper.

Specific Health Benefits:

-Dense source of potassium

-Rich in calcium

-Help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s

-Great source of choline, which supports overall healthy bodily functioning

Dish Recommendations: Navy beans are another chlli staple, but that doesn’t mean that’s all they’re good for. Try Petite Navy Beans with Rosemary and Diced Tomatoes, or turn them into a delicious, spicy hummus.

6. Garbanzo Beans, also known as Chickpeas

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These tender beans are both meaty and flakey at the same time. They are known for making the base to great hummus and are amazing in much more. These beans are also an Indian food staple with good reason. They contain the following nutrients (and more!): molybdenum, manganese, folate, copper fiber, phosphorous, protein, iron and zinc.

Specific Health Benefits:

Increase in satiety

Digestive support due to high fiber content

Heart health support

Blood sugar regulation

Dish Recommendations: Chickpeas are one of the most popular beans and legumes to use in a variety of plant-based dishes. They can be used anywhere else you’d use beans, so feel free to swap them out wherever you like, however you like. You can even try these beans in hummus, a stew, as a snacka tofu curry, or even use them to replace tuna on your next sandwich!

7. Lima Beans, also known as Butter Beans

Barley-Risotto

These kidney-shaped beans get their alternative name from their buttery texture. As with other beans, limas provide us with excellent sources of fiber, protein, iron and other essential nutrients.

Specific Health Benefits:

-Help prevent blood sugar spikes

Protecting the heart

-High in fiber to enhance digestive health

Dish Recommendations: Lima beans are used in a variety of dishes to create a creamy texture and a decadent finish. They add a richness to dishes unmatched by most other beans. Try them out in Brown Rice Salad with Dill or make Simple Butter Bean Quiche.

8. Fava or Broad Beans

Barley-Risotto

Need a little nutrient variety? Try fava beans! These Mediterranean beans have got great sources of valuable vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B-6, selenium and potassium. Like other beans, they are also rich in fiber, protein and satisfying carbohydrates.

Specific Health Benefits:

Help lower “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol

-Have essential nutrients that help body utilize vitamins efficiently

Contain L-dopa, a known chemical used in treating Parkison’s disease

Dish Recommendations: Fava beans are super flavorful! Try them anywhere you would use other beans, or for something new, give this Barley Risotto with Fava Beans, Corn, and Mushrooms a try

All that and soybeans weren’t mentioned once! It’s clear this list could continue on and on with the amazing health benefits of different beans. For now, focus on incorporating one new bean type into your diet each week. The host of recipes linked above will make this both easy and enjoyable! Let us know what your favorite recipe is in the comments below!

Image Source: Black Bean and Corn Salsa



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