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Beans and Other Legumes
Legumes are our second most-important food source (grains rank first). Humans consume huge amounts of both beans and grains, and use even more to feed livestock we raise for meat, dairy products and eggs.

 

 

The huge legume family includes the many varieties of beans, as well as lentils, peas and peanuts. Here we are concerned with the dry seeds of legumes that have been staples in our diet for thousands of years. (Fresh beans and peas are grouped with vegetables while products made from soybeans have their own section.) Beans, like grains, are easy to grow and store so they were among the first plants to be cultivated when humans moved from hunting-gathering to agriculture.

 

Seeds contain everything necessary to bring a new plant to life, so they are nutritional powerhouses for us as well. They provide vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, and are very high in fiber. They are good sources of the essential fatty acids and are the best plant source of protein. While most beans do not contain all of the essential amino acids, eating them with any grains yields "complete" protein. Our ancestors figured this out, since virtually every culture has devised tasty combinations of beans and grains that have provided sustenance for generations. Many of our favorite recipes today are based on these traditional dishes.

 

Most supermarkets carry a wide variety of dried and canned beans. They are equally nutritious. Dried beans are usually more economical, but they take longer to prepare. Canned beans are more convenient. It's your choice. Canned "baked beans" may contain added sugar and fat, so check the list of ingredients if this is a concern for you.

 

Beans come in lots of colors and sizes, and there are different popular names for some varieties. For example, chick peas are also called garbanzo beans or chana dal. All beans are cooked basically the same way and their flavors are similar, so they are usually interchangeable in recipes. Pick your favorite kinds or use whatever is available.

 

Most legumes are relatively low in fat, with most of their energy (calories) coming from protein and carbohydrates. However, soybeans, peanuts and some of their relatives are concentrated sources of fat and so may need to be limited by those who are trying to control their weight or cholesterol.

  Beans (Canned or Dried)
Adzuki beans
Appaloosa beans
Black beans
Blackeyed peas
Broad beans
Butter beans
Cannellini
Chick peas
Chili beans
Cranberry beans
Fava beans
Flageolets
Garbanzo beans
Great Northern beans
Haricot beans
Kidney beans
Lentils, brown
Lentils, French green
Lentils, orange
Lima beans, baby
Lima beans, large
Mung beans
Navy beans
Peanuts
Peas, whole dried
Pigeon peas
Pink beans
Pinto beans
Rattlesnake beans
Red beans
Roman beans
Soy beans
Split peas, green
Split peas, yellow
White beans, small
Mixed beans
Bean soup mixes
Bean soup cups
Canned bean or lentil soups
Baked beans, vegetarian
Chili, vegetarian
All other dried or canned beans

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July 30th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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