While many people turn to meat for their protein fix, most don’t realize that beans are stocked with the macro too, plus a handful of other beneficial nutrients. In fact, every plant we eat has at least a little bit of protein in it!
While most plant foods, with the exception of soy and quinoa, are low in one or two of the essential amino acids (earning them the title of “incomplete proteins”), you can get enough of all these amino acids by including a variety of whole plant foods in your diet. When eaten in combination with other plant proteins these “incomplete proteins” become complete, and can be used in our bodies. Some examples of these complete proteins are in combinations that we commonly eat together, for example:
- Grains with Legumes (eg. rice & beans in a traditional Mexican burrito or crackers & hummus)
- Nut & Seeds with Legumes or Grains (eg. flax seed & oatmeal or chia seed, black bean, cocoa brownies)
It is important to note that you do not need to eat these foods at the same meal; eating a variety of vegetarian proteins throughout the day will work the same. This is because the liver can store amino acids until the appropriate components are present to carry out the proteins function. With this in mind, I recommend focusing on consuming a variety of protein sources each day.
Some plant foods have a lot of protein – like beans (also called legumes); and these inconspicuous superfoods also have many health benefits that animal sources do not. Namely, they are high in antioxidants, vitamins (especially B vitamins), minerals (chiefly potassium, magnesium, and iron), and fibre. Beans also do not contain the saturated fat and cholesterol found in most animal proteins.
Because these little gems are low fat and high fibre, eating beans as part of a heart healthy diet and lifestyle may help improve your blood cholesterol, a leading cause of heart disease.
Additionally, because beans have a lot of fibre (both soluble and insoluble), adding beans to your diet may help you feel full longer – a trait which is desirable for many. The fibre content of beans is seriously impressive; for example, just a half cup of cooked navy beans contains nearly 10 grams of fibre. Meat, on the other hand, contains no fibre at all.
Beans are so nutritious that the latest dietary guidelines recommend we triple our current intake from 1 to 3 cups per week. Don’t feel overwhelmed, that is less than 1/2 cup per day.
A Note on Tummy Troubles
Beans may get a bad rap for making people gassy, but that’s no reason to cut them out of your diet! Hear us out…
If you gradually increase the amount of beans you eat over several weeks most people will overcome these symptoms. Keep up eating beans regularly so your system learns how to digest them – the more often you eat these nutrition powerhouses, the less likely you are to experience tummy trouble.
One easy trick to help you tolerate beans- chew them well! Digestion starts in the mouth. Savor dishes containing beans in your mouth, and break them down physically with your teeth before swallowing, to begin the process of digestion.
Commonly Used Varieties
Black Beans are medium-size, oval-shaped beans with matte black skin. They are sweet-tasting with a soft texture.
Romano Beans are medium-size, oval-shaped beans with mottled tan and red skin. They are also called Cranberry beans. Cranberry beans are known for their creamy texture with a flavour similar to chestnuts. The red specks disappear when these beans are cooked.
Great Northern Beans are medium-size, oval-shaped beans with thin white skin. They have a mild, delicate flavour.
Dark Red Kidney Beans are large, kidney-shaped beans with a deep, glossy red skin. They have a firm texture, and they hold up well in soups or other dishes that cook for a long time.
Navy Beans are small, oval-shaped beans with white skin. They have a delicate flavour. These white beans were named Navy Beans because of their inclusion in the U.S. Naval diet during the second half of the 19th Century.
Pink Beans are small, oval-shaped beans with a pale, pink skin.
Pinto Beans are medium-size, oval-shaped beans with mottled beige and brown skin. Pinto beans lose their mottled appearance when cooked.
Small Red Beans are (you guessed it) small, oval-shaped beans with red skin. They have a more delicate flavour and softer texture compared to kidney beans.
Roasted Curried Chickpea Recipe
Fantastic as a crunchy soup, salad, chili, or stir-fry topper, or as a savoury snack to be enjoyed on its own, this recipe will make sneaking beans into your diet no sweat.
Yield: 16 quarter cup servings
Active Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
- 6 cups cooked chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 375 Degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, toss chickpeas with oil, curry powder, and salt. Cover 2 rimmed baking sheets with tinfoil. Spread coated chickpeas evenly across baking sheets. Bake until crisp and golden brown, 40–45 minutes, stirring midway.
Macros per 1/4 Cup Serving
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 3 g
Carbohydrates: 17 g
Sugar: 3 g
Fibre: 5 g
Resources for Further Reading: