Article by Chris Zellers
Prices are jumping at the gas pump, in the grocery store and just about everywhere. Finding cost effective nutritious meals seems to be getting harder however, beans are a good alternative to rising costs, and they make a healthy meal, snack, or side dish. The cost savings between ground beef and beans can be upwards of $5.00 per pound. Beans are a plant-based protein and are leaner than animal protein like chicken or beef. As a source of fiber, because beans are plants, they contain dietary fiber that American’s are lacking in their diet. Americans should consume 25-38 grams of fiber, yet on average fiber intake is only 10-15 grams per day. Routinely eating beans instead of animal-based protein is a good way to increase daily fiber amounts. Fiber supports a healthy digestive system and colon health because it keeps everything moving through the body properly. It also aids with maintaining a healthy weight, lowering cholesterol, and sustaining blood sugar levels. As a comparison of animal and plant-based protein, ground beef has 26 grams of protein and pinto beans have 21 grams of protein. While beans and red meat are comparable in protein, there is no dietary fiber in ground beef while beans have 16 grams. Recognizing differences in food choices can support prevention of chronic disease while expanding meal choices throughout the week.
The vitamins and minerals in beans support chronic disease prevention and a healthy lifestyle. Beans are rich in folate and potassium in addition to being high in protein and fiber. The folate in beans is important for making red blood cells and preventing birth defects during pregnancy. Women who are of childbearing age should be sure to eat folate rich foods, like beans regularly. The high amounts of fiber in beans can help to stabilize, lower, or prevent diabetes. The soluble fiber in beans helps to control LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol. Beans support good heart health, cancer prevention and control appetite. The high levels of potassium in beans assist with nerve function and muscle contraction as well as balancing water amounts in the body. There is twice as much potassium in one cup of white beans as a banana. Making beans part of a balance diet can save money and contribute to a healthy living pattern.
To maximize nutrient values, it is important to eat beans without a lot of sodium and fat added. Beans can be purchased fresh, canned, or dried. Canned beans often contain a sodium-based preservative but that’s not to say that canned beans are a bad choice. Often canned beans are cost effective or easier to prepare than fresh or dried ones. To avoid higher amounts of salt in canned beans choose low sodium or rinse under cold water to reduce salt content. When using dried beans allow time for the beans to soak so that they are not too hard when eating. Beans make a great addition to meals as a side dish, a dip for vegetables like hummus or as the staple of a plant-based main dish. Look for recipes that bring out the flavor of beans and think of creative places to add them like soups, salads, or casseroles to get a cost-effective healthy boost each week.
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
- 2 red peppers
- 2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Rinse red peppers under cool running water. Pat dry then remove stem end and seeds. Cut the peppers in half, then in half again.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the pepper section, flesh side down (skin side up) on the foil. Gently press the pepper sections down to flatten slightly.
- Broil on the top rack of an oven or broiler. Broil until the skins are blistered and charred. Remove the pan from the oven then cover the peppers with foil. Allow to stand 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
- Remove the pepper skins with a paper towel (this keeps the skins from sticking to your fingers).
- Place chickpeas roasted red peppers, garlic, salt, pepper, and 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth and creamy. If the mixture is dry, add 1 additional Tablespoon olive oil, then, process again.
- Serve Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with a variety of your favorite veggies! The hummus is also delicious as a nutritious spread on your favorite sandwich, example: tomato, spinach, cheese and hummus on multigrain bread.