Who doesn't remember reciting, "Beans, beans, the magical fruit..." or its fellow ditty, "Beans, beans, they're good for your heart..." in the schoolyard? Although many people hear these rhymes and think only of beans' gassy affect, there's great truth in these childish chants.
The nutritional benefits packed into beans are magical in that they're so comprehensive, and many of the ingredients have a positive impact on heart health.
"There are studies showing that people who eat more beans have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attacks," says Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D. and nutrition advisor for the Vegetarian Resource Group.
Beans, along with peas and lentils, are legumes, plants which produce seeds in a pod. They can be identified by shape: oval or kidney-shaped beans; flat lentils; and round peas. Green peas, green lima beans and green beans are not considered part of the bean classification because their content is more similar to starchy vegetables.
Legumes are commercially available dry, frozen and canned. Each requires different preparation methods, but beans, peas and lentils can be used in soups, salads, main dishes, side dishes and casseroles.
The USDA Food Pyramid recognizes beans as both a protein and a vegetable. A quarter cup of cooked beans equals one protein serving. A half-cup serving of cooked beans is considered half a cup of vegetables. Considered one of the most nutritionally complete food sources, beans provide vegetable protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, folic acid, non-lactic calcium, potassium and soluble fiber.
There are thousands of types of beans, each with its own nutritional profile. Here are some nutritional ranges for 100 grams of cooked beans from the U.S. Dry Bean Council:
- Calories: 115 – 164 Kgal
- Protein : 7.70 – 9.34 g
- Fats: 0.38 – 2.59 g
- Carbohydrates : 20.77 – 27.41 g
- Dietary Fiber: 5.3 – 10 g
- Calcium: 17 – 70 mg
- Iron: 2.09 – 2.89 mg
- Potassium: 291 – 508 mg
- Sodium: 1 – 7 mg
- Folic Acid: 83.1 – 207 ?g
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