Beans and legumes are incredibly nutritious and versatile. While beans and legumes are very similar in many ways, they are not the same. Legumes grow in pods, while beans are seeds that can grow into plants. Beans and legumes can be used in a wide variety of recipes in different ways. Add them whole to stews and pasta sauces for a meaty heartiness, blend them into dips and sauces for a creamy texture, or bake with your favorite seasonings for a crunchy snack. Not only are beans easy to add to many recipes, they also come with multiple health benefits and are often an economical choice as well!
The Health Benefits of Beans
Great Source of Plant-Based Protein
Beans are a healthy, delicious option when it comes to plant-based protein. Just one cup of pinto beans contains 15 grams of protein. 1 If you are looking to reduce the amount of meat you consume, beans and legumes are a great way to ensure you are still getting the protein you need. Try adding beans to your favorite soups and stews, salads, pasta and rice dishes, and generously spread hummus on veggie wraps and sandwiches.
Regular consumption of beans and legumes may reduce your risk of heart disease. 2 This is due to the fact that a diet high in beans and legumes can significantly lower LDL (unhealthy) cholesterol levels. 3 Consuming a diet high in beans has also been linked to an increase in HDL (healthy) cholesterol levels and reduced blood pressure. 4 5
While further research needs to be conducted, initial studies suggest that consuming beans and legumes may improve gut health by increasing healthy microbiome bacteria diversity and strengthening the intestinal barrier. 6 7 A healthy microbiome with diversity in good bacteria is essential for proper immune function. 8 If you are looking to actively improve your gut health, try adding a few extra servings of beans and other legumes to your diet.
Start eating more beans today and get creative with your recipes. Not sure how to get started? Try the recipe below.
Tuscan White Bean Kale Soup
We love this Tuscan White Bean Kale Soup recipe with winter squash, leeks, lacinato kale and creamy cannellini beans. This hearty soup is very easy to make, 100% vegan, and gluten-free!
Recipe courtesy of Bastyr University.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ acorn squash, peeled and diced
- 6 cups veggie stock (low-sodium)
- sea salt & black pepper to taste
- 15 oz canned cannellini beans, drained (or 2 cups homemade cooked beans)
- 1 bunch of lacinato kale (about 3 packed cups), de-stemmed and cut into bite-sized pieces.
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- lemon wedges for serving
In a heavy-bottom stock pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and onions. Sauté for a few minutes until translucent and fragrant. Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves.
Add the acorn squash and stir well. Add vegetable stock and bring the soup to a simmer. Simmer for 15–20 minutes, until the squash is cooked and fork tender. Add the cooked beans, salt, and pepper.
Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
Taste and adjust seasonings with sea salt and black pepper to your taste.
Transfer two cups of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Add the puree back into the soup pot and mix to combine.
Add chopped kale and mix until slightly wilted.
Serve hot with a pinch of red pepper flakes and lemon wedges on the side.