Explore a World of Healthy Flavors this Monday with Beans

December 17th, 2012

They say variety is the spice of life — and nowhere is that more true than on your dinner plate! This Monday, try some new flavors with the help of beans. Not only are legumes a tasty, affordable entrée, they also pack a healthy punch of protein, fiber and other key nutrients. In fact, studies have shown that the fiber found in beans can help lower LDL-cholesterol and reduce your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

In addition, swapping meat for beans can greatly reduce your environmental impact. A pound of pulses –like lentils and chickpeas– requires just 43 gallons of water to produce; much less than a pound of chicken (469 gallons) or beef (1,857 gallons). Plus, dry beans and lentils produce significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than meat products (lentils, for example, create 0.9 kilograms of emissions, while beef averages 27 kilograms).

Legumes star in a wide variety of international cuisines, making it easy to reap these benefits while venturing outside your usual routine. Start your week by sampling something new with one of these traditional bean dishes:

  1. Originally from Turkey, Chickpeas are a key staple in a wide variety of ethnic dishes. Meatless Monday supporter Chef Marcus Samuelsson sang their praises in a recent Huffington Post article:

    “Chickpeas are an incredible source of vegetable protein, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that boost heart health and provide a substantial amount of iron, [and] potassium… It’s a highly versatile ingredient that can be made into dips, soups and breads, and can be roasted, stewed and even baked into cookies.”

    Follow Chef Samuelsson’s lead with his traditional Moroccan recipe for Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew.

  2. Dahl is a thick stew prepared from pulses that is common in Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi cuisine. Red Lentil Dahl is traditionally referred to as Masoor Dal and is both nutritious and easy to prepare. Get a serious boost of iron, protein, fiber and vitamins A and C in this well-seasoned, seasonal recipe for Pumpkin Red Lentil Dahl.
  3. Caribbean cuisine is known to be a diverse blend of African, Amerindian, European, East Indian, and Chinese flavors. Red beans and plantains are both important and healthful staples of the traditional diet and are even used in breakfast dishes! Experience a sweet and savory start to your day with this recipe for Mashed Plantain with Red Beans.
  4. Black beans are a known staple of Mexican cuisine, but they’re so much more than burrito filler! Each serving is packed with calcium, iron, folic acid and at least eight different antioxidants. Combine them with whole grains –like in this recipe for Black Bean Stuffed Poblano Peppers- and you’ll also enjoy the nine essential amino acids that make up complete proteins.