By Debra Nessel R.D., C.D.E.
I am often asked for a list of “miracle” foods, something with
magical properties to ease the task of dieting. These days I find myself
touting the virtues of beans and lentils. A staple of many a global cuisines,
dried beans and lentils are extremely versatile. They can be made into
wonderful soups, stews, dips or spreads and are a great addition to salads.
Beans, peas, and lentils are from a family of vegetables called legumes.
They are produced in pods and the shape of the bean differentiates it
from other legumes. Usually beans are kidney-shaped or oval, while peas
are round, and lentils have a flat, disk-like shape.
Beans can be purchased either packaged in sealed bags and must be soaked
and cooked before using in a recipe. Or canned and pre-cooked, making
them convenient to use. Both possess the same nutrient profile. Beans
include varieties such as Pinto, Navy, Lima and Black beans, but surprisingly
not green beans, string beans or soybeans.
The benefits of including beans on a daily basis have recently been highlighted
as studies show beans help to reduce cholesterol while providing excellent
nutrition. When combined with nuts, seeds or grains, they form a complete
high-fiber vegetable protein.
Most beans contain at least 20% protein, about 7gms for ½ cup.
They can help lower your cholesterol level as they are one of the richest
sources of fiber and contain only 2-3% fat, making them the perfect “diet” food.
In addition, beans provide essential B vitamins and iron. Since they are
a high fiber carbohydrate they keep you feeling full while providing long
Some people avoid beans due to the intestinal gas or bloating they may
produce. But if you gradually increase the amount of beans you eat over
several weeks, you can overcome that concern. Since legumes have high
amounts of fiber, it is very important to drink plenty of fluids, especially
water, to avoid constipation.
Three Bean Spicy Chile
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
4 cups water
1 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 16-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 16-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
salt to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 26-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 cup non-fat sour cream
1/2 cup shredded light Cheddar cheese
1 bag baked tortilla chips, optional
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion,
pepper and carrot, cook until tender, about 5 minutes. . Add the jalapeno
peppers, garlic, chili powder and vinegar and cook for 2 more minutes.
Add the water, beans and cilantro. Stir in the cocoa powder, salt and
sugar. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the peanut
butter and simmer for 5 more minutes. Taste and adjust the salt. Serve
in bowls with sour cream, cheddar cheese and tortilla chips on the side.
Serving Size: 1 ¾ cups,
Serves: 8 Per Serving: Calories 322,
Fat 6 g,
Fiber 17 g,
Protein 18 g,
Saturated Fat 1 g,
Sodium 595 mg
For more information contact one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists
at the Torrance Memorial Specialty Center: 2841 Lomita Blvd., 3rd Floor,
Suite 335 • 310-891-6707