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Eat Your Beans!
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If you’re anything like me at the beginning of a new year, the list of foods I vow not to eat pretty much dwarfs my list of acceptable edibles. Of course, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but that’s the way it often feels as I gaze at the leftover holiday goodies and then try to refocus on the fresh fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. Thankfully there’s at least one food that I should actually consume more of this year. To those of you who also resolved to lose weight in 2009, allow me to introduce you to your new favorite food— the bean.

Kidney beans, navy beans, black beans, pinto beans, great northern beans, garbanzo beans, and oh-so-many more. The extensive variety means you’re sure to find a bean you like. Besides that, uses for beans abound. From baked beans to bean burritos, from bean soup to beans on cornbread, your taste buds won’t get bored any time soon.

One of the best things about beans for the perpetually hungry dieter is their ability to fill you up and stick to your ribs. That’s because they are complex carbohydrates and chalk full of dietary fiber. While satisfying your hunger, the fiber in beans helps to lower the harmful LDL cholesterol in your body, while not touching the beneficial HDL cholesterol. It also combats a myriad of digestive tract problems, including constipation and colon cancer.

Excellent Source of Protein

Beans become an excellent source of protein when eaten in combination with grains. (Try beans wrapped in whole grain tortillas, beans and pasta together in a hearty soup, or beans served over brown rice.) The advantage of consuming your protein through beans instead of meat is that beans are 100% cholesterol free and extremely low in fat. Beans provide a guilt-free and delicious means of increasing your protein consumption.

Besides their fiber and protein, beans pack plenty of vitamins and nutrients, including folic acid, calcium, magnesium and iron. Unfortunately, canned beans, while convenient, do include a fair bit of sodium. Some of this sodium can be reduced by rinsing the beans thoroughly, but the best alternative is to soak and cook dried beans yourself.

This year rather than dwelling on dietary deprivation, let’s focus on all the healthy foods that are good for us to fill up on. Among other things, let’s learn to love beans.

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Hannah Henry. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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