When was the last time you ate beans? If you’re like many Americans, you haven’t had them in a while — only about one in seven of us eat them on any given day.
I think this is a huge mistake, because beans and other legumes are an incredible food. They have pretty much everything we need to lose weight and restore health; plus they’re inexpensive and easy to prepare.
Nutritionally, beans are like the Swiss Army knife of food — they do just about everything. I'm so blown away by legumes' nutritional power that I believe they belong on everyone's table regularly. They even help with weight loss, which is why I recommend them in my new book, The Doctor’s Diet. Here's why:
How Legumes Put Weight Loss on the Fast Track
Legumes are packed with fiber. More studies than I can count have drawn a connection between high-fiber foods and weight loss. It’s pretty simple: Foods that are high in fiber fill you up, staying in your digestive system longer than other, more quickly digested foods. People who eat legumes are less hungry compared with people who eat low-fiber foods with the same amount of calories. Legume eaters also tend to consume fewer calories later in the day.
All this fullness translates to weight loss, as confirmed in a number of studies. For example, in a 2009 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, obese men following low-calorie diets lost about 50 percent more weight when their meal plans included legumes. And a 2008 analysis of nearly 1,500 people published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that bean eaters had lower body weights and waist sizes than non–bean eaters. In fact, bean eaters were 22 percent less likely to be obese than those who didn’t eat beans.
But beans are also more than just useful little packages of nutrients. In the kitchen, just about everything you couple them with gets better.
Beans: Your Secret Culinary Weapon
Although they’re tasty on their own, legumes really shine when they’re matched with other foods. That’s because they’re able to take on the flavors of anything you pair with them, from spicy chili peppers to fresh aromatic herbs to fragrant dried spices.
Say you’ve got a can of white beans. Sure, you can heat them up and eat them as is, mix them into soups, or toss them onto salads. But if you join them with a few other ingredients — including tastes from around the globe — you can transform them into some amazing dishes. In less time than it takes to grill a lamb chop, you can make beans the centerpiece of a meal.
- Mash them up with garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of fresh oregano, and you have a delicious Mediterranean dip for fresh vegetables.
- Toss them with avocado chunks, fresh salsa from your grocery store, and a squirt of lime, and you have the perfect Southern California side dish for grilled fish.
- Combine kidney beans and black beans with diced red onions, chopped jalapeños, cilantro, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for a zesty Tex-Mex three-bean salad.
- Lightly sauté them with garlic, fresh rosemary, and baby spinach for a flavorful Northern Italian sidekick to grilled chicken breasts.
- Stir them into tomato sauce flavored with mustard seed, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and turmeric for a distinctive Southeast Asian curry.
- Simmer lentils with canned or boxed vegetable broth, chopped vegetables (celery, carrots, onions), canned diced tomatoes, fresh ginger, paprika, saffron, and turmeric for a hearty Moroccan-inspired lentil stew.
- Turn everyday vegetable soup into a Tuscan specialty by mixing in kidney beans, garlic, chopped zucchini, and fresh basil.
I don’t know about you, but my mouth is watering just thinking about all of those incredible meals. In fact, I think I’ll make that curry for dinner tonight.
The Last Laugh
Everyone makes jokes about beans. But when you make beans and other legumes part of your diet, you get the last laugh.
While other people are making fun of them, you are getting an amazing bundle of fat-burning nutrients every time you eat them. Yeah, they may be the “musical fruit,” as we jokingly referred to them in grade school. But once you start eating them regularly, the music tends to subside, allowing their fantastic health benefits to shine through.
Excerpted from the book The Doctor's Diet by Travis Stork, M.D., copyright © 2013 by Bird Street Books, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.
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