5 Delicious Ways to Eat a Cup of Beans Each Day
Beans are a foundational ingredient in the world’s blue zones, from garbanzo beans in Greek hummus to black beans in Costa Rican soup and soybean tofu in Japanese dishes.
Legumes are linked to longevity, and the reasons are clear: They’re naturally low in fat, rich in both protein and complex carbohydrates for a steady energy supply, and deliver plenty of fiber that can lower blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol.
Blue zones residents eat about a cup of beans a day, roughly four times as much as the rest of us.Blue zones residents eat about a cup of beans a day, roughly four times as much as the rest of us. Click To Tweet
But it can be easy and seamless to boost your daily bean intake. Here’s how:
Start by stocking your pantry
- If cooking dried beans takes longer than you like, canned beans are a great option. Buy a variety—black beans, chickpeas, cannellini, etc. Choose products without added salt, fat, or flavorings.
- Don’t forget lentils. They don’t need soaking and cook in about 20 minutes.
- Keep a block of extra-firm tofu (soybean curd) in the fridge for fast weeknight stir-fries. Miso paste, made from fermented soybeans, is a nutrient-dense probiotic that amps up flavor in soups, sauces, marinades, and dressings. It’s high in sodium, but a little goes a long way.
1. Use smart techniques for bean dishes that surprise and delight
Season and roast chickpeas for a crunchy snack that can also stand in for salad croutons. Pureed beans and miso paste can both thicken and flavor soups and dressings, so you don’t need to use cream or more oil. Our Caesar is a California-style salad that combines both of these techniques. It’s a nutritional powerhouse and a great gateway dish for bean skeptics.
2. For crowd-pleasing bean meals, think hearty comfort food
Long-simmered soup, stew, chili, and good ol’ Southern red beans and rice all benefit from the soft, creamy texture and earthy flavors of legumes. The fast, five-ingredient lentil gnocchi have all the pillowy-softness of traditional Mediterranean potato dumplings, with more protein.
3. Broaden your bean palate
Try a different kind of bean to make an old dish feel fresh again, or to discover a new field of meal options. Dried or canned black-eyed peas (which are actually beans) add visual interest and mildly nutty flavor. Fresh mung bean sprouts are faintly sweet and lend crisp, crunchy texture to salads and Okinawan rice dishes.Try a different kind of bean to make an old dish feel fresh again... Click To Tweet
4. Start early in the day
Blue zones residents enjoy beans for breakfast. Costa Ricans eat black beans baked into flavor-packed breakfast burritos, as well as the nation’s traditional rice-and-beans dish, gallo pinto. Our miso soup recipe draws from the experience of Okinawan centenarian women who make it for breakfast.Blue zones residents enjoy beans for breakfast. Costa Ricans eat black beans baked into flavor-packed breakfast burritos, as well as the nation’s traditional rice-and-beans dish, gallo pinto. Click To Tweet
5. Don’t skip dessert
Versatile beans are surprisingly effective in sweets. They can replace flour in baked goods like brownies—the subtle bean flavor disappears into the dish while they keep texture incredibly moist and add a hit of protein.
Adding a cup of beans to your daily diet is one of the cheapest, easiest and tastiest ways to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels and boost good gut bacteria. Just follow these simple strategies, try our recipes or experiment on your own, then add your favorites to your go-to meal repertoire. This way, you’ll discover bean-rich meals you absolutely love, which is key, since you may be eating them for many years to come.Adding a cup of beans to your daily diet is one of the cheapest, easiest and tastiest ways to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels and boost good gut bacteria. Click To Tweet
Tim Cebula is a former senior editor for Cooking Light magazine. His work has appeared in national and regional publications, including Time, Health, Food & Wine, Boston magazine, and The Boston Globe. He lives on the southern coast of Maine.