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The benefits of beans

Johannah Sakimura

Beans are a staple of many countries because of their protein and affordability. This week on “Take Care,” we discuss the health benefits of beans and why you should be adding them to your diet with Johannah Sakimura.

Johannah Sakimura is a registered dietician who writes the Nutrition Sleuth column at Everyday Health. She has a master’s degree in nutrition from the Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition.

Beans are good for us, good for the environment because they’re a plant-based protein and also good for budget because they’re very low cost, Sakimura says.

“One of the star points about beans is the fiber content. One cup can provide anywhere from 14-20 grams of fiber, which can meet about half of your daily requirement just in this one food,” says Sakimura.

Fiber helps protect against heart disease, control blood sugar and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Eating plenty of fiber bulks up a meal and allows people to stay fuller longer, which is also beneficial for those watching weight.

There are many varieties of beans and many are similar. High in fiber, protein, and minerals like magnesium and potassium, beans pack a powerful punch.

When choosing beans Sakimura says that it is important to choose the ones that you like and that are available, but it is also good to get some variety in your diet and experiment with different types.

Beans are notorious for causing gassiness and bloating, which occurs due to short carbohydrate chains that make them difficult for humans to digest.

According to Sakimura, as you continue to eat beans your gut begins to adapt, so eating them frequently should result in a decrease in gassiness overtime. Sakimura suggests adding small portions of beans into your diet slowly to help these symptoms die off a bit.

“The dietary guidelines say that the average person should be trying to eat at least half a cup three times a week”, says Sakimura of beans.

Sakimura says that there are many ways to get beans into your diet including as an addition in soups, stews, chili and salads. She also suggests taking advantage of the convenience provided by canned beans.

“It’s really about getting creative with them”, says Sakimura.

Credit Johannah Sakimura

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

Recipe and photo credit: Johannah Sakimura, MS RD

You don’t have to pre-soak the beans in this hearty recipe – they cook up beautifully in your slow cooker straight out of the bag. Most red beans and rice dishes feature sausage, but this vegetarian version gets all that good, smoky flavor from a combo of smoked paprika, cumin, and chipotle peppers. Serve the beans over a bed of whole-grain brown rice for a double dose of fiber.

1 pound dried small red beans, rinsed

1 large onion, diced

2 green bell peppers, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 stalks celery with leafy tops, diced

2 to 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 Tbsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp ground cumin

6 cups water

Cooked brown rice

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients except rice and cilantro in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on high for 7 hours. Serve the bean mixture over rice and garnish with cilantro.