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We all know that there’s no one best food for weight loss. But one comes awfully close. A recent meta study in the Americal Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined data on approximately 1,000 overweight adults over the course of six weeks. It found that those who consumed a daily serving of beans lost three quarters of a pound more than those who did not. Coincidence? We think not.
Of course, this isn’t the first time beans have been lauded for their health benefits. In fact, there’s so much evidence in support of beans that 2016 was named the International Year of Pulses. Beans provide a healthy dose of protein and filling fiber—10g of fiber in a half-cup of cooked navy beans, and 9g of protein in the same amount of cooked lentils, a winning combination for waistlines. Not too shabby, eh? In addition, most types of beans boast high amounts of important nutrients, like potassium, calcium, vitamin C, and iron.
Despite high accolades, some of us avoid beans like the plague for fear of flatulence. And yes, it’s a concern: our digestive tracts aren’t designed to effectively break down the sugars in beans (oligosaccharides), so the beans pass through to the colon, undigested, where various bacteria begin to break them down. This, plus a higher dose of fiber, and, well, you know the rest. But the bean-gas relationship may have been blown a bit out of proportion.
While there is an ongoing debate about whether to soak or not to soak beans, it appears not to make much of a difference as far as flatulence. What does, though, is being a consistent bean-eater. A 2011 study in Nutrition Journal found that most participants who ate a half cup of pinto or black eyed peas daily, and stuck it out for a few weeks, felt their flatulence was mostly relieved by the third week. Caveat: Drink lots of water to help all of that fiber move through your GI tract. And, hey, if sticking it out doesn’t ultimately work, there’s always Beano.
Don’t know where to begin with getting more beans? Here’s how to stealthily incorporate them into every meal of the day:
● Make a bean-filled breakfast bowl. A half-cup of any type of bean will fit the bill, plus avocado, tomato, eggs (cooked, beaten), olive oil and seasonings make for the perfect high-protein breakfast. Remember that one half-cup of beans provides a good percentage of your daily protein and fiber. Take it on the go in a mason jar, or toss all of the ingredients in a whole-wheat wrap for a satiating breakfast burrito.
● Wake up with a creamy AM smoothie. Whether or not you use protein powder, try blending black beans into a chocolate-flavored smoothie, or cannellinis into a vanilla-based smoothie. Incorporating a quarter or half a cup of your favorite selection should be sufficient for a single morning serving. Not only does it make for a creamy, protein and fiber-packed shake, but the flavor is totally masked by everything else in the mix.
● Dip with abandon–but not too much abandon! Bean-based dips and hummus to coat your vegetables is addicting. Make dips by cooking chickpeas, black beans–really any kind of bean–and smoothing them in a food processor. Roughly 2 cups of canned chickpeas—plus olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, and other herbs and spices, to taste—makes 16 one-ounce servings.
● Create a condiment replacement. Use the dip (above) as a healthier homemade condiment for lunch. Schmear it on sandwich bread slices instead of mayo, add a dollop to your salad, and any other opportunity you get.
● Make your mashed potatoes with white beans. While you don’t have to replace potatoes entirely, a 4:1 potato to can of beans ratio can make for some smooth, delicious mashed potatoes with additional protein and fiber. Trust us, this is no cauliflower mash. All you need are four potatoes (boiled and drained), along one can of white beans (washed and drained) and simmered with veggie broth and garlic. Then, combine for six delicious servings of your new favorite side dish.
● Get out the slow cooker and create some black bean enchiladas. This recipe from TheKitchn.com is one of the best around, and adds about 2 ounces of beans per enchilada.
For snack time and dessert:
● Roast some chickpeas. This idea is a personal favorite, and one of the simplest ways to transform squishy beans into a crunchy, portable snack. First, rinse canned beans. Toss them on a tray with olive oil, and sea salt. Preheat and bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Voila! These are so delicious that they can be easy to overeat, so stick to a half-cup serving size as a snack, which provides about 130 calories and 7 grams of protein.
● Black bean brownies, please. While not all recipes are created equal, black bean brownies can be a delicious dessert that far surpasses the regular kind with its nutrition profile. Black beans generally replace the egg and canola oil in your average brownie recipe, amping up the fiber and protein while decreasing the amount of saturated fat. There are incredible flourless recipes, as well as more by-the-book options to try out there.