We always hear that we need to eat more fiber. For most of us, it's true! The recommended intake for fiber is between 25 to 30 grams daily for most adults, but there are plenty of us who only get about half that. We've got to get it together: fiber is really important in maintaining a healthy digestive tract.
But why? First thing to know is that fiber is found only in plant foods. It's the indigestible, bulkier part of the plant. And because it's indigestible, it passes through our digestive tract without being broken down. And that's exactly what makes it so important. By adding bulk, it speeds up the transit time of food through our system, and that, in and of itself, can protect us from many illnesses. Fiber keeps us fuller longer too and it helps stabilize blood sugar levels. That's a plus for anyone with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and anyone watching their weight. And when it comes to heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and several other health problems, experts recommend a diet with plenty of fiber.
Cup for cup, beans have more fiber than whole grains. They're tasty and easy to incorporate into just about any meal plan. First thing to do is keep your pantry stocked with a variety of canned beans (look for no-salt-added versions if you're watching your sodium) and a few packages of dried beans. A great guide to the many varieties of beans and how to cook them can be found here
Here are some ideas for adding legumes (beans, peas and lentils) to meals:
- Throw a good-size handful of cooked beans or peas to just about any soup or stew. Some of my favorites are black, navy, pinto and kidney beans.
- Next time you eat a salad, reach for some garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas. Sprinkle a handful over the top and then toss with your favorite salad dressing.
- Simmer lentils in a prepared curry sauce. We have some awesome simmer sauces at our stores.
- Mash a can of vegetarian refried beans with some avocado. Add some cumin, a little organic sour cream, some sea salt and a dash of cayenne pepper. Use this as a dip or a spread for sandwiches and crackers.
- Mix red kidney beans with cannellini beans and cooked green beans for a great three-bean salad. Toss with cubed fresh mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette.
- Make a bean and veggie sauté using carrots, onions, garlic and broccoli florets in olive oil. Stir in some cooked black-eyed peas and season with sea salt and pepper.
- Steam up a bag of our 365 Everyday Value™ Edamame; then have at it…
- Serve buttered lima beans with dinner…tonight! The frozen baby limas are delicious.
- Sauté onions, canned diced tomatoes and green peppers in olive oil. Serve over cooked navy beans along with or instead of pasta, and top with Parmesan cheese.
- Make bean tacos by substituting black beans for beef (or at least for part of the beef). Great with grated cheese, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream and chopped lettuce!
- Or simply buy some of our delicious house-made hummus (chickpea spread) and add it to a sandwich or a wrap.
Here are a few recipes from our site that you might enjoy:
White Bean Crostini
All American Baked Beans
Black Beans with Kale and Ham
Rice and Beans
Be aware that the extra fiber in beans can cause gas or bloating, so go slow to start. When cooking dried beans, I recommend soaking beans for 12 hours or longer, then discarding the soaking water. Cook them in fresh unsalted water with no seasonings at all until they are tender. At that point, add chopped vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, or bell peppers, along with spices such as cumin, garlic, salt, pepper and fresh or dried herbs. Cook a little longer to make sure the flavors meld together.
Got a favorite way to eat beans? I'd love to hear about it!