by Krystal Hawks, ETC blog contributor

 

I’ve have always been a fairly simple and healthy eater. That all changed when I went to college. Well, more so the healthy part. I went off on the much beaten path of Ramen Noodles and pizza, but I found my way back on the healthy trail and eventually discovered a nice bridge between the two.

Throughout college I experimented with many new foods and different ways of cooking. One semester, when I ran out of money on my meal plan before Thanksgiving break, I rediscovered many cheap, nutritious foods, that I quickly learned to love.

During those six weeks as a starving college student, I welcomed new staples into my diet: brown rice, oatmeal, beans, and scrambled eggs. Oatmeal for breakfast, eggs after a workout, rice and beans for lunch, beans and barbeque sauce for dinner, flavored oatmeal for snack. Then I got bored and it became beans for breakfast with scrambled eggs, oatmeal after a workout, rice and beans for lunch, bean quesadillas for dinner, scrambled eggs as snack.

Even after I spent winter break at home and came back with a renewed $1,200 worth of meal plan, I found myself eating beans quite often. They’re easy, fast, cheap, and nutritious.

Beans have so many benefits and are, what I consider to be, a superfoodthey can count as both a protein and a starchy vegetable source!

Fiber

The soluble fiber in beans binds to the cholesterol in your GI tract and prevents it from being absorbed in your blood. Most importantly, the high fiber content in beans helps you stay full AND regular. Additionally, beans cause a slower rise in the glucose levels in your blood after a meal, helping with diabetes prevention and management.

B Vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate)

Help you convert your food into energy, boosts your good cholesterol, and decreases inflammation.

Antioxidants

Protect against free radicals that could damage your cells and lead to cancer.

Potassium

Beans are a good source of potassium, which naturally removes sodium and water from your system, therefore decreasing your blood pressure.

Magnesium

The high magnesium content in beans aid in nerve function and blood pressure regulation.

Beans are one of the most nutrient-dense foods per calorie and per dollar!

Many may be wary of beans for fear of flatulence…we all learned that beans were “the musical fruit!”  In reality, only about half of bean eaters experience gas, stomach pain, or bloating. Soaking beans, thoroughly boiling them, and preparing them correctly eliminates this worry. Additionally, drinking ample amounts of water will help your digestive system move all that fiber through. All in all, after your digestive system adjusts to a high-fiber diet, this problem diminishes greatly.

That being said, pass the beans, please!

Adding beans into your diet is a no-brainer and can be done easily!
  • Add some black or kidney beans to your omelet
  • Include chickpeas, edamame, black, or kidney beans into your salads
  • Use hummus as a dip, or try bean and corn salsa
  • Spread sandwiches with hummus instead of mayonnaise
  • Make black beans seasoned with garlic, olive oil, and cumin as a side dish
  • Prepare soups with beans! Bean soup, lentil soup, white bean soup, minestrone soup, taco soup, chili. Mix any beans with veggies and create your own…the options are endless!
  • Supplement your meat dishes with beans! Try making tacos with half lean ground meat and half cooked black beans for more volume and fiber, but less saturated fat and expense!
  • Experiment with them in desserts! My favorite are black bean brownies, Healthy Cookie Dough Dip, and this bean-ified version of Buckeyes!

Click here to find more tasty bean-friendly snacks and treats!

 

There is almost no difference in nutritional value between cooked, sprouted, and canned beans. Just make sure you drain and rinse all canned beans before use. Also, be aware that some canned beans may have as much as 100 times more salt than dried beans you can easily prepare at home.

Beans are some of the most underrated foods at the grocery store, I recommend just about everyone pick some up today and investigate all the ways this superfood can enhance your diet! At the end of the day, we are all doing our best. Don’t give up. Love yourself. And #eatthechocolate (and beans).

Krystal is an undergraduate at Kent State University studying Nutrition and Exercise Science. She has a passion for working out and making healthier alternatives to her family’s recipes. Her ultimate career goal is to become a Sports Dietitian and show active individuals the importance of a balanced diet, that it doesn’t have to be boring, and all the benefits of well-being and health!