Diets that include more plant foods, especially beans, have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and provide a source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, along with a host of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Here are four…
This small dried bean is part of the pulse family and can be found in a variety of colors including green, red, yellow, orange and brown. Brown and green lentils are the most versatile, while yellow, red and orange tend to get mushy when cooked and are best added to soups or sauces. Just 1 cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber. This means they digest slowly and help keep you full. The protein and fiber in lentils is also linked to better blood sugar control, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced risk of heart disease and colon cancer, and more.
A great snack with beer and found in all Japanese restaurants, this soy bean is one of the few plant sources with complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids. Edamame, or cooked soybeans, has 17 grams of protein per cup. It is also a good source of fiber and unsaturated fat. Sprinkle steamed edamame in pods with a little sea salt and enjoy it as an appetizer, or roast frozen edamame in the oven for a crunchy snack. Edamame can also be added to salads, stir-fries and more.
Tofu, or “tahu” as it’s called in Indonesia, is made from curdled soya milk and comes in block form in a variety of consistencies, ranging from silken (very soft) to extra firm. Three ounces of firm tofu contains 8 grams of protein. Try marinating it in your favorite dressing or sauce then baking, grilling or sautéing it in a pan. Firm varieties are great when baked or pan-fried, while softer tofu can be added to smoothies for a protein boost or scrambled on the stovetop. Tofu is found in numerous Indonesian dishes.
Considered one of the country’s most enjoyed ingredients and snacks, the textured soy product made by fermenting cooked soybeans is a superior source of probiotics, or naturally occurring healthy bacteria that come from the fermentation process. Tempeh has a firm texture, which makes it more similar to animal proteins and can be appealing if you don’t like the soft texture of tofu. Tempeh comes in flat, rectangular-shaped cakes and tastes nutty and sweet. Each 3-ounce serving has 16 grams of protein. Cut tempeh into cubes and stir-fry it with veggies or use the whole cake and bake or grill it. Like tofu, tempeh absorbs flavors easily, so it’s a versatile addition to many dishes.
One more potentially life-saving benefit of beans: they may help save the planet. Beef not only produces the most greenhouse gases of any food, but cattle, from which it’s derived, demand a substantial amount of agricultural land. While it is not expected that everyone will just abandon their meat and become a vegan, less beef is just healthy for Mother Nature, too.