With fall having just arrived, it may be tempting to go into hibernate mode; as the temperatures drop, hiding under a blanket and eating lots of carbs may be more appealing that blending a smoothie and going for a run. But it’s important now more than ever to maintain a strong healthy body, as cold and flu season is right around the corner.
We all know that eating lots of fruits and veggies is important, but nuts, seeds and legumes are other categories of food that have enormous health benefits. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, these foods provide critical nutrients such as protein, iron and vitamin B12 that may be more challenging for you to get enough of. Even if you eat meat, subbing out meat for a bean or nut based dish just a few times a week can have tremendous benefits for your health and for the planet. I’ve always been a meat and potato person, but the more I incorporate beans into my diet, the less I find myself craving meat.
What are legumes?
Beans, peas, lentils, soybeans and even peanuts all fall under the legume category (other nuts such as Brazil nuts, pistachios or almonds are not considered legumes).
I understand that certain diets, such as the Paleo diet, discourage the consumption of legumes. My understanding is that the reason for this is that legumes contain phytic acid, which can impair the absorption of nutrients such as iron, calcium and zinc. Phytic acid is actually found in almost all plant- based foods, not just legumes. While it can impair the absorption of minerals to some degree, for a healthy individual with an overall balanced diet this should not be of any significance. While I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, I believe that it’s pretty safe to say that the benefits of legumes, and the majority of plant- based foods, outweigh any potential negatives. In addition, soaking dried beans for a few hours should help lower the phytic acid content.
Some of the benefits of legumes:
- Beans are dirt cheap. You can buy a large bag of split beans or kidney beans for about $2 at Walmart, or even cheaper if you go to a bulk food store. Add in a bit of brown rice and you have a complete protein source for under a buck.
- Beans contain lots of fiber. As the old saying goes, they’re the magical fruit! Actually, the majority of us get way less fiber than we should on a daily basis. A single cup of chickpeas contains pretty much a day’s worth of fiber. Once you start eating fiber rich foods regularly, your body will get used to it and you should actually notice a decrease in digestive issues such as gas, bloating or constipation.
- They can help you lose weight. Fiber rich foods like legumes promote satiety, which means that you will feel full for longer.
- They are nutrient dense foods. Aside from ear, most legumes also contain protein, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamins A and C and much more.
- They are non perishable. Fresh produce needs to be eaten right away, but you can keep canned or dried beans virtually forever.
- They’re a great addition to almost anything. You can make black bean brownies, hummus, peanut butter sandwiches, smoothies, chilli, soups, pastas, mixed bean salads… the list is endless. If you have a great bean recipe, share it in the comments below!
- Your body will thank you. Legume consumption can help lower cholesterol and lower the risk of diabetes, colorectal cancer and heart disease.
Personally I like to keep a few cans of beans on hand for a quick meal or snack idea, but if you’re concerned about BPA in canned products, opt for dried beans. Seeds and nuts share a lot of the same benefits of legumes, so don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. I’ve included one of my favorite vegetarian chili recipes below, which is perfect for a fall afternoon. Happy autumn!
Vegetarian Chili Recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 tablespoons chili seasoning (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 red pepper, finely diced
- 3 cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
- 1 cup dried kidney beans
- 1 cup dried white kidney beans
- 1 cup dried black beans
- 1 small can of whole kernel corn (you can sub frozen or fresh corn)
- Soak your beans overnight (or use canned beans if you like)
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over low- medium heat. Sautee the onion, garlic, and celery and add in cumin, chilli seasoning salt and pepper when tender (you may also add in some chilli peppers for an extra kick). Add the red and green peppers and continue to saute until the peppers are tender.
- Transfer everything to a large pot and add in your tomatoes. Continue to cook over medium heat for about half an hour or simmer on low for two hours.
- Add in your corn about ten minutes before you turn the heat off. Garnish with fresh avocado, cheese or sour cream and enjoy!