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The Surprising Superpower of Beans

Beans, which include peas, lentils and legumes, are some of the most underappreciated and overlooked foods around. Quite frankly, beans don’t get enough love. There are so many reasons to include them in the diet because they are among the healthiest foods we can eat. They are loaded with protein, fiber, B vitamins, zinc, and iron. In fact, studies have shown that people who eat more beans have a lower risk of heart disease. This is due in part to the soluble fiber found in beans which can help reduce cholesterol and plays a part in controlling blood sugar.  What’s more, the fiber content of beans can help aid in weight loss because of its filling nature, which increases satiety and leads to eating fewer calories. Additionally, that concentrated source of fiber can also help promote regularity. The benefits don’t stop there. Beans contain cancer-fighting plant compounds called isoflavones and phytosterols, which can help reduce cancer risk. 

The Mediterranean Diet, which is recommended by doctors and dietitians alike, suggests eating three ½ cup servings of beans a week. Meet your intake by adding beans to soups, salads and casseroles or replace meat with beans for an entirely meatless meal. Here is one of my favorite recipes to increase my consumption of this superfood. It’s a quick and easy soup, one that makes the rounds in my kitchen all winter long. 

Black Bean Soup (makes 4 servings)

  • 2 16-ounce cans low sodium black beans, undrained
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • Cooking spray or 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 16-ounce jar Newman’s Own Black Bean and Corn Salsa
  • 3 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, (optional)

Place one can of undrained beans and broth in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Heat a medium saucepan coated with cooking spray or olive oil and sauté chopped onion and garlic until onion is tender (about 5 minutes). 

Add blended beans and broth mixture to the saucepan and add the remaining can of beans (undrained), salsa, lime juice, cumin, and red pepper flakes (if using). Bring soup to a boil and reduce heat to low then cover. Simmer for about 25 minutes then serve topped with cilantro (if using).

Calories per serving: 240

Fiber: 10 grams

Protein: 12 grams

Content submitted by Janyce Gately MS, RD, LDN, CHC