Let's talk about Beans!
Beans are one of the oldest foods in the human diet. They are thought to have been cultivated up to 9,000 years ago and are deeply entwined with many cultures worldwide. From the many beans that qualify as frijoles, to adzuki beans in Japan, to colorful lentils that make up India's delicious vegetarian dishes, beans nourish us and connect us to our roots.
Beans are incredibly nutrient-dense and one of the best sources of fiber available to us. Mung beans, for example, the un-sprouted version of the ever-popular bean sprout, have over 7 grams of soluble fiber per half-cup serving. Beans are also an excellent source of plant-based protein, especially when combined with any grain, because they provide you with all nine essential amino acids (the amino acids that your body cannot produce - you must consume these.) And if that wasn't enough, the average bean is high in essential vitamins and minerals, including folate (vitamin B9), thiamine (vitamin B1), iron, manganese, and magnesium.
Beans' high fiber content is especially exciting, considering soluble fiber has many health benefits. Fiber helps regulate blood sugar, leading to more consistent energy levels. It also helps to regulate your bowel movements, and most exciting of all (in my opinion), it can facilitate the removal of adrenaline from the digestive system. Adrenaline is typically recycled within the body with bile salts, but when fiber is present, it binds to that instead. This removal process relieves stress on your system and can quickly result in a feeling of increased calm. For more information on this particular topic, check out this podcast episode.
As a side note, when I say "beans" in this context, I'm referring to a legume category called "pulses." This includes legumes like lentils and chickpeas, but not peanuts or green beans.
On top of being extremely good for you, beans are a culinary delight! They can easily be incorporated into dishes year-round and from practically any culture. Some of my favorite recipes of late are this Lebanese dish - called Foul or Ful, this mung bean stew which lends itself exceptionally well to modifications, and this bright summery chickpea salad.
I hope this leaves you with a new perspective and curiosity about our humble, often-overlooked little dietary friend.
Go forth, and enjoy your beans!