If you’re struggling to come up with meaningful resolutions for 2016 (eat less, floss more, hit the gym, that kind of thing), you could start by adding something simple to your diet — beans.
According the website nutritionfacts.org, beans can solve a lot of problems. Sure, portion control and calorie restriction are keys to losing weight, but it turns out that simply adding legumes to your meals can bring additional benefits, including limiting a pre-diabetes risk known as “metabolic syndrome,” according to the website.
“Bean consumption is associated with lower body weight, a slimmer waist, less obesity and lower blood pressure in population studies, but whether the association of bean consumption with healthier body weight and risk factors of metabolic syndrome is due to physiological effects of the beans themselves or is simply an indicator of a healthy lifestyle is uncertain,” says the website. “Anyone smart enough to eat beans may be smart enough to eat all sorts of other healthy foods, so maybe bean consumption is just a marker for a healthy diet.”
That led researchers to pit caloric restriction against bean consumption and see if beans — including split peas, lentils and garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) — could make you healthier. The bean group was assigned the task of eating more beans, while the calorie group in the study was asked to cut 500 calories a day.
Who won? Apparently eating beans is a really good idea and reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome even if nothing else about your diet changes.
Why am I writing this? For one thing, before I left home this morning, I began soaking a pound of dried beans in a pot. I will be making soup with them tonight in a pressure cooker, which is a time-saving way to cook them. If you’re looking for pressure cooker tips and recipes featuring legumes, check out hippressurecooking.com. The website’s Laura Pazzaglia has also written an excellent book, “Hip Pressure Cooking,” which includes several recipes and ideas related to legumes.
A good resource is the website Forks Over Knives (www.forksoverknives.com). In fact, I just made this recipe, Vegetable White Bean Hash, a couple of nights ago. It’s so tasty and healthy, this is the fourth time I’ve made it. In addition to beans, it includes kale and sweet potatoes. Last time, I used a minced onion instead of a leek and it worked fine. In fact, this recipe is easy to tweak. I also added garbanzo beans to the mix.
I started cooking with legumes much more about six months ago, when I decided to stop eating meat. I can attest that the health benefits are real and the variety of legume-based recipes is plentiful.
Making hash is a great way to use whatever vegetables you have left over from the night before. But in the case of this delicious recipe, it seems unfair to consider it just a dish of leftovers.
VEGETABLE WHITE BEAN HASH
Preparation time: 15-20 minutes; cook time: 30 minutes. From “Forks Over Knives — The Cookbook”
1 leek (white part only), finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons minced rosemary
1 large turnip, peeled and diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
Zest and juice of 1 orange
2 cups cooked white beans, or one 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped kale
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the leek and red pepper in a large saucepan and sauté over medium heat for 8 minutes. Add water 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan.
Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for another minute.
Add the turnip, sweet potato, orange juice and zest, and the beans and cook for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
Add the kale, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes.