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Pass the Beans!

Research continuously suggests that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial for cardiovascular health. The diet is abundant in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, fish, red wine, and legumes.  In this segment we will explore the benefits of legumes.  These little gems are a nutritional powerhouse that all of us can easily include into our diets.

If you are watching your weight, beans can be very helpful. They are low in fat but high in fiber and protein, a great combination for weight control. While providing essential nutrients, they have a low-glycemic index which will help keep blood sugar leveled and reduce hunger. Since they are slow to digest, beans can help you feel full for a longer period of time, nature’s own appetite suppressants!

Here are some ways even the busiest of us can incorporate beans into our meals:

  • Add them to salads.
  • Make them with pasta. This will reduce the amount of carbs you eat without eliminating them.
  • Use pureed cannellini beans in soups instead of cream.
  • Crunchy Chickpea snacks: Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and drain 2 cans of chickpeas, pat them dry with a paper towel, toss them with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. Place them on a baking sheet and bake. After 10 minutes “shake” pan to rotate the peas and bake for about 7-10 more minutes or until golden brown. Cool and enjoy…kids love these too!
  • Puree your favorite variety of beans with olive oil, lemon, and garlic to create a delicious dip for crackers and vegetables. This also makes a delicious sandwich spread.
  • Have a meat-free meal by making a bean soup. Sautee onions, celery, and carrots in extra virgin olive oil, add one 28oz can of crushed tomatoes, one can each of rinsed and drained red kidney, white cannellini, and chickpeas.  Add desired amount of broth and simmer.  You may have this alone or with a short variety of pasta, either way, satisfying, delicious, and convenient!

Cathy Rienzi

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