Lentils, peas, and beans
Lentils, peas, and beans can provide a protein-rich boost to your diet. What’s more, they’re delicious and can be eaten in many different ways.

By: Body - Performance Nutrition - 11/15/2018

One of the many reasons to include lentils, peas, and beans in your meal plan is that they can provide a protein-rich boost to your diet.  They contain healthy carbohydrates and fiber, plus valuable minerals such as potassium, iron, magnesium, and folate.  These foods—also known as legumes or pulses—can help balance your blood sugar and keep you fuller longer, which is especially helpful if you're trying to lose weight.  Eating legumes also might lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and even some cancers. Legumes are inexpensive too.  At just pennies per serving, they're cheaper than other forms of protein.  What's more, they're delicious and can be eaten in many different ways.

When you go to the commissary or grocery store you will find them in the following forms:

  • Dried.  These varieties always require cooking, and cooking times vary.  For example, lentils and split peas cook in about 10 minutes.
    Tip:  Avoid having to soak legumes—and save time—by cooking them in a crockpot instead.

  • Canned.  Keep low-sodium or sodium-free varieties on hand for salads and soups.
    Tip:  Cook instant brown rice, mix with black or red beans (drained), and season with garlic for a quick meal. You can dress up this meal by adding avocado and tomatoes.

  • Specialty packs.  In a hurry? Grab ready-made meals, pastas, and bean blends from your local grocer. Remember: Ready-made foods usually cost more, and they're typically higher in sodium.
    Tip: Add one cup of sodium-free beans to your specialty pack, which lowers the total amount of sodium per serving.

Legumes help keep you "regular" too.  A half-cup serving contains roughly 25% of your recommended daily fiber.  A word of caution:  one carbohydrate in legumes ferments in the gut, often causing gas.  However, this usually diminishes if you eat them more often.  If gas becomes a problem, cook legumes thoroughly, rinse them well, and gradually increase your fiber intake.

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 1–3 cups per week (depending on age), so try to eat legumes more often.  Also make sure to check out the easy recipes at the Bean Institute.

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