Eat more plant foods…increase dietary fiber…choose natural foods over processed…get your nutrients from whole foods, not supplements. For an easy way to follow all of this sound dietary advice at the same time, simply up your intake of foods from the legume family. Legumes, which include beans, lentils, split peas, green peas, and peanuts, are thought to be one of the first cultivated crops and have been consumed by people around the world for over 10,000 year, according to Tufts Health & Nutrition Update.
Unfortunately, legumes are no longer a staple food in most American diets. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults consume one to three cups of legumes per week (depending on calorie requirements), but average intake is less than one cup weekly.
Try these tips for adding more satisfying, health-promoting legumes to your diet:
-Keep canned beans on hand for a quick, no-cook protein for any meal.
-Rinse canned beans to reduce sodium content (and wash away some of the gas-producing compounds).
-Soak dried beans for at least five hours, drain and add fresh water, boil at least 10 minutes to break down antinutrients, then simmer until tender. (For dry red kidney beans, the FDA recommends boiling for 30 minutes.)
-Enjoy soups that star legumes, such as split pea or lentil, but watch the sodium levels if not prepared at home.
-Toss cooked legumes into soups, stews, and chilis, or onto salads.
-Don’t forget dips like hummus, white bean spread, and black bean salsa.
-Use tofu or tempeh in place of meat in stir fry dishes.
-Use refried beans or cooked black beans in tacos, burritos, and quesadillas.
-Snack on chickpeas (garbanzo beans) tossed with spices, cold or roasted.
-Try a tablespoon or two of peanut butter as a dip for carrots, celery, or apples, or spread on a banana or a slice of whole grain bread.
-Explore ethnic cuisines, where legumes like lentils are more prevalent.
-Increase intake of legumes slowly to avoid intestinal upset.