“Beans”—that’s shorthand for beans, dried peas, lentils, and other le­gumes—are nutritional superstars. Here are five reasons to eat more of them.

1. They’re plant proteins.

Beans are a solid source of plant protein. And they’re easier on the planet than red meat, poultry, and dairy.

2. They’re vitamin and mineral overachievers.

It’s not just fiber and protein. Beans are also packed with potassium, magnesium, folate, zinc, and iron. Is that a bargain, or what?

3. Hello, regularity.

Eating beans regularly is a good bet to help you stay regular. Beans have less water than fruits and vegetables, which makes them a richer source of fiber. Expect 6 or 7 grams of fiber in just half a cup of most beans. Most fruits or veggies have 1 to 3 grams per half cup. And bean fiber is better at preventing constipation than the processed fibers—like inulin, polydextrose, and soluble corn fiber—that companies add to many bars, cookies, shakes, and other beverages.

4. Be kind to your heart.

Beans help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, probably because they’re rich in the gummy, soluble type of fiber. Eating beans instead of red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) can help lower your risk of heart disease.

5. Load up on healthy staples.

The healthiest diets are LOW in red and pro­cessed meats, added sugar, salt, and refined grains, and HIGH in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, nuts, and beans.

The bottom line

Shoot for at least half a cup of beans most days of the week. For more on how many servings of beans (and other foods) are in the healthiest diets, check out our chart.

Trying to cook more beans and lentils?

Watching sodium? Draining and rinsing salted canned beans only removes about a third of the sodium. Look for “no salt added” or “low sodi­um” canned beans instead.

Want to keep things simple? Think of already-cooked beans and lentils as nature’s fast food. Grab one of our favorite supermarket finds to make things easy on yourself.

Want to start from scratch? Cooking beans is easier than you think. But starting with high-qual­ity beans is a must. Old beans won’t soften, no matter how long you cook them. Look for beans with smooth, unbroken skin. Then follow our guide to cooking dry beans and lentils.

Looking for bean recipes? Our Healthy Cook has loads of them. Think Greek Lentil Soup. Vegetarian Chickpea Tagine. Edamame & Crispy Tofu Bowl. Mmm. Beans, lentils, and other legumes play a starring role in cuisines from around the world. The recipes they inspire are easy, inexpensive, and a welcome break from the hum-drum.

Photo: Kate Sherwood/CSPI.

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