Why Savvy Veg Loves Beans (and so should you)
Beans & Lentils – Nutritious, Delicious, Versatile, Cheap, Vegan – What’s Not to Love?
My bean adventures began in 1968 when I first went vegetarian. You’d have thought that I was eating food from another planet, beans & lentils (a.k.a. legumes) seemed so strange to me.
The only legumes that I had ever eaten, were the occasional canned baked beans, the ones with the piece of raw bacon inserted, and of course frozen peas (yes, those are legumes too).
Forty-five years later, I eat beans and lentils daily. They are a major source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals etc in my vegan diet.
I love legumes, I fervently embrace my inner bean, and it puzzles me that everybody doesn’t feel the same way.
Beans and Gas:
One major objection that people have to eating beans is the beans & gas issue, the source of the popular ditty, “Beans, beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel, so eat beans at every meal!”. Not.
Beans and gas is such a big issue that I wrote a report about it, and ten years later, it’s still one of our most popular publications.
I won’t go into all that here, because I want to focus on the all the great things about beans and lentils, a.k.a legumes. But download the free bean report – it’s an eye opener, and will start you on your way to loving legumes like I do.
Legumes are Cheap:
Pound for pound, beans and lentils cost significantly less than an equal amount of meat. 1 lb of beans is about $2 and makes 8 – 9 cups of cooked beans, or 16 servings. Hamburger averages $4 per lb, and has at most 6 servings. I think the lower cost is an advantage to eating beans, but not everybody agrees.
If you grow up eating beans because your family is too poor to afford the meat they want to eat, then you associate poverty with beans, and affluence with meat. That is the case in some developing countries, where being able to afford meat means you’ve made it into the middle class.
I grew up on the Canadian prairies, where my family was poor and middle class. My parents would have been embarrassed to feed their 5 children beans instead of meat. They would have felt like failures. My father bought half a steer and a pig every fall, had them butchered and frozen, and by Gad, that’s what we ate, like it or not. And milk. Nobody even dreamed of being lactose intolerant.
So when I left home and discovered that it is possible to eat beans and lentils instead, and save money on groceries, I was elated! Of course it took me at least 10 years to learn how to cook beans and lentils so they resembled food.
Legumes are a Healthy Nutritious Food:
Beans and lentils are low fat, low carb, low cal, low cholesterol, high in protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber – a miracle food for those who want to prevent or reverse any number of serious health issues (there’s a long list) – and still get enough protein.
Yes, if you ate a very small serving of animal protein with your whole grains and heaps of veggies, you’d get an equal amount of protein and a similar amount of vitamins and minerals. But also a generous helping of saturated fat, cholesterol, dangerous toxins – and NO FIBER!
Harvey M. Simon, MD, Harvard Medical School says that “men who eat beans regularly appear to have a reduced risk of prostate cancer, pre-cancerous colon polyps, and (in overweight individuals) pancreatic cancer. In these areas, legumes are the anti-red meat — and the same is true for metabolic abnormalities and heart disease.”
Legumes Are Versatile, Delicious, and Easy:
There are over 600 different kinds of legumes and more than 13,000 varieties in the world. Each variety has it’s own unique taste and nutrition profile, size, color, softness or hardness.
Almost all cultures use beans and lentils in cooking. There are so many ways to eat legumes, an almost infinite number of delicious dishes to make combining beans or lentils, grains, veggies and fruit – it’s dizzying.
Beans and lentils are easy to cook, using relatively little energy. The pressure cooker and slow cooker weren’t invented with legumes in mind – but they might as well have been, they lend themselves so well to bean cooking.
Many beans and lentils are also easy to sprout, enhancing their nutrition, and letting us eat them with little or no cooking.
45 years after first going vegetarian, and 10 years after launching Savvy Vegetarian, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the creative culinary possibilities in beans and lentils. I suspect that most vegetarian and vegan cooks would say the same.
Beans & Lentils a.k.a. Legumes are easy to grow, producing a high yield on a small amount of acres, with minimal water and labor. Anybody can grow, harvest and process them by hand from their own little plot of land. Once dried, legumes can be stored safely for years without refrigeration.
If all of the above is not enough to overcome your fear of gas and poverty, there are other factors to consider.
Legumes are Vegan and Eco-Friendly:
Obviously, no people or animals are harmed in the eating of beans & lentils.
What’s not so obvious is how the planet would benefit if most of us chose legumes over meat.
Producing meat, poultry and fish uses far more land, water and fossil fuels, and causes far more environmental destruction and pollution than growing plants for protein.
This has been documented by many writers – starting with Rachel Carson with her book Silent Spring in 1962, Frances Moor Lappé in Diet for a Small Planet, John Robbins in Diet for a New America and The Food Revolution, and more.
They keep on writing books and speaking the truth, but for the most part, nobody’s listening.
I say: Listen up! Eat your beans! Learn to love legumes!