Emily Nunn is one of my favorite writers. Her Comfort Food Diaries is a classic and her Twitter feed is essential reading. I asked her what she's thinking about beans and health for the new year. - Steve
According to the food world, beans are having “a moment.” Well, pardon us, but beans—which are the world’s second most important food source, after grains/grasses— have been a mainstay in the Americas for centuries (and the Old World began cultivating and eating them about 10,000 years ago). There’s a very good reason for their longevity, too. Beans make the human body happy—and not in that fleeting I-just-ate-a-bag-of-Fritos way. According to Dawn Jackson Blatner, a Chicago RDN and author of “The Flexitarian Diet” and “Superfood Swap, “if you look at world nutrition, you’ll see that some of the healthiest countries consume beans as a part of their regular diet.” Beans are nutrient dense: they contain a cache of (plant) protein and fiber, vitamins and minerals (iron, zinc, potassium, and folate), and healthy phytochemicals and antioxidants that make them small but powerful disease fighters. “A balanced diet that includes beans may improve digestive health and decrease risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer,” she says. And for those of you who believe that lean meat is the only protein that will keep you at your fighting weight, Blatner adds: “Beans can keep you feeling full longer, which means greater appetite control. And in terms of calories (which are what matters when it comes to weight), they only have 125 per 1/2 cup.” Another plus: since beans, legumes, and pulses are a part of virtually every cuisine, there’s no lack of great recipes for preparing them. Bottom line: beans are not some crazy fad, but you’d almost have to be nuts not to eat them.