Unique and tasty ways to cook with beans

Unique and tasty ways to cook with beans

Beans are an affordable, versatile pantry staple and plant-based protein source. They’re also easy to store and prepare and pack a nutritional punch.

“Beans are a great source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals,” says Corey Tolbert, RD, LD, a licensed and registered dietitian at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.

Tolbert says the protein and fiber in beans can help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. And their high fiber content can also support gut health since beans act as a prebiotic, a food source for good bacteria.

She notes that all beans contain similar nutritional components, so choose the varieties that best suit your taste and recipes. Here are a few to consider:

  • Black beans

  • Chickpeas or garbanzo beans

  • Cannellini beans

  • Navy beans

  • Great Northern beans

  • Pinto beans

  • Kidney beans

  • Lima beans

  • Black-eyed peas

  • Fava beans

  • Adzuki beans

  • Edamame

  • Soybeans  

  • Mung beans

How to incorporate beans into your diet

In some people, eating beans can cause gas and bloating. If this is the case for you, Tolbert recommends slowly incorporating them into your meals.

“Generally, the more you eat beans, the better your body will digest them,” she says. “Start with eating them one day per week. As you can tolerate that, add in another day.”

Tolbert also recommends soaking beans to release the lectins that can be hard for the body to digest. Here’s the soaking method she suggests:

  • Put the beans in a large pot with 10 cups of water.

  • Heat the water until it boils.

  • Turn off the heat and let the beans sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

  • Drain and cook or serve the beans as desired.

Consuming probiotic-rich foods can also help you digest beans more easily. If you’re currently undergoing cancer treatment, check with your oncologist, nurse navigator or dietitian to see if it’s safe to consume probiotics.

“If you’re experiencing increased bloating, diarrhea, excess gas or other gastrointestinal distress, I recommended cutting back on high-fiber foods, beans included,” says Tolbert.

How to use beans in recipes

Beans are incredibly versatile and can be used in:

  • Soups

  • Stews

  • Chilis

  • Pasta dishes

  • Salads

  • Tacos

  • Side dishes

  • Desserts (search online for black bean brownies or garbanzo bean cookie pie)

“You can substitute beans for meat in many recipes,” says Tolbert. “You can also find dessert recipes that use beans in place of flour.”

Here are a few Cancer Wellness-approved recipes to inspire you:

Check out more recipes and nutrition tips from Cancer Wellness experts.

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