Legumes, or beans, may just be nature's wonder food. Loaded with protein and fiber, they deliver a hefty dose of nutrition at a cheap price.

They're versatile—you can boil, stew, puree, roast, or pan-fry them—and for people who choose to or need to avoid animal products, they can be a great entrée alternative. They also store very well.

Whether you get them from a can, buy them in bulk, or grow them in your garden, this dietary powerhouse deserves some shelf space in your kitchen. Here are some easy ways you can add more legumes to your diet:


Many different cultures feature beans in their soups. Mexicans traditionally have enjoyed black bean soup, while Italians cook pasta fagioli, (pasta and beans). In fassoulada, a Greek recipe, white beans take center stage. Experiment with different types of beans and textures. Try some soups with whole beans tossed in and others with pureed beans.


Add a punch of protein to your salad greens. A half-cup of kidney beans lends substance to spinach greens; chick peas are a treat on top of any dinner salad; and salted, roasted edamame (soy beans) stand in for croutons as a crunchy lettuce topper.


Beans are hearty enough for meatless meals, and  work well in casseroles and with pasta. Bean-based recipes include various chilis (with or without meat), lentil burgers, and beans and rice.


Yes, beans can be dessert. A little-known secret of healthy cooks is to substitute a can of pureed black beans for oil when making brownies. The black beans don't change the color or taste of the brownies and add moisture and fiber to the chocolately treat while reducing its fat content. The Chinese also use sweet red bean paste in a number of desserts; check out your local Asian supermarket or restaurant for these treats.

How to Add More Legumes to Your Diet If They Don't Agree With You

There are ways to reduce the unpleasant intestinal gas that consuming beans can cause. Canned beans cause less distress than packaged dry beans, as the canning process removes some of the sugars that cause flatulence. If you prefer to cook your own beans, change the water several times during the process as the cooking water absorbs some of the gas-producing sugars. And simmer the beans slowly until they are tender for easier digestion.




Mayo Clinic. "Beans and Other Legumes: Types and Cooking Tips. Web. 16 June 2011.