Beans: 5 reasons to eat them

28 Mar 2024

Beans—the nutrient-rich seeds of legume plants—are one of our healthy kitchen heroes. Here are 5 reasons to make them part of your regular meals.

1. They benefit the environment

  • Beans and other pulses improve the soil in which they are grown by enriching it with nitrogen, which helps other plants flourish. By using pulses for intercropping, farmers can promote farm and soil biodiversity, while keeping harmful pests and diseases at bay.
  • They can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lowering the need for mineral fertilisers.
  • They help reduce food waste because they can be stored for relatively long periods of time without losing their nutritional value.

2. They are highly nutritious

To your plate, beans add:

  • Essential vitamins and minerals, especially B vitamins, iron, zinc and magnesium.
  • Fibre. Adding them to your plate can help you meet your fibre recommendations. They also add one plant point to your week.
  • Protein. They’re especially rich in the amino acid lysine, which complements the lower levels in cereals.
  • Polyphenols, particularly flavonoids and phenolic acids, which have potent antioxidant properties.

Mix it up! Each bean brings different types of polyphenols. For example, black beans were observed to contain primarily malvidin, petunidin and delphinidin, whereas the main flavonoids in kidney beans were quercetin and kaempferol.

3. They may help lower your risk of disease

Eating beans daily was linked to better health in several human studies.

  1. Heart health – lower levels of LDL cholesterol and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. (Marventano et al. 2017)
  2. Cancer prevention – a lower risk of colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer and a 49% lower risk of cancer mortality. (Papandreou et al. 2019)
  3. Gut health: Small trials found that adding whole pinto beans and chickpeas to people’s diets improved the composition of their gut microbiota. (Marinangeli et al. 2020)
  4. Longevity – a reduced risk of mortality from all causes. (Zargarzadeh et al. Adv Nutr. 2023)

How much? Aim for 1 to 2 portions of various beans, lentils and peas most days, in addition to your veg portions. One 80g portion of beans is 3 heaped tablespoons of haricot beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, butter beans or chickpeas.

4. They are convenient

  • Budget-friendly: Beans are one of the most affordable protein sources available. You can get a can of beans for less than £1 and dried beans are even cheaper.
  • Quick to use: If you’re short on time, canned beans are a lifesaver as they’re already cooked and good to go.
  • Long-lasting: They’ll hang around in your pantry until you’re ready to enjoy them.

5. For a taste of tradition

Humans have always loved beans. They originated about 8000 years ago in central Mexico and South America and have been a mealtime staple in many traditional dishes, often passed down through generations.

Around the world, beans are part of the culinary fabric of many countries:

  • Brazilian Feijoada – A hearty black bean stew, invented by Brazilian slaves from the scraps of leftover beans and meat.
  • Indian Rajma Masala A kidney bean curry, cooked with onion, tomatoes and spices like coriander, garam masala and chilli powder.
  • French Cassoulet An iconic, cherished and somewhat controversial dish made from pork and beans.
  • Nigerian Akara Savoury fritters made with black-eyed peas and dipped in pepper sauce.
  • Ghanaian Red Red – A tomato bean stew with dried crayfish as a secret ingredient!
  • And the list goes on! Egyptian Ful Medames, Italian Minestrone, Georgian Lobio

How we enjoy beans

Beans soak up all the flavours from the ingredients they’re cooked with and have a naturally creamy texture that’s so satisfying to bite into. We enjoy beans:

  • For breakfast, in a stew with seasonal veggies, aromatics and topped with fresh herbs, feta or an egg.
  • As a snack, roasted with spices or in a dip.
  • Mixed with grains and pasta sauces
  • In soups, blended or whole.

Bean-flavoured recipes



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