The quick answer: Legumes are the best-kept secret in nutrition. Americans need to eat about ten-fold more legumes, about one serving daily. Learn how to do it and you’ll save your health as well as the pocketbook.
Last week I told the pathetic story of how the beautiful wife and I struggled to care for four grandchildren for a few days. This drove home a hard lesson: To provide healthy meals to the growing family, busy moms must stay organized and keep things simple.
Here’s the best simple meal we’ve eaten this week:
- Salmon (we try to eat seafood twice a week). We buy the whole fish, skinned, at Costco, divide and wrap it up in single-meal portions, and place them in the freezer—it’s the best value in seafood short of catching it yourself. This night we simply fried the fish in olive oil and butter with a natural blackened seasoning mix, and garnished a lemon off tree.
- Salad, made from Costco’s 7 Superfoods Sweet Kale mixture (the 28-oz package lasts us most of the week), with some red grapes added.
- Sweet potato (with a little butter and brown sugar).
This was as simple as a meal can be—I cooked the salmon while the BW made the salad and mic’d the sweet potato—and totally healthy. The only easier meal is leftovers and we do that too.
Best Nutrition Value
To mark the autumn season, we turn to the humble legume—the best nutrition value on earth and a star in the winter menu. The 2005 edition of the USDA’s DGA recommended 3 cups of (cooked) legumes a week. Later it was revealed that we’re only eating about 1/3 cup per week. Based on the gap between ideal and real, the 2010 DGA backed down to 1½ cup. No reason was given for the change so our own goal is to shoot for 3 cups, or about one serving daily. Here’s a summary of the reasons to eat legumes daily:
- Value: Legumes are flat out the best nutrition buy for the buck. I walked through the bulk bins of the local Sprouts and saw these bargains: 10-bean mix, $1.29/lb; pinto beans $1.49/lb; black beans, $.99/lb; and green split peas, $.99/lb. Remember these are dry weight so the cost per pound cooked is a fraction, as low as $.30/lb.
- Fiber: Legumes are a rich source of fiber. We should get 25-38 grams of fiber daily, depending on age and size. A ½ cup serving of legumes may contain 7-9 grams of fiber, or about 1/3 of the daily recommendation.
- Minerals: Legumes are a good source of minerals, including calcium and magnesium needed for bone health.
- Vitamins: Legumes are a good source for the B complex vitamins, especially folate (folic acid, or B9), vital to reducing NTD birth defects like spina bifida.
- Shelf life: A lot of toxic stuff is added to factory food to improve the shelf life. Good stuff, like omega-3 fats, is removed for the same reason. But traditional dried legumes enjoy a naturally long shelf life and are a good way to store food and avoid preservatives.
- Your own shelf life: In the “Food Habits in Later Life Study,” legumes were the only food group with a proven longevity benefit. For each 20-gram daily intake (about 1/3 of a serving), the risk of death was reduced 6% (for people 70 or older).
Well, you get the picture. Legumes, whatever the type, are high in nutrients and low in calories. Toss some garbanzo or kidney beans in your salads, or enjoy humus on whole grain crackers. Or try our recipe for Split Pea Soup with Hambone. If you want to get fancy, try this recipe for Roasted Salmon with Black Bean-Quinoa Salad, from The Bean Institute. How about that—the humble bean gets its own institute.
Please comment: Share your favorite legume recipe, or tell about your favorite legume.