Beans Good for the Heart

Beans Good for the Heart
Photo by Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune

“Beans, Beans, the magical fruit”... No, really.  Calorie to Calorie some beans have nearly the same amount of protein as ground beef. But wait, there’s more! One cup of cooked beans provides about 12 grams of fiber and very little fat.  Meat doesn’t contain fiber. The fiber and water content of the beans will make you feel fuller faster than their beefy counterparts. The fiber takes longer to digest, keeping you satisfied longer. Plus they have almost no saturated fat or cholesterol,  which we know is better for heart health.

In addition to iron and other essential minerals, beans are also high in antioxidants. These antioxidants combat cell-damaging free radicals in the body and can help prevent cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. In fact you’ll be hard pressed to find more antioxidants in the grocery store than a can of red beans, kidney beans or pinto beans. Black beans, navy beans, and black-eyed peas have a little less but are still good choices.  USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends Americans eat at least three cups per week.

It’s no surprise then, that in most of the rest of the world you will find a lot of bean dishes. Some Central and South American cultures eat beans at every meal, including breakfast. As an advocate of this kind of worldly (and healthy) thinking, we’ve put together a recipe of our own that taste great and covers all the bases.

KRU Red Beans and Rice


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup canned diced tomatoes (drain most of the liquid)
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (or water)
Hot sauce to taste (such as Tabasco)
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drain about ½ the liquid
1 cup rice (preferably brown rice)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are clear and very tender, about 5 minutes.
Add spices and cook 30 seconds. Mix in the tomatoes, water, hot sauce, and kidney beans, and simmer about 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has cooked off. Serve over rice with a small spoonful of sour cream on top, if desired.
Nutrition facts: Calories 610. Fat 2g. Dietary Fiber 13g. Protein 31g. Sodium 375mg.

Want more bean ideas?  Check out this recipe from Chicago Chef Rick Bayless.  We all know the value of protein in the modern diet. But fiber is just as important of a component. Remember, your body is keen on beans.

Josha Krueger is a NSCA-CSCS certified personal trainer, an AFPA Sports Nutrition Consultant, and owner of Kru Strength + Fitness.

Filed under: Nutrition

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