8 Bean-Based Recipes & Products Dietitians Recommend for a Fiber and Protein Boost
Did you know that legumes actually pack more nutrients per gram than any other ingredient? It’s no wonder that beans are critical to communities living in “Blue Zones,” the areas of the world where people live the longest. The mostly plant-based diets from these regions typically include at least ½ cup of beans per day, which is at least four times more than the standard American diet.
Beans are brimming with health benefits
Canned beans are a naturally rich source of dietary fiber, they help promote digestive health, and they support weight management and weight loss. These benefits help reduce risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Soluble fiber can help to trap cholesterol in the GI tract, as well as help control blood sugar. Beans are also a good source of potassium, which helps promote healthy blood pressure.
And, given their high levels of antioxidants, canned beans can help prevent cancer, meaning not just a longer life, but also a healthier life. Black beans, for example, are naturally high in anthocyanins, the same compounds that also make blueberries blue — and antioxidant-packed.
Beans also pack a powerful plant-based protein punch while being a source of copper, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium, which are nutrients that many Americans don’t consume in adequate amounts. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating about three cups of legumes, including beans, per week, which works out to about ½ cup per day.
Introducing more legumes into your diet can be easier than you think. Canned beans can be used to replace some or all of the meat in many recipes, which reduces the dish’s cholesterol and saturated fat. For example, lentils can replace one-third of the meat in tacos or lasagna, black beans can serve as a total meat substitute in bean burgers, and pinto beans make great breakfast patties. Beans also take center stage in plant-forward favorites like hummus and chili.
If you need a little inspiration, the following recipes were all created by registered dietitians — and are fantastic, easy ways to add more beans into your diet.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, created this beautiful dip with spinach and cannellini beans. “The beans provide a mild flavor, add a nice texture to the dip, and contribute nutrients like fiber, protein, iron, and folate. To add flavor, garlic, lemon juice, and dill are mixed in. It’s perfect served with vegetables or with whole wheat pita chips,” says Amidor.
Brownies are an amazing way to include black beans into your dessert because the color and texture are a perfect match to help replace some of the fat with extra protein, fiber, and nutrients. These beauties are gluten-free, grain-free, and sugar-free as well for those with certain dietary restrictions. Even the fussiest eaters will not be able to detect beans baked into brownies!
“As much as my clients love a bagel, they always note feeling hungry shortly after,” says Elizabeth Shaw, MS RDN CPT. “But if they add a protein-and-fat combo of chickpeas on top of avocado spread on the bagel their satiety increases, keeping them fuller for longer,” says Shaw. We recommend using a whole grain bagel or even switching it up with a sprouted grain English muffin.
Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, created this rich-tasting broccoli soup that calls for a can of cannellini beans — but despite being extra-creamy, it contains no dairy at all. “It’s made from frozen broccoli florets and peas, garlic, green onions, fresh herbs, and vegetable broth,” Weiss says. “When everything gets blended together, the beans impart a lovely, creamy texture. By sneaking in a can of beans and omitting the usual heavy cream, the soup goes from a brew brimming with saturated fat to a nourishing soup with an impressive nine grams of fiber per serving.”
More and more companies are jumping on the bean-loving bandwagon to offer bean-based convenient snacks, too. Some of my dietitian-approved favorites include:
Bada Bean Bada Boom roasted broad bean snacks are packed with fiber and plant-based protein with 110 calories per serving and tons of delicious flavors, including Sweet Sriracha, Zesty Ranch, and Nacho Cheeze. They are gluten-free, vegan, and come in individual single-serve packs for on-the-go or larger bags for snacking at home.
These tasty, crunchy roasted chickpeas are vegan, gluten-free, and made with simple ingredients. For about 120 calories per ounce, they contain 4-6g of protein and 5-6g of fiber, with flavors like Rockin Ranch, Habanero, and Honey Roasted.
These crunchy, yummy lentil bites are dusted lightly with amazing seasonings to create flavors like Pink Himalayan Salt, Texas BBQ, and Falafel. A ¼ cup serving contains about 150 calories with 5g of plant protein and 5g of filling fiber.
For bean newbies, chips are one of the easiest ways to ease them into the diet. By swapping these bean tortilla chips for traditional chips, you’ll find 5g of plant protein and 4g of fiber per serving. Enjoy them with a bean-based dip, and you’ll be “double dipping” into the nutritional benefits.