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Spilling the Beans

They're inexpensive, versatile, and easy to prepare. So why aren't you getting enough of the beans most experts recommend?

 WHY YOU NEED THEM:

  • They'll make you strong. In addition to having the most fiber of any member of the vegetable family, beans have the most protein. Half a cup of beans packs the same protein potency as two ounces of meat, poultry, or seafood.

  • They'll keep you lean. Beans blast fat by filling you up, not out. After a meal, all that fiber fosters feelings of fullness, helping you to reign in your appetite and avoid unwanted snacks and desserts.

  • They keep you looking your best. Beans are a good source of antioxidants, compounds that annihilate dangerous free radicals that hasten cell damage and promote wrinkling and premature aging. Beans also contain compounds called phyto-chemicals that keep skin taut and toned, so you look even more buff.

  • They're good for your health. Eating beans regularly helps to curb your chances for heart disease, cancer, and type-2 diabetes. Research also suggests that beans may be good for your prostate, helping to keep it from enlarging and from making you feel as if you need to go all the time.

HOW TO GET MORE OF THEM IN YOUR DIET

  • Stir beans into salsa or guacamole and use as a side dish, condiment, or dip for raw veggies or whole-grain crackers.

  • Make healthy "refried" beans. Sautè chopped onion and garlic in olive oil, add pinto beans, heat, then mash with a fork.

  • Toss beans with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a side to go with meat, chicken, or seafood.

  • Add one can drained, mashed, and pureed beans to one pound lean ground beef or 100% turkey or chicken breast. Then, use the bean-and-meat mixture in burgers, meat loaf, and Sloppy Joes.

  • Throw together a quick salad. Mix a couple of cups of cooked pasta, cooked chopped broccoli, warmed garbanzo or great northern beans, and olive oil in a large bowl. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

  • Hide them in your food. Puree cooked beans or lentils and use them to thicken sauce, soups, and stews.

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