Laura Masullo, R.D
Whether you plan your meals before a weekly trip to the grocery store or decide what to eat as you shop, the protein on your plate is probably one of the first items you think about. When most of us hear the word "protein," we usually imagine meat, poultry, or fish, and tend to forget about many great-tasting, nutritious plant proteins-especially legumes. Legumes are beans and peas, and some common varieties include kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), pinto beans, split peas, lentils, and black-eyed peas. Legumes boast many health benefits, and with so many varieties to choose from, you'll always find a new way to make legumes the protein on your plate!
Beans and peas provide many nutrients found in both the vegetable and protein food groups, so they can count towards your daily intake of either. Similar to other vegetables, they contain potassium, folate, and dietary fiber, which are nutrients lacking in many Americans' diets. They also provide protein, iron, and zinc, which are typically found in meat, poultry and seafood. With their unique nutrient profile, it's easy to see why the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that everyone eat legumes, not just vegetarians. Note that lima beans, green peas, and green (string) beans are not considered legumes.
Most adults should aim to consume 1 ½ cups of legumes each week. Replace some of the meat and poultry you eat with beans or peas a few days a week. Varying your intake of protein foods can contribute to improved nutrient intake and other health benefits. Legumes are naturally low in fat and can be a healthful alternative to many animal-based proteins that have high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. Whether they're dried, canned, or frozen, legumes are a convenient and affordable way to make your meals more nutrient dense.
Not sure what to do with legumes? Campbell's KitchenSM has plenty of mouthwatering recipes that showcase a variety of beans and peas! Try making Two Bean Vegetable Chili for dinner, and save any leftovers for an easy and nutritious lunch the next day. Or if you're in the mood for soup, try a bowl of Campbell's® Condensed Lentil or Green Pea soup (made with split peas). This recipe for Black and White Bean Salad will be a hit no matter where you are, combining flavorful V8® 100% Vegetable Juice with some scrumptious black and white beans. Puree chickpeas to make hummus and enjoy them in this recipe for Whole-Grain Toast Triangles with Hummus. As you can see, legumes are versatile and make a tasty and nutritious addition to any dish.
Try something new this week-eat legumes!
Laura received her bachelor's degree in nutritional sciences from Rutgers University and completed her dietetic internship at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She worked for the Campbell Soup Company as an intern and contractor for two years, and is now pursuing her master's degree in human nutrition at the University of Delaware. Laura is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the New Jersey Dietetic Association.