Save Money and Slim Down with Legumes

March 29, 2011

How to feed the family healthfully as we continue to see food prices rise? Try eating more legumes

As we continue to see food prices increase, here’s another way to save money while also boosting the nutritional profile of your meals… add legumes which are inexpensive, high in fiber (filling you up on fewer calories), calcium, iron, and also a great source of protein. Legumes include beans and peas, supermarkets now stock the usual navy, black, pinto and kidney to the more gourmet fava and cranberry bean. In the pea family, discover split peas or lentils, chick peas (garbanzo beans) and black eyed peas.

Combined these protein-packed choices with whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, or bulgur wheat, and you not only do you have a complete meal, but a full compliment of essential amino acids. Serve with a leafy green salad topped with colorful vegetables, think red, yellow and orange, for a well-rounded, healthy meal.

Another benefit of cooking with beans is their shelf-life. Kept in an airtight container, dried beans will keep for a long period of time. When purchasing and preparing, note that dried beans should exhibit good color and have no visible deformities. Many bean choices are also available canned, but be sure to check the ingredient listing for added ingredients like sodium and sugar.

Adzuki beans - small, round, reddish-brown legumes popular in Asian dishes. They are used to make desserts, such as red bean ice cream, and are great in soups.

Black beans - medium sized, oval beans with black skin and white flesh. Black beans are great in salsa, salads, and rice – and black bean soup, of course!

Black-eyed peas - medium sized, oval beans that are cream colored with a black dot. Very popular in Southern cooking, they can be served with rice or as a side dish, or in soups and dips.

Cannellini beans - white beans that hold their shape well and can be used in salads, sauces and stews – and make a great Italian white bean dip.

Chickpeas or garbanzo beans - medium sized, round beans that are beige and have a creamy texture. They can be made into hummus, or added to soups and salads.

Cranberry beans or shell beans - get their name from their varicolored appearance; white or cream in color with deep red or cranberry colored patterns, they turn light brown after cooking and are great as a side dish, in salads or with pasta.

Fava beans or Lima beans, broad beans and butter beans - work well in side dishes, soups, or salads.

Lentils - small, thin disk shaped that can be green, brown, red, orange, or yellow. The green and brown lentils hold their shape after cooking, while the red, orange and yellow lentils tend to dissolve. All lentils work well in salads, soups, curry dishes, dips and side dishes.

Mung beans - small, green legumes popular in Chinese cuisine - they are purported to have detoxifying effects - bean sprouts are sprouted mung beans.

Navy beans, Northern beans or Canadian white beans - small, white, oval beans used to make baked beans, soups, and stews.

Red kidney beans - medium sized, kidney-shaped beans that are dark red in color. They have a soft texture that works well in soups, salads, chilies, or rice dishes.

Soybeans - light tan or yellow when dried. They can be found in your supermarket’s freezer aisle as edamame - and are a great easy addition to any meal.

Split peas - small circular peas that have split into two halves. These peas can be green, yellow or orange in color. When cooked, they become very soft making them great for soups or curry dishes.