Appetizers

New Year’s resolutions that amount to a hill of beans

Vegetable White Bean Hash in the final stages of simmering. The recipe is from the Forks Over Knives website.
Vegetable White Bean Hash in the final stages of simmering. The recipe is from the Forks Over Knives website. Blair Anthony Robertson

If you’re struggling to come up with meaningful resolutions for 2016 (eat less, floss more, hit the gym, that kind of thing), you could start by adding something simple to your diet – beans.

According the website nutritionfacts.org, beans can solve a lot of problems. Sure, portion control and calorie restriction are keys to losing weight, but it turns out that simply adding legumes to your meals can bring additional benefits, including limiting a pre-diabetes risk known as “metabolic syndrome,” according to the website.

“Bean consumption is associated with lower body weight, a slimmer waist, less obesity and lower blood pressure in population studies, but whether the association of bean consumption with healthier body weight and risk factors of metabolic syndrome is due to physiological effects of the beans themselves or is simply an indicator of a healthy lifestyle is uncertain,” says the website. “Anyone smart enough to eat beans may be smart enough to eat all sorts of other healthy foods, so maybe bean consumption is just a marker for a healthy diet.”

That led researchers to pit caloric restriction against bean consumption and see if beans – including split peas, lentils and garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas) – could make you healthier. The bean group was assigned the task of eating more beans, while the calorie group in the study was asked to cut 500 calories a day.

Who won? Apparently eating beans is a really good idea and reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome even if nothing else about your diet changes.

Why am I writing this? For one thing, before I left home this morning, I began soaking a pound of dried beans in a pot. I will be making soup with them tonight in a pressure cooker, which is a time-saving way to cook them. If you’re looking for pressure cooker tips and recipes featuring legumes, check out hippressurecooking.com. The website’s Laura Pazzaglia has also written an excellent book, “Hip Pressure Cooking,” which includes several recipes and ideas related to legumes.

Another good resource is the website Forks Over Knives. In fact, I just made this recipe, Vegetable White Bean Hash, a couple of nights ago. It’s so tasty and healthy, this is the fourth time I’ve made it. In addition to beans, it includes kale and sweet potatoes. Last time, I used a minced onion instead of a leek and it worked fine. In fact, this recipe is easy to tweak. I also added garbanzo beans to the mix.

One of my resolutions for 2016 is to cut down on sugar intake and try to limit desserts to once a week. That’s going to be quite a challenge, especially since I just happened upon an amazing vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe at Food52. One of the websites I check regularly is by retired sports medicine doctor Gabe Mirken, who is no fan of sugar and suggests restricting sugar intake to times when you are exercising (i.e. during long bike rides, runs or hikes). In other words, if I want to eat more cookies, I need to ride more miles!

I started cooking with legumes much more about six months ago, when I decided to stop eating meat. I can attest that the health benefits are real and the variety of legume-based recipes is plentiful. Try the one I mentioned above and see what you think.

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob

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