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Publication #FSHN11-05

Shopping for Health: Beans, Peas, and Lentils1

Lakshmi Mahan, Lauren Foster, and Wendy J. Dahl2

What's the Big Deal about Beans?

Beans, one of the most wholesome foods in nature, provide a wide range of health benefits—they come packed with protein, fiber, potassium, and vitamins.(1) Naturally low in fat, they contain no cholesterol and are very low in saturated fat. Beans rich in color are also high in antioxidants.

Shopping for Beans

Beans, peas, and lentils are also called legumes or pulses. A wide variety of pulses is found all over the world, each with a unique color, shape, and flavor. Some commonly consumed beans, peas, and lentils are featured throughout this publication.

Figure 1. 

Black turtle


Credit:

Sarah Gilbert, used here under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Source: http://flic.kr/p/7j27P4.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 2. 

Cannellini


Credit:

Sarah Gilbert, used here under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Source: http://flic.kr/p/7kTEAc.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Beans, peas, and lentils may be available fresh, frozen, or, more commonly, dried or canned.

Figure 3. 

Red Kidney


Credit:

mtsn, used here under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC 2.0. Source: http://flic.kr/p/q5c89.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 4. 

Brown Lentils


Credit:

Jules Clancy / StoneSoup, used here under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0. Source: http://flic.kr/p/8Cvxiw.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 5. 

Pinto


Credit:

nemka, used here under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Source: http://flic.kr/p/7zqgDD.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 6. 

Chickpeas


Credit:

Judith Doyle, used here under Creative Commons license CC BY-ND 2.0. Source: http://flic.kr/p/7RXtSC.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Dried Beans

When shopping for dried beans, you should look for beans that are bright in color and uniform in size. Do not purchase packages with cracked or broken beans, as they might have been damaged by insects.

Canned Varieties

Various types of beans come in a canned form, including red kidney beans, white kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, and garbanzo beans/chickpeas. When choosing canned beans, those that are labeled "low sodium" or "no added salt" are the healthiest choices. For more information on reduced-sodium foods, see Shopping for Health: Sodium (EDIS #FSHN10-06) at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs154.

Beans and Nutrition

When deciding what type of beans to buy, consider nutritional content. Most beans have similar base nutritional values, being high in protein and fiber. Table 1 lists some common beans and their protein, fiber, and calorie contents.(2)

Meals with Beans

Beans can be used in a variety of ways, from salad toppings to main course dishes. Table 2 lists some good ways to incorporate canned beans into different dishes. Beans can also be incorporated into desserts, snacks, and convenience foods. For example, canned kidney beans can be mashed and added to canned pasta and tomato sauce, or even used to extend ground beef in burgers and meatloaf. "Low sodium" or "no added salt" canned beans work very well in cake and cookie recipes. See what follows for some great recipes!

Black-Bean Brownies

1 box brownie mix (plus additional required ingredients listed on box)
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, no salt added, drained and rinsed

Mash black beans with a fork until very smooth. Prepare brownie mix, following directions on the box, and stir in mashed beans as last ingredient. Bake brownies according to box instructions. Enjoy!

Birthday Cupcakes

1 box vanilla cake mix (plus additional required ingredients listed on box)
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, no salt added

Mash beans in a separate bowl with a fork until smooth. Prepare cake mix, following directions on the box, adding beans with other required ingredients. Mix well. Bake according to directions. Frost with choice of frosting.

Creamy Black-Bean Dip

1 container (16 ounce) fat-free cream cheese
1 can (15 ounce) reduced-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped tomato (optional)
¾ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash half the can of beans with a fork. Mix mashed beans with the cream cheese and cilantro until smooth. Gently stir in the rest of the beans. Before serving, sprinkle cheese and chopped tomato on top. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

Learn More

The Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) agent at your county Extension office may have more information. In Florida, visit http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/map/ to find your local county Extension office.

More bean recipes can be found at:

http://www.usdrybeans.com/

http://www.pulsecanada.com/food-health/recipes/

Reliable nutrition information may be found at the following sites:

http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu

http://www.nutrition.gov

End Notes

(1) US Department of Agriculture. Beans and peas are unique foods. 19 Aug 2019. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables-beans-and-peas

(2) US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Legacy. Version Current: April 2018. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/

Tables

Table 1. 

Protein and fiber contents of beans with average calorie counts per serving

Beans (½ cup serving)

Calories

Protein (g)

Fiber (g)

Red Kidney

110

7

6

Pinto

120

8

7

Black (Turtle)

120

7

5

Chickpeas

140

7

6

Split Peas

114

8

8

Lentils

110

9

8

Table 2. 

Adding beans to your meals

Bean Type

Use

Navy

Soups, stews, baked beans, purées

Kidney

Chili, three-bean salads

Pinto

Refried, stews, dips, Tex-Mex dishes

Great Northern

Soups, stews

Garbanzo

Salads, hummus

Lentils

Soups, stews

Footnotes

1.

This document is FSHN11-05 (the Spanish language version of this publication is FSHN11-5S: De compras para la salud: Frijoles, guisantes y lentejas), one of a series of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date June 2011. Revised May 2016 and August 2019. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Lakshmi Mahan, MS, Lauren Foster, BS, and Wendy J. Dahl, PhD, associate professor; Food Science and Human Nutrition Department; UF/IFAS Extension; Gainesville, FL 32611.

The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and reference to them in this publication does not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.