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It is easy to overlook the humble bean when preparing meals, but they pack an inexpensive and heart-healthy protein punch. We may think we already know all about what beans do and don’t have to offer, but think again! Let’s get to the meat of some myths that may be holding you back from incorporating more beans into your diet:
Myth: Beans don’t have enough protein to replace meat in a meal.
Fact: Different beans contain different amounts of protein. Most beans contain between 6 and 9 grams of protein per ½ cup serving. For comparison, one large egg contains about 6 grams of protein, and one 3 ounce serving of chicken contains about 20 grams of protein. So, while you may have to eat more beans to get the same amount of protein as a serving of chicken, most Americans eat more protein than their bodies actually need. Beans also have the added benefit of fiber that helps you stay full and keeps your digestive system running smoothly.
Myth: You have to combine beans with other foods every time you eat them in order to create a complete protein.
Fact: It is true that most beans are not considered “complete” proteins, with soybeans as the exception. A “complete” protein is a food that contains all 9 amino acids that are essential for your body to function. Even though most beans do not contain all 9 of these amino acids, you do not need to consume all of them in one food or even at one meal. Your body can absorb amino acids from one food and then get the rest from another later in the day. By eating a variety of beans and other foods such as grains throughout the day, you can be sure your body is getting all the building blocks it needs!
Myth: Beans are not as filling as meat.
Fact: One recent study showed that individuals who ate vegetarian meals with beans and peas as the protein source felt fuller than when eating meat-based meals of similar calorie and protein levels. This may be because beans are high in fiber, which help you feel and stay full!
Beans are generally less expensive than animal sources of protein and are extremely versatile, so why not give them a try at your next meal? We all know that beans go great in a comforting chili, but get creative and incorporate them throughout the day! Add beans to your breakfast burrito or egg scramble. Bulk up a cheese quesadilla with black or pinto beans for lunch. Turn a simple salad into a quick and filling dinner by adding garbanzo beans or soybeans.
Have more questions about how to incorporate more vegetarian sources of protein into your diet? Make an appointment with a registered dietitian at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.
-Madison Rivas is a dietetic intern at Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is passionate about preventing disease through nutrition and finding ways to remain connected to the land and people that grow our food.
1. Northarvest Bean Growers Association. Bean Nutrition Overview. The Bean Institute. 2017. http://beaninstitute.com/bean-nutrition-overview/.
2. Fulgoni VL. Current protein intake in America: analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003–2004. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(5):1554S-1557S.
3. Kristensen MD, Bendsen NT, Christensen SM, Astrup A, Raben A. Meals based on vegetable protein sources (beans and peas) are more satiating than meals based on animal protein sources (veal and pork) - a randomized cross-over meal test study. Food Nutr Res. 2016;60:32634.