Friday, March 13, 2009

Try "Beaning"!

Some of the simplest things in life can give us so much in return.

Such is the case for a simple substitution I have been making in a meatloaf recipe for 15 years--so simple, in fact, that it's easy to overlook as one of the best nutritional changes you can make to your family's diet. Just prepare the meatloaf recipe your family may have already come to know and love, but substitute 1/4 - 1/2 of the meat in the recipe with beans. I just chop a mixture of beans (usually whatever I have left over from making chile or burritos during the week--often a mixture of pinto beans, black beans and/or red kidney beans) with either ketchup, tomato sauce, or salsa (whatever the meatloaf recipe calls for) in my handy little
$10 mini chopper.

The benefits of replacing some of the meat with beans are evident, but are worth enumerating here:

1. Beans are an excellent source of protein, so replacing some of the meat with beans does not diminish the value of the protein in the meal. In fact, replacing animal protein with vegetable protein improves the health score of this meal for several reasons. First of all, animal protein (but not plant) is linked with saturated fat and cholesterol, which increases LDL-cholesterol. In contrast, the soluble fiber in beans lowers cholesterol. Second, homocysteine levels in blood (a by-product of animal protein breakdown) have been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Third, strong evidence has accumulated indicating harmful "meat factors" promote cancer. Fourth, high animal protein diets (but not plant) increase urinary calcium losses, contributing to osteoporosis.

2. Beans are one of the best sources of fiber, containing both soluble and insoluble fiber. Since fiber is only found in plant foods, replacing some of the meat with beans adds fiber to an otherwise fiberless dish. Soluble fiber helps reduce cholesterol and maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Insoluble fiber increases the transit time of food through the digestive tract, promoting a healthier digestive system, and can reduce the risk of some types of cancer.

3. Beans are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates of low to moderate glycemic index, providing an excellent increased source of energy from the meal.

4. Beans are a good source of calcium (for bones, teeth and muscle-nerve function), potassium (to help reduce blood pressure), folate (an B vitamin important for proper cell development in the fetus and homocysteine breakdown in adults).

5. Beans are less expensive! In this tough economic climate, don't overlook beans as a rather unappreciated jewel to help stretch the budget.

Oh, and did I mention they passed the "taste test" of my 3 boys with flying colors?

Once you try this recipe you may find yourself "beaning" other recipes too. For example, I gave "bean balls" a try on all 3 of my children when they were very young, and again all 3 liked them. I just added beans to the meatball recipe mix (which included onion, pepper and parsley--you can even add some parmesan cheese to the mix).

Start "beaning" today and begin to reap several rewards. In fact, why not share this simple and inexpensive idea with others and start a national "beaning" fad, a small step that can have a big impact on the physical health of the nation while helping people to stretch their budgets.

I would love to hear what people do with this idea--alternative ways to "mush" beans, other ways to add beans to recipes. Please share your ideas with others on this blog.

Happy "beaning"!



  1. Love the ideas, Diane. Will try the "bean balls." Yesterday, I made a fresh green bean, sugar-snap peas and tomato salad, which also included black beans. Added some chopped onion, lime and splash of vinegar.

    Another thing I like to do for mom's and children: mash some cauliflower in with the mashed potato, and most of the time, children love it, don't know, and is another way to get some veggies into the little tikes!
    Until next time, have a wonderful day.
    ~Anthony :)

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