By Bonnie Brost
Get a healthy start to the New Year by adding more legumes to your diet. You can even join our southern neighbors in their New Year’s Day tradition of eating black-eyed peas for good luck and wealth.
While legumes are consumed by the kilogram in Africa and Asia, they’re gaining popularity in the Northland because of their great nutritional value. They pack such a nutritional punch that they’re considered both a protein and a vegetable. It’s recommended that we eat legumes at least two or three times a week.
Legumes, which are also called pulses, are a group of 12 crops that include dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas and lentils. There are many varieties of each and pulses are their seeds. These plants are known to add nitrogen back into the soil and they need minimal water to grow. Pulses are one of the most sustainable crops that farmers can grow.
Beans, peas and lentils are packed with fiber, protein, potassium, magnesium, folate, iron and phytonutrients. They reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol because of their soluble fiber. Blood pressure benefits because of their high potassium. Their magnesium can help keep our heart beat normal and improve blood sugar control. A serving of black beans has as much potassium as a banana and red kidney beans are loaded with more antioxidants than blueberries or pomegranate juice. Eating more beans instead of red meat may also help lower your risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Beans, dried peas and lentils contain less water than fruits and vegetables, which makes them a more concentrated source of fiber. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps you stay regular, lose weight and feel full longer.
Beans have a bad reputation of being “gassy.” That’s because they contain oligosaccharides, carbohydrates that our digestive enzymes cannot break down. Instead they are fermented in our gut and cause gas. You can reduce this effect by soaking dried beans and rinsing them very, very well. Rinsing canned beans well also helps. Split peas and lentils do not need to be soaked. It also helps to cook beans well and include them in your diet regularly to avoid gas.
I plan to make some black-eyed peas to celebrate the end of 2016, which the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations declared the “International Year of the Pulse.” Warm up to eating more legumes this season and into 2017.
This recipe was adapted from www.eatingwell.com. White beans or chickpeas can be substituted for the black-eyed peas.
Black-eyed Pea and Cucumber Salad
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups peeled and diced cucumbers (about 2 large)
14-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed well
2/3 cup diced fresh red bell pepper
2 tablespoons crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
Whisk oil, vinegar, thyme and pepper in a large bowl. Add cucumber, peas/beans, bell pepper, feta, onion and olives; toss to coat. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Nutrition facts: Servings, 6; serving size, 1 cup; calories, 105; total fat, 5 gm; saturated fat, 1 gm; cholesterol, 1 mg; sodium, 210 mg; potassium, 270 mg; carbohydrates, 12 gm; fiber, 3 gm; protein, 4 gm; calcium, 30 mg.
For New Year’s Day, substitute black-eyed peas for the white beans and celebrate the Southern tradition to bring good luck in 2017.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups onion, diced
1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (less than 200 mg sodium per cup)
2 8-ounces cans no-salt-added tomato sauce
14-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
2 cups water
½ cup red wine (optional)
15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
15-ounce can Great Northern or other white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups fresh baby spinach
½ cup whole-wheat elbow macaroni
2 zucchini, chopped (about 6-8 inches long)
2 teaspoons dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon oregano and 1 teaspoon Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Herbal Pizza & Pasta Magic seasoning blend)
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried basil
½ teaspoon turmeric
In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and sauté garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes and tomato sauce and water; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. If desired, add red wine at this point. Reduce heat to low and add beans, spinach, pasta, zucchini, oregano, basil, turmeric and pepper. Simmer for 40-60 minutes or longer.
Nutrition Facts: Servings: 15; serving size, 1 cup; calories, 120; total fat, 2.5 gm; saturated fat, 0 gm; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 150 mg; potassium, 480 mg; carbohydrates, 20 gm; fiber, 5 gm; protein, 6 gm; calcium, 55 mg.
Lentils make the meat go further in this recipe. I chose red lentils because they cook up quicker and blend in well. This recipe is much lower in sodium than most sloppy joe recipes and provides more fiber along with a great taste.
Sloppy Joes with Lentils
1 pound 90 percent lean ground beef or ground turkey breast
½ cup onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ cup water
8-ounce can no-salt-added tomato sauce
½ cup dry red lentils, rinsed
½ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground mustard
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
In skillet cook meat, onion and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Add water, tomato sauce, lentils, ketchup, vinegar, mustard, sugar and spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 60-70 minutes or until lentils are tender. Add more water as needed for desired consistency. Serve on whole-grain buns. This recipe works well in a slow cooker after browning the meat. Cook on low for 4-6hours to fully cook the lentils.
Nutrition facts (made with ground turkey)
Servings: 8; serving size, ½ cup; calories, 145; total fat, 1 gm; saturated fat, 0 gm; cholesterol, 35 mg; sodium, 125 mg; potassium, 450 mg; carbohydrates, 15 gm; fiber, 5 gm; protein, 18 gm; calcium, 25 mg.
Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian in the Wellness Program at the Essentia Health St. Mary’s-Heart & Vascular Center in Duluth. Contact her at Bonnie.Brost@EssentiaHealth.org.