Giving Your Heart Some Love with Legumes

By Brittany Lightsey, M.S., R.D., L.D.

February 2015

February - Child holding heartValentine’s Day brings a season of love. Why not show your heart some love this February? How, you ask? Try to eat more legumes. What are legumes exactly? Legumes are a heart-healthy food group encompassing beans, peas, peanuts, and lentils.

Why eat legumes?

  • Protein – ChooseMyPlate guidelines suggest varying your protein sources. Low in fat and cholesterol free, legumes are a great meat alternative for getting your daily protein. Just ¼ cup cooked beans is equal to one ounce of protein.
  • Dietary fiber – Legumes are high in dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber which promotes gut health and lowers cholesterol levels. Even better, they help you to feel full, meaning you may eat less calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods. This is sure to make your heart happy.
  • Iron – Helping to transfer oxygen in our bodies, iron is an important component of a healthy diet. Dried beans and peas are a great source of non-heme iron. Try pairing with food rich in vitamin C, such as broccoli to enhance absorption.
  • Bonus! Legumes are less expensive than other protein options like beef, chicken, even nuts and seeds. They are a great staple to keep in your pantry. Rice and beans make a great dinner in a pinch.

February - Bean HeartsI’m sold. What next? How can I eat more legumes?

  • Add them to soups or stews. Reduce the fat content of your favorite chili recipe by cutting down the amount of ground beef added and substituting with black or kidney beans.
  • Puree for dips and spreads. Have you or your children ever tried hummus? Essentially pureed chickpeas with garlic, lemon juice, and sesame paste, hummus is a great dip to make eating veggies more fun! Try dipping baby carrots or bell pepper sticks in hummus for a protein-packed afterschool snack.
  • Toss in salads. Try adding black beans and corn for a southwestern kick.
  • Roast for a crunchy snack. Chickpeas also make a great crunchy snack by themselves. Drain and rinse a low-sodium can of peas. Dry and spread onto a baking sheets. Toss in olive oil, sprinkle with salt. Roast on 400◦F for 25-30 minutes.

February - Child holding candyBlack Bean Brownies
For an indulgent Valentine’s Day treat, try this brownie recipe adapted from Whole Foods Market’s Flourless Brownie recipe. The black beans pack a punch of protein and fiber. Plus, the best part is – your kids won’t know the difference.

1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
3 large eggs
1/3 cup melted butter, more for the baking pan
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Optional 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8x8-inch baking pan. Place black beans, eggs, butter, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Remove the blade and gently stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until just set in the center. Cool before cutting.

Tip! Use a small heart shaped cookie cutter for portion control.

Store brownies in the refrigerator for up to three days.

February - Bean Brownies