The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Beans

ingredients and nutrition Apr 25, 2022
Dried beans

Confused About Beans?

As you are looking to begin a plant-based diet, you may see or hear a lot of advice about eating more beans. But what exactly are beans, where do you buy them and do they cause gas? It’s natural to have questions if you’re not used to eating much beans or have only tried 1 to 2 kinds on your plate so far. And there’s actually quite a bit of confusion surrounding beans. Let’s now take a look at the five most frequently asked questions about beans, so that you can get the basics down about beans, and move forward with confidence in your plant-based diet transition! 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Beans 


FAQ #1: Are Beans & Legumes the same thing?
You might hear the word ‘legumes’ being thrown around a lot when you start plant-based eating, but what does it really mean? Are ‘legumes’ just beans, or what’s the difference (if any)?

Here’s the answer: no, beans and legumes are not two terms meaning exactly the same thing. The term ‘legumes’ is actually a big overarching umbrella word that covers 3 major categories – soybeans and peanuts; fresh peas and fresh beans; and pulses. Pulses are edible dried seeds from the legume family such as lentils, dried beans, dried peas and dried chickpeas (also known as garbanzo bean or Bengal gram). So, in a nutshell, beans are legumes, but not all legumes are beans!


FAQ #2: Are Beans a Vegetable?
This is a great question, but one that’s not so easy to answer. And since we tend to think of vegetables as being green, we naturally think of fresh or canned green beans, sugar snap peas and snow peas as being vegetables as well.

Technically though, as we’ve already seen, beans are really part of the legume family, so this sets them apart from vegetables. Beans also stand out in the area of protein, because they have a particularly high protein content. For example, just one cup of cooked black beans already provides 15.2 grams of protein. This is equivalent to the protein provided by 26 cups of raw shredded fresh romaine lettuce! 

However, nutritionally speaking, beans are a lot like vegetables because they are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients which are beneficial to our health. For instance, in addition to 15.2 grams of protein, one cup of cooked black beans also provides 15 grams of fiber, 120 milligrams of magnesium, 611 milligrams of potassium and 256 micrograms of folate.This is why beans and other legumes may be sometimes classified as part of the vegetable food group.

Whether beans are considered a vegetable may also depend on what country you live in. For instance, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), beans, peas and lentils are considered a subgroup in the Vegetable Group based on their nutrient content. One cup of whole or mashed cooked beans is considered a vegetable serving. 2 However, in Canada’s Food Guide, beans, peas and lentils are considered plant-based protein foods, and included under the category of ‘protein foods’. 3 In the United Kingdom, the EatWell Guide also puts beans and pulses in the category of ‘protein foods’, stating that “Pulses, such as beans, peas and lentils, are good alternatives to meat because they're lower in fat and higher in fibre and protein, too.” 4 So categorization of beans can definitely vary by country!

FAQ #3: How and Where Do I Buy Beans?
There are many hundreds of different beans grown commercially, but the ones you will most readily find in shops would depend on where in the world you live. 

In the United States, some examples beans you may see more commonly are black turtle beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lima beans, and white navy beans. In Asian countries like Singapore and Taiwan, you may see more yellow and black soybeans, mung beans and red beans being sold. In Middle Eastern countries, fava beans, red kidney beans, and cannellini beans may be more readily available. 

You can buy beans in many forms such as fresh, canned, dried or even frozen. Check the supermarkets near you to see what types and forms of beans are sold. You can also look in farmer’s markets, in health food stores, or purchase beans from online retailers.

 

FAQ #4: Do Beans Give Gas?
Here’s the answer: it depends. If you’re not already used to eating beans and having a high fiber diet in general, it is possible that you may experience some gut issues at the beginning of moving to plant-based eating. This can include more gas, bloating or even loose stools. 

But not everyone experiences this. That’s because whether beans give you excess gas post-meal can really depend on many factors besides just your previous diet history. These include the amount of beans eaten in one sitting, how they were prepared, what other foods were eaten that day, and how sensitive your gastrointestinal (GI) system is in the first place. Beans also come in all shapes and sizes, so you may possibly also find some beans better tolerated at the beginning than others. So definitely give beans a try if you haven’t already!

 

FAQ # 5 – I Don’t Like Beans, So Can’t I Just Avoid Them?
If you don’t like the taste or texture of beans, you can definitely omit them and still enjoy a whole food plant-based diet. But the downside is that you’ll be missing out on many health benefits when you do! 

Here’s a suggestion – if you don’t like beans in the whole form, why not try them blended, mashed or prepared in other ways? It’s possible to prepare and use beans in different ways to make a wide variety of plant-based meals, so be open and willing to explore! There are also many other kinds of legumes you can try which have different tastes and textures. These include soybeans, chickpeas, split peas and various kinds of lentils. These legumes will also give many health benefits when consumed regularly. 

But if you simply don’t like beans because they tend to give you more gas and bloating, then know that there are some easy ways to address this. I’ll be discussing this more in an upcoming article, so stay tuned!

(Sources:

  1. Beans, black, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt. USDA FoodData Central. Published April 1, 2019. Accessed April 20, 2022.
  2. Vegetables. MyPlate U.S. Department of Agriculture. Accessed April 20, 2022.
  3. Eat Protein Foods. Canada’s Food Guide. Government of Canada. Modified October 14, 2020. Accessed April 20, 2022.
  4. The EatWell Guide. National Health Service. Reviewed January 28, 2019. Accessed April 20, 2022.)


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