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Beans & Greens Diet

By Michelle Kerns

While there is no specific diet or weight-loss program that focuses predominantly on meals of beans and dark leafy greens, both food types contain such large amounts of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that they are considered to be essential components of a healthy, balanced diet, particularly for vegetarians. Together, beans and greens are inexpensive to purchase, simple to prepare and can help contribute to weight loss and decrease the risk of a number of health conditions.

Beans

According to the Johns Hopkins Health Alert, all types of beans--including navy beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lentils, split peas, soybeans, garbanzo beans and lima beans--contain significant amounts of largely fat-free protein, both soluble and insoluble fiber, calcium, niacin, copper, potassium, folate, zinc and vitamin B6. Replacing animal proteins high in cholesterol with plant protein derived from beans is linked to lower cholesterol and saturated fat levels and a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Greens

Vegetables that fall into the category of dark leafy greens include collard greens, mustard greens, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, Swiss chard, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables have no cholesterol and are rich in potassium, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin C. The Colorado State University extension advises that a healthy diet includes eating one cup cooked or two cups raw leafy green vegetables at least twice a week. Their consumption is linked to a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer, osteoporosis and kidney problems.

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Vegetarian Nutrition

For both strict vegetarians and vegans--individuals who eat no animal products, including no dairy products, eggs and seafood--consuming enough iron can be a major dietary concern. Iron is found abundantly in animal products such as beef or shellfish. However, the Vegetarian Resource Group reports that if vegetarians and vegans make dried beans and leafy green vegetables a staple part of their daily diet, they easily will consume enough iron to prevent anemia, a common iron deficiency condition. The Vegetarian Resource Group also reports that the amount of iron the body absorbs can be increased if the iron-containing food is eaten at the same time as a food high in vitamin C. While we normally think of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons as being rich in this vitamin, good beans and greens partners like tomatoes, tomato sauce, broccoli and bok choy are also rich in vitamin C.

Weight Loss

Beans and dark leafy green vegetables are excellent choices when you are trying to lose weight. According to Peer Trainer, both are low-calorie and low-fat while providing a dense amount of nutrients and, in the case of beans, high-quality protein that contains no cholesterol. Because beans and greens are so nutrient-dense and contain such a large amount of fiber, eating them together in a meal will keep you satisfied--and prevent overeating--longer than eating starchy carbohydrates. The soluble fiber in both beans and greens absorbs water as it is passing through the digestive tract, slowing digestion and making you feel full longer.

Cooking Suggestions

Beans and greens are especially good when cooked together in soups and quick sautes. If you soak beans overnight in cold water, rinse and discard the discolored beans, cover the beans with fresh water, bring to a boil then partially cover and simmer until the beans are soft and tender, you can allow the beans to cool and store them in the refrigerator, ready for recipes with prepared dark leafy greens. Greens such as collard greens and spinach need to be carefully washed and their tough stems and veins need to be removed. Harder green vegetables, such as broccoli, can be chopped, then lightly steamed. Add them into stir fries with the beans and seasonings like garlic and red pepper, or boil several cups of vegetable broth and add your choice of ingredients into the pot with the vegetables. These dishes make enough for ample leftovers, are cheap and provide excellent nutrition.

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