Bean recipe

Eat Your Beans and 5 Beginner Bean Recipes

It’s true that beans don’t have the IGF-1 you may be looking for to maximize your strength gains, but you don’t need to stress about them being “incomplete proteins” unless you are literally eating plain beans all day long and nothing else. They’re not as calorically dense as meat, but most varieties are still around 25% protein, which is a great complement to an omnivorous diet and an excellent protein choice for plant-based eaters. Plus, you get the added bonus of all the other goodies that will support a healthy body that aren’t naturally occurring in animal products.

Eat Your Beans and a Top 5 Beginner Bean Recipes

By: Brooke Haubenstricker, BLOC Staff Coach

One of Brooke’s favorite parts of being a coach is adapting training to meet the individual needs of each lifter she trains. She places high importance on her clients’ overall quality of life, which can mean pursuing higher weights through traditional strength training methods or experimenting with alternative programming strategies while still having a foundation of strength. Her flexibility has made her a great fit for busy working parents, individuals with psychological disorders like depression and anxiety, and retirees who are looking to have fun, stay healthy, and keep up with their grandkids. Get coaching from Brooke.

Click here to jump to Brooke’s Top 5 Beginner Bean Recipes!

All beans are magical, not just the ones Jack stuck in the ground. Every little bean boasts a beautiful macronutrient and micronutrient profile and a burst of tasty flavor that’s so versatile it can be used in savory and sweet dishes—and it’s cheap to boot. So, why aren’t we all clamoring to get our hands on some beans? Probably because they’ve been overshadowed in our western culture by animal products and processed foods. Sadly, most Americans underutilize beans, relegating them to tacos and chili, treating them as filler instead of the culinary stars that they are. For thousands of years, beans have been at the heart of the hearth for countless civilizations around the world. Not only have beans proven to be a sufficient source of sustenance, but we would greatly benefit from upping our bean intake today.

Fiber Benefits

Arguably the most striking characteristic of beans is their high-fiber content. Fiber is a component of plant foods that can’t be broken down by our digestive enzymes. It’s found in a plethora of foods: whole grains, nuts, seeds, peas, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables, although some only have trace amounts. And there are actually two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water. It can help lower glucose and blood cholesterol levels.

Insoluble fiber can’t be dissolved in water. Because this fiber isn’t dissolved, it can help move food through the digestive tract, which is why if you’ve ever talked to your doctor about constipation, it’s one of the first things they mention.

Both types of fiber are found in beans, so that’s a big win. The amount of fiber in beans varies depending on the type, ranging from 5g to 9.5g per half cup of cooked beans.

Another wonderful benefit of fiber is that it’s satiating, meaning that it can make you feel full. When you eat meals higher in fiber, your hunger will be satisfied without eating as many calories, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. (Who doesn’t want to eat more food on a caloric deficit?)

Fiber has other potential benefits as well, such as reducing the risk of various conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and diverticular disease, but those are beyond the scope of this humble bean article.

Americans are massively under-consuming fiber across all age groups. According to the USDA, more than 90 percent of women and 97 percent of men do not meet recommended intakes for dietary fiber. As previously mentioned, fiber is only found in plant foods, and currently, the American diet revolves around dairy products, meat, and processed foods to a detrimental degree. It’s important to note that foods that normally have high-fiber experience a drop in fiber content when they’re processed. So, turning brown rice to white rice, fruit into juice, or even removing edible skin from fruits and vegetables decreases its fiber content. This is where a robust, high-fiber food like beans can step in to save the day.

Take a look at the chart below to figure out how much fiber you should be eating.

Daily Recommended Fiber Intake (g)
Age in YearsMenWomen*
2-31414
4-82017
9-132522
14-183125
19-303428
31-503125
51+2822

*Note: Dietary fiber intake recommendations are slightly different for women who are pregnant or nursing. See “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025,” pages 135 and 137, respectively.

Protein Benefits

A quick word on protein. The idea that plant-based protein is inferior to animal-based protein is completely blown out of proportion. It’s true that beans don’t have the IGF-1 you may be looking for to maximize your strength gains, but you don’t need to stress about them being “incomplete proteins” unless you are literally eating plain beans all day long and nothing else. They’re not as calorically dense as meat, but most varieties are still around 25% protein, which is a great complement to an omnivorous diet and an excellent protein choice for plant-based eaters. Plus, you get the added bonus of all the other goodies that will support a healthy body that aren’t naturally occurring in animal products like fiber, flavonoids, and certain types of vitamins and nutrients. If you’d like to learn more about plant-based protein, stay tuned for our upcoming plant-based article.

Getting Started with Beans

I’m sure by now you’re ready to jump on the bean bandwagon, but before you go all-out, keep in mind that your gut will need to adjust to the increased fiber intake. For the sake of those around you, consider gradually increasing your bean intake over time and taking a gas pill before your bean meals until your gut has built up the biomes it needs to break down beans without turning you into a fart factory. (Think of this process as putting your stomach on a fiber LP!)

There are a couple of other strategies you can implement to smoothly transition into a higher-fiber diet. One is to start with lower fiber beans, such as pink, white kidney, and small red beans, then work your way up into the higher-fiber beans. Another is to try soaking your beans. Check out this article by North Dakota University for different soaking methods. (Soaking your beans will decrease the cooking time.) Lastly, make sure you’re on a regular bean-eating schedule. Exposing your stomach to beans regularly will establish that desirable gut biome; infrequent consumption will leave you feeling the same after every bean meal.

Oh, also, don’t eat beans right before you work out. Or even a couple of hours before you work out. Make as big of a time difference between your bean meal and workout as possible. Or save the beans for afterward. Your underpants will thank you.

How to Cook Beans

This is a general overview of the different methods that can be used to cook beans. Specific soaking time, equipment settings, and cooking time varies depending on the type of bean you’re using, the method you’re implementing, and how soft or firm you’d like your beans to be. You can consult Google for those details.

Beans seem like a lot of work at first, but once you’ve figured out which cooking method works best for you, they’re a breeze!

Method #1: Stovetop

This is a great way to start cooking beans because it’s so cheap: all you need is a lidded pot. The downsides are that cooking requires a bit more time and attention than other methods, and soaking your beans beforehand is a must.

Method #2: Slow cooker

The slow cooker is a fantastic hands-off method for cooking beans, making it ideal if you want a low-effort meal that is ready to go after a long, busy day. But the longer cooking time can be impractical if you’re in a rush, and if left on too long, the beans can overcook and turn into mush.

Method #3: Instapot

Personally, this is my favorite method for cooking beans. It has the hands-off cooking of a slow cooker but at a fraction of the cooking time. Instapots are more expensive than slow cookers, but if you’re planning on eating beans regularly, it’s definitely worth the investment.

Method #4: Canned beans

Not a cooking method, but it’s technically the fastest and most convenient way to make a bean-based meal. Plus, it’s a good option for those who are just dipping their toes into the bean world. Just remember to rinse the beans in a strainer before eating or cooking with them.

Now, onto the good part!

Top 5 Beginner Bean Recipes

1. Chinese Vegetable Stir Fry, by Once Upon a Chef

Vegetable Beans Stir FryMake sure you prep all your ingredients first because this recipe pulls together in a snap! The nutty chickpeas effortlessly fill the role that chicken or steak would take in this stir fry, and you can easily swap out vegetables for your favorites. My go-tos are yellow onion, carrot, green bell pepper, mushroom, and corn.

2. Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quinoa Bowls, by Spoonful of Flavor

This is one of those dishes that looks super fancy, but it’s actually pretty straightforward to make, and it tastes like a full-on symphony of flavors in your mouth. Every element is so distinct but marries together beautifully for a totally unique food experience. I highly recommend having it with some corn too. If you’re not a fan of quinoa, you can swap it out for brown rice, and if you’re looking to cut corners, you can swap out the cilantro sauce for a cilantro cotija salad dressing.

3. Breakfast Hash with Veggies and Beans by Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen

Breakfast hash is a sneaky way to increase your bean intake without it stealing the show. A mellow bean (like pinto) will meld well with the soft potatoes and your choice of cooked vegetables, making this an ideal choice for people who aren’t quite in love with beans yet.

4. Afghan Kidney Bean Curry from The Curious Chickpea

This is an awesome recipe when you’re just super hungry and want to sink your teeth into some delicious big beans. To make this recipe less effortful, use ground spices instead of whole (1 ½ tsp coriander and ½ tsp cumin) and use crushed tomatoes or plain tomato sauce instead of using a blender.

5. Vegan Burrito Bowl by Purely Kaylie

Burrito bowls are another one of those low-effort crowd-pleasers that’s a solid staple in any kitchen. It’s easy to put leftover black or pinto beans and rice in a bowl, pop them in the microwave, throw on some vegetables and hot sauce, and you’re in business! You don’t have to be as fancy as this recipe, but it would be fun to check out if you’re looking for inspiration on how to up your burrito bowl game.

What are your favorite bean recipes? How have you increased your fiber intake? We’d love to hear from you! Make a post and tag us on Instagram @barbelllogic.

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