The newest version of recommendations to guide our food choices has one glaring omission, and that is its lack of emphasis on beans. There is a lot to celebrate in it, the ridiculously long way in which they chose to say it notwithstanding, but still. It’s nice to know that the government finally backs my recommendation to eat eggs, for example. And thanks, Michael Ruhlman, for never taking those previous sets of guidelines [which warned us against “the evils of eggs and their concerning cholesterol levels”] seriously.
Okay, so back to the beans. Did you know that English speakers aren’t the only people on Earth with fairy tales that extol the magic of beans? Not by a long shot. It turns out that there are magic bean stories in many, many languages. And I have an idea why that might be.
Beans are the only food on the planet that are rich in both fiber and protein, all at the same time.
Protein is a funny thing. Your goal is to eat high-quality protein, to remember that “you are what what you eat eats.” You are what you eat. And if what you eat has a crummy diet then you end up concentrating it straight up the food chain, into your mouth. This is not what you want. So items rich in protein need to have been sustained on a nutritious diet. Chickens, for example, need to eat bugs, worms and grass. That’s what chickens eat.
One way chickens that eat bugs, worms and grass can be identified is by the deep yellow-orange color of the yolks in the eggs they lay. If you crack open an egg and discover a yolk the color of a Post-it® note, you can be sure that the chicken who laid it never saw a sunny day. Feed a chicken “Special Chicken-K” cereal, and that’s what you get.
People who come home from Europe often remark on the gorgeous color of the eggs they ate, on their delicious and rich “eggy” flavor, and on how satisfyingly happy they felt afterward. That’s the mark of a nutritious egg that came from a nourished chicken.
Beans have a slightly different story, and that’s because they are nourished simply by the soil in which they grow. So your chances of finding and eating high-quality beans are a whole lot less complicated. Vegan and plant-based diets get a large majority of their protein content from beans and foods made from beans. But you don’t have to be a vegan to love edamame. Or hummus. Tofu sauteed in olive oil and soy sauce is sublime. Try some pasta e fagioli. Crockpot chili. Three-bean salad. Lentil soup. Cannellini beans with rosemary and red onion. Peanuts are a bean, too!
Look to the words to find the wisdom of the ages and to show what we already understand at some deeper level: Beans are magical. They’re good for your heart. The more you eat the better you feel. Try eating beans at every meal!