The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
If you’re looking for a whole food that’s easy on the wallet, simple to prepare, versatile in meals and loaded with dietary fiber and protein, look no further than the humble legume.
A legume is a fancy word for the fruits or seeds of plants of the Fabaceae family, more commonly known as beans, peas and lentils.
Lentils: An Ancient Legume
Known for their lens-shape, lentils are an ancient edible legume dating back to 7000 BC. Because they are so rich in fiber, lentils help fill you up and stabilize your blood sugar. Not bad for a mere 30 cents per serving!
If you’re busy, lentils will become your new dinner staple because they require no soaking and can be on the table in 15-20 minutes.
You can find lentils in brown, green (French lentils), yellow, black and red varieties; however, the texture is not the same across the board. When cooked, brown, green and black lentils are firm, while red and yellow are soft and work well in blended recipes like soup, chili, veggie burgers, dips and spreads.
To prepare lentils, first rinse them in a strainer. Next, place one cup of lentils in a large pot with 2½ cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain well.
Beans: Nature’s Perfect Food
Not only do beans offer soluble fiber to help support healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, but they’re also loaded with B vitamins for energy and important minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.
Variety is the spice of life, so be sure to explore Heinen’s wide selection of beans including black, cannellini, edamame (soybeans), garbanzo, great northern, kidney, navy and pinto beans.
To prepare dried beans, soak them overnight in cool water. This helps speed up the cooking process and makes them easier to digest. If an 8-hour soak is inconvenient, you can “quick soak” the beans by boiling in water for one minute, then turning off the heat and soaking for one hour in a covered pot.
Whatever soaking method you choose, drain and rinse the beans afterwards and place in a pot with enough cool water to go about 2 inches above the beans. Turn the heat to low and stir gently and occasionally at a low simmer, partly covered with a lid, until tender. Cook time can range from 45 minutes to one hour. Drain well.
15 Simple Ways to Incorporate Beans and Lentils into Your Meals
Once cooked, beans and lentils keep well in your refrigerator for 3-4 days, or in your freezer for up to 6 months. The key is to have them ready to go so all you have to do is add them to meals or serve as a simple side dish.
Here are 15 creative ways to sneak more cooked beans and lentils into your meals with ease.
- Substitute for beef in these Lentil and Mushroom Sloppy Joes.
- Add a scoop to dinner salads or Buddha bowls.
- Stir into pasta sauce.
- Mix into tuna, egg or potato salads.
- Add to roasted vegetables hot out of the oven.
- Make this nutrition-packed Turmeric Lentil Chia Soup.
- Whip up this 5-minute, fall-inspired Creamy Pumpkin Hummus and serve with raw veggies or sprouted Flackers crackers. The main ingredient is Heinen’s chickpeas!
- Add to canned soup to balance out the salt.
- Mix with cooked quinoa or brown rice and serve as a side dish.
- Make homemade bean or lentil salad by combining chopped veggies, nuts and sliced kalamata olives. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
- Enjoy a healthy dose of antioxidants in this comforting Creamy Coconut Lentil Curry.
- Add to your favorite casserole or stew recipe, like this 30-minute Black Bean Butternut Squash Stew.
- Make plant-based tacos using seasoned lentils or black beans in place of beef.
- Fold into omelets or scrambled eggs.
- Blend white beans into this Pumpkin Patch Smoothie for added fiber.
Don’t let those bags of beans and lentils collect dust in your pantry! A little preparation is key to making them a regular part of your meals. Of course, you can always opt for canned beans or lentils if you’re in a pinch, just be sure to rinse them well to remove excess sodium.