Beans: The Protein to Ensure Health & Energy (Recipe Included!)

Cynthia Bailey, MD|January 11, 2016

Beans_MainI recently saw my health care practitioner for a check up, and she casually asked me how many grams of protein I was eating on a daily basis. I said, “Me? Protein? Please, I’ve been a vegetarian for over 35 years! I’ve got this!” So, of course, she nicely asked me to keep a log of my protein intake for a week. Needless to say, I fell very short of what she recommended! I could barely believe it, but it made sense once I really thought about what I was eating on a daily basis. Anyone trying to eat a healthy, mostly plant-based diet has to be mindful of getting enough daily protein. It's also a challenge for a vegetarian who is willing to include eggs and cheese in their diet if they have strong preferences like I do. For instance, I don’t like eggs. I also try to limit the cheese (because I can really over-do it), and I personally don't want to eat soy. I do eat seeds, nuts and nut butters, but I can’t cover all of my protein needs with the small portions I eat of these highly caloric foods. I’m also trying to be as grain-free as possible to reduce inflammation. It all adds up to the conclusion that the ideal plant-based protein for me is beans! Oh yay - eating beans 3 or 4 times a day doesn't sound very appealing! Anyone else trying to eat a more plant-based diet who cringes with me at the thought of eating lots of beans? Dr. Bailey recommends a healthy daily dose of beans in her Alkaline Mediterranean Food Guide. It all means we have to find a way to love beans because they really are that good for us. They are packed with protein, fiber and nutrients. See what Dr Bailey has to say about beans by clicking here to download Dr. Bailey's Food Guide for FREE after I teach you how to make a pot of beans you will love. How do we turn beans into an easy to digest, high protein, plant-based diet comfort food? Fortunately, I have found a trick to eating beans without the digestive adventures. I've also found a nice, well-rounded, yummy set of legumes to get to my grams of daily protein intake number up. Here is what I do: My morning “meal” is a super-food smoothie that includes a pea protein. I also am a big fan of lentils as they can become lunch soup or part of a lunch salad easily and tastily. I also really like chickpeas, black beans and cannellini beans. Check out some other great legume sources here. Another part of my “protein lesson” has been to sort out when to eat my protein so that I feel great all day. There is a little saying:

Breakfast like a king/queen.

Lunch like a prince/princess.

Dinner like a pauper.

This method of eating is actually very beneficial as a guide for when to eat protein. It allows me to keep my blood-sugar and energy steady during the day, which feels great. I wake up hungry and I go to sleep feeling well because my salad dinner is fully digested. It helps me avoid going to bed with an uncomfortable full stomach that impacts my sleep. I also don’t crash mid-morning or mid-afternoon and go reaching for a carb rescue. I’m never “too” anything for exercise or focused concentration. I’m out of the cycle of craving sugar and caffeine. Again, it's a very good plan to live by. Overcoming the digestive "drama" that gives beans a stigma (you know what I mean). The complex sugars present in beans are very hard for our human digestive system to break down, which results in, well, you know, gas - sometimes, a socially challenging amount of it. The trick to cut digestive gas from beans is to add kombu to the cooking water. The troublesome sugars are pre-digested and broken down by the kombu, making yummy beans easier for you to enjoy. Kombu is an edible kelp. Look for it in the “Asian” section of your grocery store. It is sold dry in a small package. An added bonus is that it has a healthy dose of minerals, and a particularly big dose of iodine. It also contains glutamic acid, which is responsible for “umami” taste. Some canned beans are actually precooked with Kombu such as Eden brand. When I cook dried beans at home, you can be sure I’m cooking them with kombu. How much kombu do I add to a pot of beans to help cut the gas-making properties of beans? A business card-sized piece is a sufficient amount for 1 to 2 cups of dried beans. You’ll see that it absorbs a lot of water and nearly triples in size in the cooking water. Once the beans are cooked, the kombu can be removed and discarded or chopped up finely and stirred into the beans. It’s all a matter of personal taste. To help you really understand what I'm talking about, here's a delicious recipe putting all the above into practice. Enjoy your beans and feel good about getting  a healthy dose of plant-based protein! Black Bean Recipe As I always say, I will never tell you what you should eat, only how to cook something to maximize its nutritional benefit. What do you think of this recipe? Please let us know in the comments below. Chef Sallouti has provided some excellent information for getting the most nutritional value out of beans. But, if you'd like to dig deeper into which foods to include into your daily diet and why, download Dr. Bailey's free guide, "How to Eat Your Way to Beauty and Health," that consists of information for building a healthy eating foundation. It includes a 14-day recipe model to get you started too! You won't regret it or the benefits it has on your skin and health! Chef Monica SalloutiCertified Natural Chef Monica Sallouti’s lifelong passion for delicious nutritious food comes from both her formal training and time spent in the kitchens of her two grandmothers as a young girl. She honed her culinary skills and nutritional education at the Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts program at Bauman College in Penngrove, CA. The specialty of nutrition for Chef Sallouti was sparked after a health crisis some 19 years ago. In her late 20’s, she was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. As part of her “treatment,” she developed a keen awareness of the inextricable link between food, cooking and health. Now, 19+ years later, Sallouti brings her knowledge, culinary creativity and care to both her clients.   The information in the Dr. Bailey Skin Care web site, and related links, articles, newsletters and blogs, is provided for general information and educational purposes only. It is the opinion of Dr. Cynthia Bailey, or other indicated authors. Consult your physician or health care provider for any specific medical conditions or concerns you may have. (This also applies to patients in her medical practice; the information here is not a substitute for, or an extension of, the medical care she provides for you.) Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here. Use the information and products on this site at your own risk. Use of this site indicates your agreement with these statements and the Terms and Conditions of If you do not agree to all of these Terms and Conditions of use, please do not use this site!

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