Whether we are health conscious or concerned about the planet, eating more legumes, and beans in particular, is a very good idea.
We often overlook the beans. We think of them as bland, a source of intestinal gas & bloating, and so complicated to cook with.
But the truth is that they are nuggets of nutrition:
Not only is their consumption associated with lower health risks, but they are a sustainable source of protein, making them a great alternative to animal-based food.
And finally they are wonderfully versatile to cook with.
So let me praise in a bit more details the benefits of the bean!
Its macronutrient composition is wonderful
It is a great source of protein, and when combined with a cereal (e.g., rice, wheat, corn), it will give you the whole set of amino acids you need for your body to grow, repair and function optimally.
It is very lean - not much fat in the bean. Which means that you can drizzle a good dollop of olive oil onto it with no fear.
It is full of complex carb: instead of giving a quick shot glucose in one go, it will drip-feed you the glucose over a long period of time, keep you fuelled and satiated until your next meal, with no highs or lows.
It’s a bomb of micronutrients
Rich in potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and zinc – beans are a much better way (cheaper and more efficient) to get your vitamins and minerals than a multi-vitamin supplement.
The iron and the magnesium will keep you energetic. To make the most of the iron, a good tip is to consume good source of vitamin C (e.g., broccoli, red peppers or citrus fruit) at the same time. It will increase the bio-availability of the iron (in other words, you will absorb more of it).
Zinc will support your immune function and will prevent low mood.
Potassium will keep your muscle healthy.
It provides powerful antioxidants
Beans are rich in polyphenols (flavonoids, tannins and phenolic acids) which are phytochemicals with antioxidative effects. Polyphenols have been linked to reduced blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, improved cognition, protective effect against cancerous cells, healthy skin and healthy eyes. If they are not considered as "essential" for your body to function, these polyphenols are certainly contributing to enhance our overall health and enjoyment of life.
It feeds everyone inside you
Beans are a great source of dietary fibre. We can't feed on dietary fibre but our gut microbiota (these micro-organisms that lives in our gut) thrive on it. And a happy gut microbiota makes a happy host! The beneficial bacteria play a huge role in our digestion, energy levels, immune function, mood. We definitely want them on our side.
It couldn’t be easier to cook
And to make things even easier, they are very easy to cook and can be added to almost any dish.
add them to stew to replace some or all the meat
serve them cold as a salad with a nice vinaigrette (go for 1 measure of red wine vinegar for 2-3 measures of extra-virgin olive oil)
use as a garnish to a hearty soup (try pistou soup, a classic provencal soup)
cook them the Mexican way as refried beans and eat with a toasted quesadilla
Use then canned - you simply need to discard the liquid and rinse them thoroughly (this is because some of the trouble-maker compounds - the ones that can generate some gut discomfort - will have leached out into the liquid) and they are ready to eat.
If you are starting with dry beans, leave them to soak for at least 12hrs, changing the water a couple of times (again, this will help with digestibility). Then cook them with a gentle simmer, until tender. This process requires a bit of planning ahead but you can cook a large batch and then freeze some for later use. next time you will need beans, they will be ready in no times.
 SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) (2015) Carbohydrates and Health Report, Public Health England. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-carbohydrates-and-health-report
 Public Health England & Food Standards Agency (2018) - National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Results from Years 7 and 8 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2014/2015 – 2015/16). Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/ndns-results-from-years-7-and-8-combined