As a lacto/ovo pescatarian, I get most of my protein from a few sources – fish, yogurt, eggs, and legumes. A lot of non-meat eaters think that being a vegetarian is instantly a healthier choice – but not when your diet turns in to choices from a typical “vegetarian” restaurant menu – fettucine alfredo, fried eggplant parmesan, or cheese quesadillas.
I’ll admit that it took me a while to get used to eating beans as a protein source – although they weren’t as foreign as tofu or tempeh, I still wanted beans to taste good.
Over time I became more skilled at working beans into different dishes – salads, stirfries, even baked goods – but a good Mexican black bean soup still steals my heart. I’ve raved about the vegetarian soups at Au Bon Pain before, but $5 a pop adds up pretty quickly. When I saw this bag of beans on sale at Aldi, I had to grab it.
I remember from my previous cooking experience and food science classes that beans take forever to soak from their dried state, so I chose the “quick soak” option – which still took about 1.5 hours before the soup making even began!
In addition to the beans, I amped up the soup with a can of diced tomatoes, one sweet potato, three carrots, a red onion, a few cloves of garlic, chili powder, fajita seasoning, thyme, and a bay leaf.
The soup cooked for about 2.5 hours before it changed from really thin to nice and hearty.
Why are beans so great? Not only do they provide protein, fat, and carbohydrate, but they are also a great source of fiber. You all know the “magical fruit” rhyme – right? Benefits of fiber include helping you feel full, lowering your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and helps to keep your bowel movements “regular”. You don’t want to increase too quickly over time, or you can experience the negative effects that people often complain about.
I have a strangely high intake of fiber (just based on my diet and lifestyle), but you want to increase slowly and try to keep your intake relatively constant over time. As a general guideline, women should aim for 25g per day and men can shoot for 35g per day. Drink extra water as you increase your fiber intake to help with digestion.
The soup was even better eating it for lunch the next day, after the flavors intensified.
Monday’s fiber intake (just from higher fiber foods, there is a negligible amount in other foods I ate):
- 2 clementines – 4 grams
- 2 slices whole grain bread – 3 grams
- 1/3 cup oats – 4 grams
- 1 medium banana – 3 grams
- 1.5 cups bean soup – 20 grams (!)
- Total = 34 grams
Do you think you get enough fiber in your diet? Are you afraid of beans?