Welcome to Day 5 of our Kick Start 2022 Plant-Based Challenge.

So, what did you think of yesterday’s topic?

Are you feeling more rooted and grounded?

How many colours of the rainbow have you been enjoying?

Are you still drinking plenty of water to keep up with your increased fibre intake?

 

Today’s lesson celebrates the mighty bean. Beans are healthy, delicious, and versatile. They are also very budget-friendly, especially in comparison to animal sources of protein. Beans also happen to be the target of some nutritional controversy, due to the effect they have on some of us!

Benefits of Beans

Beans and other legumes (like lentils and split peas) provide many of the critical nutrients you need in an affordable and convenient package.

They are a primary source of plant-based protein, which is necessary for building and maintaining your muscles, organs, bones, teeth, and hair. A single cup of beans or lentils can contain up to 18 grams of protein. For context, the average adult female needs 46 grams of protein per day, and the average male needs 64 grams — so that single cup takes care of 40% or 28% of the daily requirement, respectively.

Beans and other legumes are also an excellent source of fibre and can deliver over 15 grams of it per cup. This is half the recommended daily amount — and (sadly) as much as the average person gets from all sources in an entire day!

Fibre plays a critical role in your health in multiple ways. One you might not have heard recently is that it helps remove excess hormones from your body. So, proper hormone balance depends on fibre intake.

Tip: High-fibre beans and legumes also help to feed your gut microbiome and maintain a healthy weight. Studies show that people who eat beans have a lower risk of obesity.

Not only does the soluble fibre in beans keep you fuller longer, but it also feeds the good bacteria in your gut, helping them to thrive, increase, and diversify.

Beans may also help prevent cancer, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Because beans are so high in fibre and so low on the glycemic index, they help balance blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol.

If beans are so great, what’s all the controversy about? In a word, lectins. Lectins are a type of protein found in certain types of plants. They’ve gotten a bad rap lately, with some health personalities claiming that lectins are bad for the gut, that they can cause allergies, and more. The problem with this theory is that there’s no evidence to support it. In fact, many lectins are actually beneficial for health. Some plant lectins are even being researched as a possible cancer therapy.

Foods containing lectins are some of the healthiest for you and are loaded with essential nutrients.

Some beans do have more problematic lectins, but these are easily neutralized by soaking, sprouting, and/or pressure cooking.

 

As luck would have it, cooking your beans properly (ideally soaking them overnight before you pressure cook them) also helps reduce the gas-promoting levels of oligosaccharides they contain, which are a leading cause of flatulence.

If you’re not used to eating beans on a regular basis, start slow. Think of your gut as a muscle that you have to work out, especially to handle healthy foods that you’ve skipped until now.

TODAY’S ACTION: Add a quarter cup of (cooked) beans to your diet each day.

If you already eat beans every day, add a quarter cup to what you currently eat. A reasonable goal for most people is to work towards one to two cups per day.

Since beans are such a rich source of protein and fibre, as well as many vitamins and minerals, they are truly a staple food in any healthy pantry. Their versatility means they can be used in all kinds of meals, often serving in place of animal products.

Preparation: Dry beans should be soaked overnight — ideally for 12 hours — to remove phytates and lectins. This makes them easier to digest and reduces gassiness. If possible, change the soaking water at least once.

Ways to cook: Both a pressure cooker and a pot on the stovetop will work. You can try adding a piece of kombu (a type of sea vegetable available at health food and Asian grocery stores) to further aid digestion and reduce gas. If you decide to buy pre-cooked beans either in cans or tetra-paks, make sure to choose brands with a BPA-free lining.

 

Today’s recipe is one of my favourites: Spicy Bean Burgers

Ingredients

1 cup organic short grain brown rice (cooked ahead)

1 cup walnuts (raw)

1 tbsp vegetable broth

1 medium red onion (diced)

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp cumin powder

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp salt (optional)

1 ½ cups home-cooked black beans (or BPA-free 15-ounce canned black beans, drained)

⅓ cup flax meal (or almond meal)

 

Directions

1. Cook brown rice as instructed on the package and set aside.

2. Heat a non-toxic, non-stick skillet over medium heat.

3. Once hot, add raw walnuts and toast for 5–7 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden brown. Keep an eye on them to prevent burning. You just want them toasted. Set aside and allow to cool.

4. In the meantime, return the same skillet to medium heat. Once hot, add ½ Tbsp veggie broth and onion. Sauté for 3–4 minutes, or until onion is fragrant, soft, and translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Once walnuts are cooled, add to a blender or food processor with chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, turmeric, salt if using pepper and blend to a fine meal. Set aside.

6. Add black beans to a large mixing bowl and mash well with a fork or potato masher, leaving only a few whole beans.

7. Next, to the mashed beans, add cooked rice, spiced walnut mixture, sautéed onion, and flax or almond meal, and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon for 1–2 minutes, or until a moldable dough forms. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

8. Form 8–10 burger patties (depending on the size you prefer) and set on a baking sheet or plate for grilling. If grilling, heat the grill and brush with oil to avoid sticking. Otherwise, heat the same skillet you used earlier to medium heat.

9. Add your burgers to the skillet, about ½ inch apart. If there is not enough space for all of them to cook evenly then cook them in two or more batches. Cook for 3–4 minutes or until browned on one side, then flip (gently). Cook for 3–4 minutes on the other side.

 

Chef’s Notes

Prep Ahead

Make brown rice ahead of time and store in the refrigerator so it’s ready to go.

This meal offers a great opportunity for layering to make a nutrient-dense delicious meal! Add toppings like sliced tomato, avocado, sprouts, herbs, kimchi, kraut, greens and onion.

Serve burgers by themselves, on toasted whole-grain buns, or as a lettuce wrap with the added toppings.

Freeze for later

You don’t have to cook all the patties at once! Consider placing them in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 5–7 days or separate them with parchment paper and store them in the freezer for up to three months. Cook them as desired.

Substitutions

Don’t have almond flour? Oat flour works well too and you can easily make it by grinding oats in a food processor or grinder.

If using flax meal in place of almond or oat flour, you might need to add a small amount of water if the mixture feels too dry to form patties. Add 1–2 tablespoons at a time until you reach the desired consistency to form patties.

Other whole grains may work in place of rice. I’ve tried millet and farro and they both worked well.

 

Research from the Food Revolution Network