Protein is an important nutrient for good health. Although most Americans typically get enough protein in their diets from animal protein sources, they are naturally high in saturated fat and can be bad for your overall health. While animal sources of protein can be an important part of a healthful diet, you should include some plant protein sources as well. Including plant proteins in meals is also very beneficial for people consuming a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Dry beans, peas, and lentils are great sources of plant protein, and they are also highly nutritious and are very affordable. Dry beans, peas, lentils, and legumes are also a great source of fiber.
Dry beans and peas are naturally low in sodium and fat. Unfortunately, canned beans and peas may be higher in sodium. Did you know that you can reduce sodium in canned beans by 41% just by rinsing them? You can also look for lower sodium canned varieties or those with no salt added if you are watching your intake of sodium. Dry beans and peas are good for your heart and may help prevent birth defects since they are an excellent source of folate as well as other important nutrients. They are also naturally gluten free!
Dry beans and peas are shelf stable if stored tightly sealed in a cool, dark, dry place. They will maintain quality for at least a year or longer. Canned beans and peas remain shelf-stable for 2 to 5 years when stored in a cool, dry place. Keep in mind that date labeling on cans is typically not an expiration date, but a quality date determined by the manufacturer. You can also freeze leftover cooked beans and peas and use them within 3 months of freezing for best quality.
When you plan your meals for the week, why not consider adding some powerful plant protein to your menu by enjoying dry beans or peas. Your heart will thank you - and so will your wallet!
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture