It’s a sad fact at the grocery store that when money’s tight, meat goes down on the grocery list as an “if-I-can-afford-it” item instead of a priority. Watching others shop, I find the same thing happening.
At one time, after a nasty divorce left me destitute, the “meat” in my diet came from TV dinners and canned “meals.” I couldn’t afford to buy meat by the pound. I’ve come a long way since then. I notice the same thing happening to many families when the economy takes a turn for the worse.
Protein is an absolute necessity for our bodies at every age. It keeps cells healthy, builds and strengthens muscles, helps us feel full at dinner, and so much more.
So, if purchasing power is limited to TV dinners, boxes of Mac n’ Cheese, and canned “meals-with-meat,” how can protein requirements be met in the average diet?
In a word, beans.
In the movie, “At War With the Army,” Jerry Lewis sings a song, “The Navy Gets the Gravy, but the Army Gets the Beans,” about how his character believes the Navy eats better than the Army does. In the song, he names dozens of varieties of beans without a hitch. I wonder if his character noticed that the Navy had plenty of “rotund” sailors while the Army had “lean, mean, fighting machines.” That was in WWII.
Beans have been part of military diets since there have been armies. Dried, they store and travel well without losing their protein. Therefore, today, dried beans are inexpensive and easy to add to an every day diet.
Protein from beans and plants do not raise cholesterol levels in the blood as meat protein does.
The requirements for protein in a daily diet are:
• Infants – 10 grams
• Teenage boys – 52 grams
• Teenage girls – 46 grams
• Adult men – 56 grams
• Adult women – 46 grams
• Pregnant or lactating women – 71 grams
New schools of thought suggest that protein requirements should be based on an individual’s weight. As with most people, I don’t feel like weighing myself every day and using a calculator to make my menu.
Which beans have the most protein?
The values listed here are per 1 cup serving, cooked. Lentils are included because they are a powerhouse legume, just as beans are.
• Lentils – 17 grams
• Red Kidney Beans – 36 grams
• Black Beans – 36 grams
• Pinto Beans – 28 grams
• Fava Beans – 22 grams
• Navy Beans – 32 grams
• Great Northern – 32 grams
• Soybeans – 29 grams
• Edamame (immature green soybeans) – 22 grams
Of course, there are hundreds more varieties of beans. The average of the above values is approximately 21 grams. That makes adding inexpensive protein to the daily diet far easier.
How to get them into the family’s meals:
This is the easy part. I like to make eating fun. To a box of Mac n’ Cheese, I add 1 cup of beans, as well as other ingredients. For example, 1 cup of black beans, 1 cup of diced tomato, 1 cup of mixed frozen vegetables, ½ cup onion and maybe ½ to 1 cup of salsa for a Southwestern Flair. One-half to one- cup leftover cooked meat is added for flavoring.
Beans and rice is a popular and common dish in the American South and Southwest.
Experiment with different colors and types of beans. Each has its own distinct flavor. Beans are also extremely easy to grow. I grow many varieties I will never find in my local supermarket, so when I cook with them, they become the highlight of special dishes.
One way to sneak bean protein into soups, stews, spaghetti, and more is to add bean puree. Follow the package directions for soaking and cooking the beans, then mash and puree them. Add the puree to any dish on the stove. Many five star restaurants serve bean puree as a fancy sauce to accompany meat and fish servings. Pretty clever, huh?
Eating healthy should never be an economic compromise.
Source: WebMD Editorial Article, “Protein: Are You Getting Enough?” WebMD website, No reviewer’s name or date given