The Health Benefits of Beans (and a vegan chili recipe!)

by Bianca Osbourne

A sampling of heirloom beans

Beans are the picture of convenience, readily available in canned or dried varieties, but I tend to lean to toward the dried variety, so that I can control the salt in my food and avoid the dreaded BPA in canned food.

Beans are an excellent source of fiber, providing an average of 6g of fiber per 1/2 cup. They contain both insoluble and soluble fiber, which may help lower cholesterol, improve glucose control and prevent colon cancer and diverticulitis. Furthermore, beans generally contain no cholesterol, are low in fat, and are brimming with vitamins and minerals such as folate, thiamine, manganese, iron and magnesium.

The flavor of cooked dried beans always seems fresher than their canned counterparts, and their texture tends to be more pleasing to the palate. In a few easy steps, you can prepare dried beans easily, and they tend to be cheaper than the canned variety.

To cook dried beans:

  • Pick over the beans to remove any foreign matter, as sometimes little pebbles find their way into the bags. Place them in a sieve and rinse well under cold water.
  • Soak the beans overnight, for a minimum of six hours, in plenty of water.
  • Drain and rinse the soaked beans.
  • Add the beans to a heavy bottom pot and add enough water to cover the beans.
  • Bring to a boil. Partially cover, turn down to a simmer and cook until tender. Depending on the bean, this can take 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Be sure to taste to ensure the proper doneness.
  • Drain and rinse.

Eat Your Beans in a Pot of Chili

Nothing says comfort quite like a steamy bowl of chili. Not only is this one-pot wonder easy to make, it provides so many nutrients! Common ingredients in chili are:

  • beans
  • tomatoes
  • chilies
  • onions
  • garlic
  • cumin

From that simple base, you can create countless variations based on your dietary preferences and seasonality.

Some of the more common garnishes for chili are:

  • chopped avocado
  • green onion
  • cilantro
  • scallions
  • tortilla chips
  • rice

But there really are no rules! Chili is a bespoke meal that begs for creativity. Beans are a staple in most chili recipes and you can try mixing up your beans in chili recipes. Any changes will slightly affect the flavor, but the nutritional content will always remain very high.

Ideally you should make chili a day ahead in order to allow the flavors to develop, and due to their robust nature they stand up well to freezing. So make a big batch and freeze for up to 3 months- be sure to defrost the chili in your refrigerator before reheating.

This vegan chili is a filling and  has the power to convert even the most devoted meat lover.

Vegan Chili Recipe

Serves 8


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large red pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 2 medium zucchinis, diced
  • 1-28oz can tomatoes, with their juice
  • 1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked kidney beans
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • Juice 1/2 lemon

Cooking Directions

  1. In a heavy bottom pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, bell pepper and sauté. After 5 minutes, add zucchinis and sauté an additional 5 minutes; or until the zucchinis are tender and the onions are transparent and fragrant.
  2. Reduce heat and add canned and fresh tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, basil, oregano, pepper, salt and parsley. Cook, uncovered, stirring often, for 30 minutes.
  3. Stir in kidney beans, chickpeas and corn; and cook for another 15 minutes. Add lemon juice. Stir well, taste and adjust seasoning to taste.

Bianca Osbourne is a professionally trained natural foods chef, recipe developer and freelance writer; she created healthy recipes on her website Vitality Guide For Women, where she focuses on presenting healthy eating in down to earth and flavorful style.

Photo by Urban Artichoke

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