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Top Tips for Healthier Eating

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9. Prepare dishes based on dried beans or other legumes.

Beans and legumes (a legume is anything that grows in a pod) pack fiber, vitamins, minerals and only trace amounts of fat. They are an excellent source of vegetarian protein; when paired with a grain or vegetable, beans form a complete protein, with all of the amino acids that humans need. Not only do beans provide all of these benefits, but by having beans instead of animal protein as your main course, you will be reducing the amount of saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol in your diet. Beans do contain a moderate amount of carbohydrate, but most varieties have a low glycemic index, which means they cause only a small, slow rise in blood glucose. Still, as with all food, beware of portion size (1/3–2/3 cup = one starch exchange, depending on variety; 1/2 cup = one lean meat exchange). Your wallet will also thank you for taking this step, because not only are beans healthy, they are also very inexpensive: A pound of dried beans can cost less than a dollar, and canned beans are only modestly more expensive.

Originally Published November 5, 2009

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