BEANS, peas and lentils provide exceptional nutritional value for money, have a high micronutrient-to-price ratio, can improve soil fertility, are water-efficient and have a smaller carbon footprint.
The value of legumes has been emphasised for National Nutrition Week this week as health bodies encourage South Africans to eat healthy food regularly. This year's campaign theme is "Love your beans – eat dry beans, peas and lentils!"
National Nutrition Week is a joint initiative by the Department of Health, the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (Adsa), the Nutrition Society of South Africa (NSSA), the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA), the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) and the Consumer Education Project of Milk SA (CEP).
Health Department programme manager for health promotion, oral health and nutrition Lynn Moeng-Mahlangu said: “There’s a good reason to put dry beans, peas, lentils and soya into the spotlight. Unfortunately, they are largely overlooked as they are often seen as a ‘poor man’s food’ and they can take a long time to cook.
"We should be eating them, along with a variety of foods, at least four times a week and yet many of us hardly include them in our diets.”
These affordable, versatile and tasty foods can make a vital contribution to our health when they are a regular part of a family’s healthy eating regime, said Adsa president Maryke Gallagher.
Including dry beans, peas, lentils and soya regularly in your diet, along with other health-promoting behaviours, contributes to better health, which helps to improve blood pressure and the maintenance of a healthy weight, reducing the risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, said HSFSA chief executive Pamela Naidoo.
Some people experience bloating and gas as a result of eating beans, but steps can be taken to prevent this from being a reason why many don’t include these nutritious foods in their eating plans.
These include starting off with small amounts to build up one's tolerance over time and also to soak dry beans before cooking, said Maretha Vermaak from Milk SA.