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Bountiful Benefits of Beans

When it comes to a “typical” American diet, beans and peas (sometimes known as legumes) are overlooked.

Throughout the years that I have worked as a dietitian, the most common comments I get from my patients include “I try to eat healthy” or the obligatory “I stopped eating tortillas and now only eat black rice.” From time to time I hear “I love the Organic Quinoa from Trader Joe’s”. These are all nice things to do, but the rationalization that you have to buy that super expensive “sprout-free” item to feel better, lose weight or have a healthier diet are misconceptions I hope to eliminate.

It is my humble opinion that the healthiest foods we can add to our daily diet are legumes (beans/peas). It’s not “one of the best” or “at the top”. Nutritionally speaking, legumes are loaded with protein, fiber, carbohydrates and are rich in antioxidants, while yet remaining low in calories.

Healthwise, legumes can help you lose weight, stabilize your blood sugar, regulate bowel movements, lower your cholesterol, provide therapeutic benefits AND help in the fight against cancer. Best of all, it is common, accessible, stable, and cheap.

The problem: we don’t eat enough of it.

Therefore, before you venture out to buy the “Sprout-Free-Fair-Trade-Organic-Cold-Smoked-GMO-Single-Origin” bag of quinoa from the other side of the earth, simply replace your rice with pinto beans for dinner. Have a bean & cheese burrito instead of carne asada, or make garbanzo beans curry. Go meatless on Mondays, use beans as your protein on the salad. Beans offer a starchy texture and unique aromas, depending on which variety you try. Embrace the abundant fiber content and think of how good you will feel after that empty bowel movement!

I also observed that beans are one of the common staples in some cultures while minimally utilized in others. Beans in Mexican cuisine are almost as culturally prestigious and exclusive as tofu in Chinese cuisines.

I grew up eating predominantly Chinese food. I grew up eating predominantly Chinese food. It’s understood that it’s a “hard ask” to automatically start eating pinto or kidney beans. They have a distinctive taste and might take a bit to get used to eating. I started exploring beans in soup. It is comforting, easy to make, and popular. Even my strictly Chinese-food eating parents gave it a nod. Here it is, one of the most common soup out there yet so under-recognized.

Therapeutically, this bean soup can be served as a high-protein entry for the population in need (post-bariatric surgery, surgery recovery, puree diet, wound healing). It can be used as part of the meal prep for weight loss purposes. OR, drizzle in more oil and/or cheese, it becomes a high-protein, high-calorie dish, which can be used for weight gain purposes (underweight, cancer patients).

Instant Pot Split Pea Soup Recipe

Recipe credit: Bowl of Delicious


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 onion diced

  • 2 ribs celery diced

  • 2 carrots diced

  • 1 ham bone a smoked ham hock or 6 oz. diced deli ham can also be used

  • 1 lb. dry split peas sorted through and rinsed

  • 4 cups chicken stock/broth or veggie stock, or a mixture

  • 2 cups of water

  • 2 bay leaves

  • kosher salt and black pepper

  • chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional


  1. Turn pressure cooker to the "sauté" setting. Melt butter (3 tablespoons) and sauté onion, celery, and carrots, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, for about 5 minutes, until softened.

  2. Add the split peas, chicken stock (6 cups), ham bone (or hock or 6 oz. diced cooked ham), and the 2 bay leaves.

  3. Cover pressure cooker and set to manual, high pressure for 15 minutes.

  4. Allow the pressure to naturally release for 10-15 minutes. Then, quick release the pressure valve.

  5. If you used a ham bone or hock: remove the it from the soup and remove the ham meat that's still attached to it. Add the ham meat back into the soup.

  6. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately, or store in your refrigerator for up to 1 week or freezer in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Note: To make this on your stovetop, sauté veggies as instructed in a large pot. After adding the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for approximately one hour (or until split peas are cooked to desired tenderness).

Enjoy our recipe demonstration below! Find more of our recipe videos here.

Interested in learning about weight goal and nutrition needs? Schedule a free body weight and % body fat analysis with our Smart Eater Dietitians at 626-283-5128 or email


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