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Trying to identify the healthiest bean is like trying to pick the hottest Victoria’s Secret model.
But here goes: While all legumes are nutritious, the tiny chickpea is a class-leading bean. A cup of canned chickpeas provides 18 grams of protein, including every amino acid necessary for muscle growth, says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D., a dietician in Washington, D.C. In other words, hummus could make you huge. (Musclewise, that is.)
(Just don’t neglect the gym.)
Want more bean-efits? Researchers in Canada found that people who regularly consume chickpeas have healthier cholesterol levels than those who don’t. Credit a high dose of soluble fibre, the kind that sucks up water, forming a gel in your intestines that blocks cholesterol from being absorbed. Soluble fibre also fuels gut probiotics, the healthy bacteria that promote digestion, protect your colon, and give your immunity a boost.
Chickpeas are super easy to add to your diet. “You can add chickpeas to anything you’re making,” Scritchfield says. “They’ll take on flavor of whatever seasoning you’re using.”
Just rinse and drain and toss them into any salad, soup, or stew. You can also roast them in the oven and keep them on hand for a crunchy snack. Or develop a hankering for carrots and celery dipped in hummus.
Another versatile option: kidney beans. These legumes are an excellent source of thiamin and riboflavin, which help your body use energy efficiently. Plus, they contain 14 grams of cholesterol-fighting fibre per cup. Throw them into chili or a salad, or whip up some Southern-style beans and rice.
And don’t worry about tooting your own horn. An Arizona State University study found that while all beans may cause flatulence when you first introduce them to your diet—partly because they’re so rich in fibre—the fallout fades after a few weeks.