Just like kohlrabi, dried beans are underappreciated. Americans eat MEAT. But, beans are a great way to add some of those pesky nutrients that your diet probably lacks. If you are in South Dakota, you definitely lack them. (I read today that South Dakotans, on average, only eat 1.8 servings of vegetables/day. Sad. Very sad.) So, I propose that every meat-eating reader replace one meat-based meal with beans, and every vegetarian reader replace one fake-meat, grain or dairy-based meal with beans. Let me tell you 1) why, and 2) how.

First, beans are one of the few protein-filled foods that are naturally packed with soluble and insoluble fiber. They are slow to digest, leaving you feeling full and satiated. Iron, calcium, B vitamins, folate, and antioxidants are a short list of more reasons to eat them. Beans are also relatively safe to feed to many people who have dietary restrictions—diabetics, vegans, vegetarians, celiacs, heart disease patients, your mother-in-law who must eat a high fiber diet…. So, they definitely fall into the “better” for you category.

But, wait, a second bean free when you call now! Beans are also well-suited to many flavors and cuisines. The infinite variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors means that you can find at least one lentil, chickpea, or Good Mother Stallard bean worth cooking. Egyptian ful, Mexican refritos, Southern pintos, or Greek gigantes in tomato sauce barely give you an idea of your options. Go homestyle with chili, or Asian with edamame still in their pods. Explore the flavors, and season generously with just about anything you can add. Not all at the same time, though; limit yourself to a few flavors that meld well.

A few guidelines: 1) think ahead because cooking dried beans usually works best if you soak them beforehand (overnight or boil and then soak for 2 hours); 2) rinse canned beans to help remove the salt when you didn’t think ahead; 3) puree beans and mix with vegetables to make soups, dips and spreads; 4) when in doubt, add garlic and lemon or lime juice.

Happy Healthy Eating!