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Around the Home: Beans are a healthy, low-cost meal option
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How are you doing with your New Year's resolutions? We've entered the second week of 2012 and I fear some of us may have faltered a bit and need encouragement. My resolution to eat more "good-for-you" foods is proving to be a challenge.

Faced with increased prices on almost everything at the grocery store and a shrinking budget, I started searching for low-cost, healthy options. What did I discover? The magical bean.

Beans and other legumes (including peas and lentils) are often listed at or near the top of the best food buys you'll find at the grocery store. Nutritionwise, you get more bang for your buck with beans year round.

Beans are convenient and cost effective. They are available in the dry form in sealed bags and precooked in cans. A can of cooked dry beans can easily be transformed into a dip, main dish, soup or salad. A drained and rinsed 15- to 16-ounce can of cooked dried beans provides about three one-half cup servings or enough beans for two main dishes.

Many have heard the popular tune of "beans, beans, the magical fruit." Although beans are not a fruit, they may be magical because they fit under not one, but two food groups. Within USDA's MyPyramid, they are found under the vegetable and meat groups because they are so packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Check out these health benefits and tips add beans to your diet:

Healthy weight. Beans are low in fat and calories and high in dietary fiber and protein. The fiber in beans provides a sense of fullness that helps keep food cravings down. Depending on variety, a half cup of cooked dry beans is only about 120 calories.

Chronic disease. Because of their high fiber, low glycemic index and high nutrient content, eating beans may help reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.

Recommendations. Research shows that eating a half cup of beans several times a week, within a well-balanced diet, has resulted in a reduced risk of heart disease. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommends eating three cups of legumes a week for a 2,000-calorie diet.

Popular uses. Navy beans are great for soups, stews or baked beans. Kidney beans are used in chili and three-bean salads. Pinto beans are used refried in stews and dips. Great northern beans and lentils are used in soups and stews. Garbonzo beans are used in salads and hummus.

Start adding beans to your diet slowly over a period of several weeks. Your body needs time to adjust to increased fiber intake. Doing so may help reduce intestinal gas. Other ways to minimize the effect: Discard the soaking water when making dry beans from scratch and rinse beans thoroughly before cooking; try over-the-counter products with an enzyme that breaks down gas-producing substances; and drink plenty of fluids.

Beans can be a nutritious part of your diet and there are tons of resources to help with recipe ideas.

Adapted from "January: Magical Beans!" by Lisa Franzen-Castle, RD, PhD, Nutrition Specialist, University of Nebraska Extension.

January is Radon Month

January has been declared Georgia Radon Month by Gov. Nathan Deal. During January, I will provide opportunities for area citizens to learn about radon and obtain do-it-yourself radon test kits to test their homes.

I'll be at the East Hall Community Center all day Jan. 21 and the evening of Jan. 28, and at the Mulberry Creek Community Center on Jan. 26.

Ginger Bennett is a UGA Radon Educator based in the Hall County Cooperative Extension Office. Contact her at 770-535-8290 or

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