Bean cuisine – keeping you lean

Feb 7, 2023 | Eating Well, Nutrition | 0 comments


We hear plenty of talk of superfoods these days.  Goji berries, matcha tea, chia seeds, beetroot, broccoli sprouts to name but a few.  They can be bought in their natural form or processed into teas, powders, snack bars, and smoothies.  These examples, and many more, are all very nutritious, but in the quest for discovering and promoting a new one-hit wonder we often overlook incredible food staples, which should form a high proportion of our regular meals and also have superfood qualities.  The food that I am particularly thinking of is beans.  

Beans doesn’t just mean Heinz

The variety of choices is huge and beans are included in the cuisines of every different region of the world, from red kidney beans in Mexican chilli, white bean stews from across Europe, chickpeas in a Moroccan tagine, tofu in Japanese ramen noodles.  They are undoubtedly tasty and filling, but what is the evidence about their health benefits and our quest to lose weight or keep it off?

Feel fuller with fibre

One of the advantages that beans have over other starchy foods that we might crowd our plate with (bread, chips, pasta, rice), is that they are really high in fibre.  This oft neglected nutrient holds one of the keys to weight management by making us feel full after meals without eating huge amounts of calories.  In fact, increased fibre consumption has been shown to lead to a 10% drop in overall calorie intake.  And it’s not just about calorie intake.  By eating high fibre foods like beans we can stop the absorption of some of the calories from all food groups in a meal because these calories are literally wrapped up in the indigestible fibre so that they then pass straight through us.  

Putting the brakes on hunger

There’s one more weight loss-related advantage of increasing our dietary fibre through eating more beans that I want to highlight and it’s all to do with the signals that our gut sends to our brain when a meal is being digested.  At the bottom of the small intestine (the ileum) there are sensors which can detect fats, carbohydrates and proteins in undigested food.  If this happens, signals are sent to the brain to say that we are full and that we should stop eating.  This phenomenon is called the ileal  brake.   High fibre foods (like my red bean and lentil chilli, below) slow the absorption of fats, carbohydrates and proteins higher up the intestines so that they are detected in the ileum and signals are sent to the brain to say, “you’re full, stop eating”.  When we eat low fibre, processed foods the calories are absorbed higher up in the intestine and never reach the ileal brake so we don’t get that signal to say that we are full up.

I could go on and on about the benefits of high fibre bean cuisine all day (and I will in future!), but for now I think that it’s time for me to introduce you to my bean and lentil chilli recipe.  

Red Bean and Lentil Chilli – Recipe 

This chilli is plant-based, and by adding lentils, nutritional yeast and onion powder you get the deep savoury flavours that you expect from any good chilli and there’s sweet corn too, for an extra crunch. 

This recipe will make 4 servings; enough for the whole family, but if you want to make a batch for the freezer, just double the amounts.  


  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 2 red chillies, sliced
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 x 400g tins red kidney beans
  • 100g split red lentils 
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast 
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 300g sweet corn 
  • 250ml vegetable stock


  • Heat a large, deep saucepan over a medium to high heat.  Add the oil and heat for 2mins.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, garlic, chillies, and 1 tbsp of the stock.  Cover the pan and fry for 8-10mins until the onions have softened.
  • Add the tomatoes then replace the lid and heat until the tomatoes start to bubble.
  • Add the spices, nutritional yeast, onion powder, and the rest of the stock.  Give the sauce a good stir and heat for 2 more mins.
  • Add the beans, sweet corn and lentils, stir, cover, and heat for 10mins until all of the ingredients have combined. 
  • Check the chilli for seasoning and spice heat.  Add salt and/or chilli powder to taste.
  • Serve the dish on its own or with organic brown rice if you prefer. 

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