Beans: A Healthy Alternative to Meat

As the cost of meat continues to soar, you may be seeking healthy, less pricey alternatives. That’s where the mighty bean comes in. Many vegetarians and vegans count on beans to add protein and fiber to their diet. The versatile bean can be used in many ways, and its high-fiber count will leave you feeling full. Here are four types of beans and their benefits. 

Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)

  • 269 calories per cup
  • 12 grams of fiber
  • 15 grams of protein 

Besides protein and fiber, this powerhouse is packed with important nutrients like folate, iron, and phosphorous. They’re also loaded with fatty acids.

Chickpeas are low on the glycemic index, which means they’ll keep you full for longer. They’re also extremely versatile and are often used as a substitute for meat. Recently many companies began using chickpeas to replace white flour in pasta and pizza crusts. They can be ground into hummus, sprinkled over your salad, or seasoned and roasted into a crunchy snack. 

Many vegans even use the water from chickpeas (aka aquafaba) as an egg white substitute. It can be used to thicken dishes, beaten into stiff peaks like a meringue, and whipped into your favorite mousse. 

Throw a can or a bag of these magic beans into your grocery cart on your next shopping trip and you’ll have endless options for your next meatless Monday. Learn more about chickpeas here

Black Beans

  • 227 calories per cup
  • 15 grams of fiber
  • 15 grams of protein

A staple in many Mexican dishes, black beans are rich in magnesium, manganese, and thiamine, as well as folate and iron. Sprinkle a little cumin, paprika, and chili into the pot while they’re simmering, then top a steaming bowl with cilantro, sour cream, hot sauce, and a squeeze of lime. Suddenly you have an easy (and affordable) meal that’s delicious and filling. 

Black beans are also a shining star when it comes to meat alternatives. Black bean burgers, chili, taco filling — as long as they’re properly spiced, you won’t even miss the ground beef. Sauté cooked black beans, sweet potatoes, and onion with your favorite taco seasoning for the perfect sweet and spicy blend to eat with warm tortillas and Spanish rice. 

Speaking of sweet, did you know you can add black beans to your favorite brownie recipe? Just run them through a food processor first, and no one will ever know. 

Soy Beans

  • 296 calories per cup
  • 10 grams of fiber
  • 31 grams of protein 

That high protein level is what makes soybeans so popular with non-meat eaters. Soybeans are used to make tofu, which is a delightfully versatile way to add protein to any meal. 

Tofu has a very mild taste and absorbs the flavors from other ingredients in the dish. You can get silken tofu for smoothies or soups, or firm tofu that can be cubed and thrown into your favorite stir fry. 

Soybeans are a delicious addition to many Asian dishes. Edamame (aka immature soybeans still in their pod) make a quick and yummy snack that’s brimming with protein — microwave a steamable bag, sprinkle with salt, de-pod, and enjoy. 


  • 230 calories per cup
  • 16 grams of fiber
  • 18 grams of protein 

When it comes to “beefing” up your soups and stews, lentils are a clear winner. They’re creamy on the inside, but their shell gives them an interesting texture and mouthfeel. Lentils are also great in all kinds of curries and are a prominent ingredient in many Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. 

Opting to go meatless a couple of times a week is a great way to save money, reduce your red meat intake, and may even help the environment. Eating more beans is a great way to supplement your diet and make sure you’re getting the nutrients needed to feel nourished and energized.

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