More beans, less animal protein. That's the conclusion that several sustainability studies have come to over the past decade, urging consumers to consume less animal-based protein and more plant-based options, like soy, peas, legumes and beans.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the livestock sector alone accounts for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions created by food production. Simply adding more plants to your diet in place of animal products will have dramatic effects on our planet's future.
In fact, per gram of protein, production of legumes creates 250 times less emissions than beef and lamb, and 40 times less than pork or poultry. Additionally, including legumes and beans into crop rotation improves soil fertility, as these foods pull nitrogen from the air into the soil and help to reduce natural erosion.
While sustainability concerns might not be top of mind for everyone, eating a plant-based diet is also good for human health. Alexandra Caspero, a St. Louis-based registered dietitian nutritionist and the founder of DelishKnowledge.com, says eating a predominantly plant-based diet is one of the best ways to slash the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes. The fact that it is a more environmentally sustainable diet choice is icing on the cake.
You don't have to commit to a fully plant-based diet to see benefits. "Most of my clients initially believe that eating more plant-based means giving up their favorite foods," Caspero says. "Instead, they realize how easy it is to swap in plant-based proteins and how delicious and varied plant-based cuisine is." In nutrition, what we do most of the time has the biggest impact.
But what about protein? Ounce-for-ounce, the amount of protein that you get from plant sources, such as beans, is very similar to animal-based foods. In addition to 6-7 grams of protein per serving, canned beans are full of other healthful nutrients including fiber, cholesterol-lowering sterols and stanols, vitamins and minerals.
Sustainability means the food system continues to be available for future generations.
"S&W Beans make meal-time easy, as they are less expensive than animal-based protein and don't require any soaking or cooking. With a can of beans, you can have a healthy, sustainable, plant-based meal in mere minutes," Caspero says. That means everyone can contribute to the sustainability equation, regardless of income or cooking ability.
Try this vegetarian Curried Quinoa Garbanzo Salad for a plant-based, protein-packed meal. For more easy, plant-based recipes with beans, go to swbeans.com/recipes.
Curried Quinoa Garbanzo Salad
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
1 (15-ounce) can S&W Indian Style Savory Sides (do not drain)
1/2 large red bell pepper, cut in bite-sized slivers
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 mango, peeled, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or cilantro leaves
Cook quinoa as directed on package; refrigerate 30 minutes to cool. Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except fresh herbs. Fold in cooled quinoa and mint or cilantro. If desired, cover and refrigerate 1 hour to blend flavors.