What’s New with Beans

Whether you call them beans, legumes or pulses, beans are nutritionally wholesome. They are gastronomically versatile, economical, and with the exception of soy, most beans are non-genetically modified foods.  Beans are a great source of soluble fiber, high-quality protein and minerals, including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium and zinc. Soluble fiber has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels.

How are beans trending?


Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that affects about 2.5 million people in the United States.  An estimated 18 million people have gluten sensitivity and many others have joined the gluten-free trend for health reasons. The only treatment for celiac disease is to eliminate foods containing gluten which damage the small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye or barley. According to Euromonitor International, sales of gluten-free products in the United States could reach about $1.31 billion dollars in 2011.  Chick pea, lentil and soy flours have been used to reformulate foods containing gluten. Lentil and pea flour can be used in gluten-free pasta, pizza crust and to boost the nutritional composition of other foods.

Diabetes Friendly

Low Glycemic Index – Foods with low glycemic index are digested slowly and produce a slow and steady rise in blood sugar levels. Beans have a low glycemic index. Studies have shown that eating beans help manage blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance.

Resistant Starch – As the name indicates this type of starch is resilient to digestion. Lentils, peas and white beans are good sources of resistant starches. The health benefits of resistant starches include: blood glucose management, maintenance of good digestion, and weight maintenance.

From breakfast to dinner, great ways to include beans in every meal:

  1. Breakfast: Bean/egg burrito with pico de gallo
  2. Snack: Red peppers/Carrots/Grape tomatoes with a hummus dip
  3. Lunch: Black bean soup with a chicken breast/guacamole/tomato sandwich
  4. Dinner: Pasta with white beans and escarole

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Lorena Drago, MS, RD, CDN, CDE is a registered dietitian, consultant and certified diabetes educator.


Lorena specializes in the multicultural aspects of diabetes self-management education and is an expert in developing culturally and ethnically-oriented nutrition and diabetes education materials. She founded Hispanic Foodways, which received the New York City Small Business Award in 2006. She developed the Nutriportion™ Measuring Cups that has the calorie and carbohydrate amounts of common foods embossed on each cup and the Nutriportion™ Hispanic Food Cards that have pictures and nutrition composition of common Hispanic foods.


Lorena served on the American Association of Diabetes Educators board of directors from 2006-2010, Chair for Latinos and Hispanics in Dietetics and Nutrition. She was Past President of the Metropolitan New York Association of Diabetes Educators in 2004. Lorena won the Diabetic Living People’s Choice Award in 2012.


She is the author of the book Beyond Rice and Beans: The Caribbean Guide to Eating Well with Diabetes published by the American Diabetes Association. She is a contributing author and co-editor of the book Cultural Food Practices and Diabetes, published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and print communications chair for the Diabetes Care and Education Specialty Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Lorena’s new publication, The 15-Minute Consultation: How to Enhance Learning and Get Your Message Across Every Time will be published in 2014 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Lorena has appeared on several national TV shows speaking about diabetes management, including The Early Show and dLife TV.


Lorena graduated cum laude from Hunter College of the City University of New York with a Masters of Science degree in Food and Nutrition, and received her BA from Queens College.

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