June 12

Eat More Beans and Peas


Debbie Archer | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences


Eating a healthy diet is very important, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. What we eat and drink can affect our body’s ability to prevent, fight and recover from infections, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Now is the perfect time to include more beans and peas in your meals, Easter H. Tucker, interim family and consumer sciences program leader for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said. Because of their high nutrient content, consuming beans and peas is recommended for everyone, including people who also eat meat, poultry and fish regularly.

While no foods or dietary supplements can prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, healthy diets are important for supporting immune systems, she said. Good nutrition can also reduce the likelihood of developing other health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

Beans and peas are the mature forms of legumes. They include kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas and lentils. They are available in dry, canned and frozen forms.

“These foods are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc,” Tucker said. “Many people consider beans and peas as vegetarian alternatives for meat. However, they are also considered part of the vegetable group because they are excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate and potassium.”

These nutrients, which are often low in the diet of many Americans, are also found in other vegetables, she said.

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If you purchase dry beans or peas, don’t rush home and try to cook them, they need to be rehydrated, Tucker said. Follow the steps below to rehydrate the beans.

  • Sort the beans or peas to remove any split ones or trash such as small stones or discolored beans. Rinse.
  • Hot soak: For every two cups of beans, add ten cups of hot water in a large pot. Boil for 2 – 3 minutes and allow to soak for up to four hours.
  • Quick soak: For every two cups of dry beans, add six cups of water to the pot. Boil for two – three minutes and allow to soak for at least one hour.
  • Soak overnight: For every two cups of beans, add approximately ten cups of water and let set overnight.
  • Drain water and rinse beans thoroughly. One pound of dry beans makes approximately six cups of cooked beans (a 15-ounce can is about one and three-fourths cup of beans drained).

Once your beans have been rehydrated, decide how you want to cook them: stove top, pressure cooker or crockpot.

Canned beans can be served alone on in many recipes like in this Red Bean Quesadilla recipe.

Red Bean Quesadillas


  • 4 8-inch whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed to remove excess liquid)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese
  • 1 avocado (peeled pitted chopped)
  • 1 can 15.5 ounce low-sodium red kidney beans (drained and rinsed with cold water)
  • garlic powder or dry herbs (optional)


  1. Using a fork, mash beans in a bowl until slightly chunky. Add no-salt seasonings such as garlic powder and dried or fresh herbs, if desired.
  2. Place 1 tortilla on a plate and top with half the mashed beans.
  3. Top the beans with ½ cup of the spinach.
  4. Top the spinach with half the cheese.
  5. Top the cheese with half the avocado (optional).
  6. Put the other tortilla on top of the avocado, gently pressing it down so the top half sticks.
  7. Repeat with the remaining two tortillas.
  8. Place a nonstick skillet on the stove over medium and heat until warm, then place one quesadilla in the dry skillet. Cook until golden brown, about 1–2 minutes on each side. (Or put the plate in the microwave and heat until the cheese melts, about 45 seconds.)
  9. Repeat with the remaining quesadilla.
  10. Cut each quesadilla into quarters. Serve warm.
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Black beans or white cannellini beans can be used instead of kidney beans.
Source: USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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