Bean Cuisine research - A Legume a Day

Bean Cuisine

If someone had told me that as part of my PhD I would more or less be writing an entire cookbook in addition to all the academic papers, my dissertation, and Extension outreach materials and more, I would probably not have believed them. And yet – as with so many expectations about a PhD program before you actually begin – I would have been wrong. As it turns out, though, the Bean Cuisine was one of the absolute highlights of my doctoral research because I got to partner with 56 incredible citizen scientists to bring this to life.

You can find the full PDF at the bottom of this post, but first I want to share a bit about:

  1. What is the Bean Cuisine?
  2. Why make the Bean Cuisine?
  3. What did we find in our research?
Bean Cuisine - final front cover - A Legume a Day
Front cover of Bean Cuisine
Bean Cuisine - final back cover - A Legume a Day
Back cover of Bean Cuisine

What is the Bean Cuisine?

The Bean Cuisine was designed to inspire folks with the culinary versatility of beans and other pulses, encouraging them to include them in their daily diets. Recipes were collected from various sources, including colleagues and bean-centric food blogs, and then modified to meet the requirements of the Bean Cuisine. Dr. Terry Hartman also shared bean-based recipes she used in a clinical trial (Hartman et al., 2010), and we adapted several of them with the help of citizen scientists.

The Bean Cuisine was designed to have 35% of dietary protein come from pulses. Why 35%? Preclinical trials in Dr. Henry Thompson’s laboratory suggest that major benefits for gut health and body weight management are seen when at least this amount of protein is coming from pulses (Lutsiv et al. 2021; Lutsiv et al. 2022). We wanted to illustrate what a diet that reaches that level may look like and begin to test if eating this amount of beans and other pulses is feasible. The result is this Bean Cuisine.

The Bean Cuisine includes 56 recipes, corresponding to a full 2-week cuisine with 14 unique breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners. In this book/PDF, we are presenting the recipes within meal categories instead of being assigned to a particular day of the 14 days. This is because the meals are essentially interchangeable, e.g., one breakfast can easily be swapped for another. The menu plan that is part of the Bean Cuisine also included proposed sides (fruit, steamed vegetables, yogurt, etc.), but those are not included here because the goal of this book/PDF is to share the bean recipes so that you can easily incorporate them into your eating pattern. Thus, you will find recipes grouped within four categories: Breakfasts, Lunches, Snacks & Sweets, and Dinners.

Please note: The Bean Cuisine book is not a medical recommendation to consume this diet, but rather a compilation of ideas of how you can regularly – and deliciously – include beans and other pulses in your day-to-day life.

Below, you can see the Table of Contents of Bean Cuisine. It’s a 134-page PDF, packed with beany goodness!

Bean Cuisine Table of Contents - A Legume a Day

Why Make the Bean Cuisine?

Why make this Bean Cuisine? Because I wanted to graduate (which I finally did, phew!). Just kidding. I had lots of reasons I wanted to do this. To list a few:

  1. Help inspire others. This was one of my biggest reasons. Due to their impressive list of benefits for human health and the environment, combined with their affordable cost and culinary versatility, I think beans and pulses can help us solve many of the public health challenges we are currently facing in the world.
  2. Contribute to the research on beans and pulses. It probably doesn’t surprise you that this was one of my goals! With so much potential to help improve the well-being of both people and planet, the more we can understand about beans, the better.
  3. Showcase the importance and potential of citizen science, translational research, and outreach. I’ve completed both a Master’s and doctoral degree, and I have worked in universities. One recurring theme is that, oftentimes, research results do not have much reach beyond the scientific community. The whole goal of science is to increase our understanding of the world, and to use the results to benefit everyone. That is why I personally try to focus on translational research and outreach. This project was designed to immediately engage the public, providing the opportunity for us all to learn from one another. Below, you can see what I wrote in the introduction to Bean Cuisine, which explains a bit about what citizen science is, and why it is important.

What is Citizen Science?

Citizen science is when citizens actively participate and engage in scientific research. Sometimes, research can happen in a silo and then remain housed in scientific journals, not always reaching the public. It was very important to us that this be a project in which our communities could participate. Not only did we have the chance to share our research with an amazing group of citizen scientists, but – and perhaps more importantly – we were able to learn so much from them. As stated in The Science of Citizen Science, “Citizen science is a growing practice in which scientists and citizens collaborate to produce new knowledge for science and society” (Vohland et al., 2021). Collaboration and collective learning is key to citizen science.

Bean Cuisine photos from citizen scientists

What Did Our Research Results Show?

Each of the 56 recipes had 4 citizen scientists assigned to it, and they provided excellent feedback on clarity of the recipe, ease of procuring ingredients, and time to prepare. They also rated taste and other sensory qualities on a Likert scale. Subsequently, I modified every single one of the 56 recipes thanks to their input. Sometimes, modifications were minor, just making slight changes to wording to improve clarity. Other times, recipes were not a big hit, and citizen scientists provided great ideas for how to improve the recipes. After this, I also tested a representative subset of the recipes with a sensory panel at my university. The final version of the Bean Cuisine reflects all these modifications.

Although the Bean Cuisine was a great outcome of this project, we also collected quantitative and free response data to assess other impacts of participation. The graphical abstract of our science article, published in MDPI Foods, demonstrates some of our key findings. For example, as a result of participation, citizen scientists reported eating more pulses and an increased awareness of the many versatile ways to use pulses.

Bean Cuisine graphical abstract

When I was going through all the free response data from citizen scientists to code it, an important theme became obvious: engagement and advocacy. Citizen scientists were engaging a wide audience and becoming pulse advocates in their communities! They mentioned sharing dishes with a many people and engaging others in recipe feedback. Who did they share with, you ask? Here are a few examples:

  • Friends: “I made the snickerdoodle hummus and the chicken and bean cassoulet for friends. We all enjoyed tasting them and giving feedback. I wish I had made the chickpea Dutch baby for guests. It looked like something out of a gourmet magazine.”
  • Football fans: “This recipe additionally got the approval of two football fans watching Monday night football, and they now know what Mayocoba beans are!”
  • Neighbors: “I shared the finished product with my neighbor, and she liked the different recipes also.”
  • Family: “I served a salad at a family get-together. Everyone loved it, even my 4 and 5 year-old grandchildren.”
  • Gathering of gardener friends: “I don’t eat a lot of sweets, so I brought it to a…happy hour. It was a hit. The beans are a secret ingredient. No one knew beans were included until I told them. Also, no one was familiar with Mayocoba beans, and these were a bunch of gardeners!”
  • Vegan guests: “I served this recipe to a friend who is vegan and also limits her intake of oils. I served it with fresh veggies (red peppers and cucumbers), and it was a big hit with my friend as well as non-vegan guests.”
  • Spouses: “This was so much fun. I was glad to share them with my husband, and he liked all of them. He will be making the oatmeal and Waldorf salad in the future for sure!”
  • And more!

Bean Cuisine Publication in Foods

To prevent this post from becoming a book chapter, I only shared some of our results. If you want to read more, you can find the full article, Bean Cuisine: The Potential of Citizen Science to Help Motivate Changes in Pulse Knowledge and Consumption (Didinger et al., 2023), in the journal Foods, here. A screenshot of the abstract is shown below.

Bean Cuisine article abstract

References in this Post

  • Hartman, T. J., Albert, P. S., Zhang, Z., Bagshaw, D., Kris-Etherton, P. M., Ulbrecht, J., … & Lanza, E. (2010). Consumption of a legume-enriched, low-glycemic index diet is associated with biomarkers of insulin resistance and inflammation among men at risk for colorectal cancer. The Journal of nutrition, 140(1), 60-67. doi:10.3945/jn.109.114249
  • Didinger, Chelsea, Marisa Bunning, and Henry J. Thompson. “Bean Cuisine: The potential of citizen science to help motivate changes in pulse knowledge and consumption.” Foods 12.14 (2023): 2667. doi:10.3390/foods12142667
  • Lutsiv, T., McGinley, J. N., Neil-McDonald, E. S., Weir, T. L., Foster, M. T., & Thompson, H. J. (2022). Relandscaping the gut microbiota with a whole food: Dose–response effects to common bean. Foods, 11(8), 1153. doi:10.3390/foods11081153
  • Lutsiv, T., Weir, T. L., McGinley, J. N., Neil, E. S., Wei, Y., & Thompson, H. J. (2021). Compositional changes of the high-fat diet-induced gut microbiota upon consumption of common pulses. Nutrients, 13(11), 3992. doi:10.3390/nu13113992
  • Vohland, K., Land-Zandstra, A., Ceccaroni, L., Lemmens, R., Perelló, J., Ponti, M., … & Wagenknecht, K. (2021). The science of citizen science. Springer Nature.

Bean Cuisine PDF

If I’m completely honest, I was a little afraid that sharing this PDF might mean people don’t come back to my website because they could simply download this, and it is already packed with so much info. But then I realized a few really important things:

  1. The whole reason I wanted to do this work was to inspire people to eat more beans and other pulses. Bean Cuisine needs to be shared!!
  2. I don’t earn money from my website anyway – my website is my way to contribute and pay it forward. That’s why I don’t have any Google Ads or anything on it, so that you can simply browse and enjoy, and hopefully get a healthy dose of bean enthusiasm.
  3. I hope to inspire other researchers to do translational work, engaging folks like citizen scientists so that we can all learn from one another.
  4. This was a collaborative effort, and I could not have done it without the help of the most incredible team of citizen scientists, colleagues in Extension and academia, sensory panelists, and several amazing mentors (especially you, Henry Thompson and Marisa Bunning). My deepest heartfelt thanks to all of you!

Plus, hopefully you’ll come back anyway because I strive to always post new beany goodness anyway – science updates, glimpses into bean fields and beans around the world, and – of course – new recipes. 😉

What will you find in the Bean Cuisine PDF?

  • Introduction. Brief discussion of the importance of beans for promoting health, clarification about what pulses are, and explanation of what exactly the Bean Cuisine is.
  • Information on how to cook beans. Two handouts from Colorado State University (CSU) Extension explain how to cook dry beans and other pulses, including tips on how to cook dry beans faster.
  • 56 bean-centric recipes. If you choose to alter the recipes or make up your own versions, that’s okay! Enjoy experimenting in the kitchen. The goal is to help inspire you with the versatility of beans and other pulses to be used in any meal of the day: breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinners, and desserts.
  • Photos. Each recipe contains a photo. Many photos were provided by citizen scientists, and it was often hard to decide which photo to use as we had many great submissions! When a photo was not readily available from a citizen scientist, it was provided by Chelsea Didinger (© A Legume a Day).
  • Citizen scientist tips. Many recipes include tips from citizen scientists who tested the original versions of the recipes. You can find these in the Notes section of the recipe.
  • Nutrition facts. Each recipe includes nutrition information for 1 serving, created in Nutritionist Pro. Please understand that these nutrition facts are an approximation and of course can vary with ingredients, brands, and other factors.

Who knows, maybe one day I will write a cookbook and charge for it and donate the proceeds to organizations supporting bean farmers. But for now, without further ado, here it is: Bean Cuisine! (Click on the image to see the PDF.)

Bean Cuisine - final front cover - A Legume a Day

Looking for More About My Research?

Here are a few other posts that delve into some of the results of my doctoral research:

  • Developing a Bean Toolkit – The Bean Toolkit includes various resources to help facilitate increased bean consumption, to promote public health.
  • Tips to Cook Beans Faster – I researched this topic and read the scientific literature, and here are our findings and evidence-based bean cooking tips!
  • Food Habits – This post shares some insights into how and why people eat beans.

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