Bean Day 2024 - A Legume a Day

Every Day Should Be Bean Day

My poor husband. I refer to “Bean Day” and expect him to somehow know which Bean Day I’m talking about. We are starting 2024 off right, with three Bean Days currently on the calendar:

  • National Bean Day is on January 6th. In the United States, this is a day to celebrate beans. Although, to be honest, I don’t think National Bean Day gets nearly as much attention as it deserves. For some reason, people seem to be more enthusiastic about National Ice Cream Day. Or, days like National Moldy Cheese Day and National Cook a Sweet Potato Day may get more attention because of their – arguably strange and unfortunate – names (don’t get me wrong, I like cheese and sweet potatoes).
  • Bean Day is a wonderful annual event hosted by the Northarvest Bean Growers Association on the third Friday of January. This year it will be on January 19th. You can see a glimpse into their 2023 Bean Day here. They made my day (let’s be honest – my month, really) by surprising me after my presentation with the Friend of the Bean Award.
  • The Nebraska Dry Bean Growers Association hosts a Bean Day around mid-February. This year, I’m honored to be a speaker at the event!

I was thinking about beans – as I am often wont to do – and have made an official decision: every day should be bean day. We don’t necessarily need to mark it on the calendar (although that couldn’t hurt), but ensuring that we eat beans on a regular basis provides so many wins, it’s simply the right decision. If I didn’t truly believe that, I wouldn’t have chosen to dedicate my career (and much of my free time) to beans! I also wouldn’t have created a video in honor of National Bean Day. You can find that at the bottom of this post. A big thank you to my husband for helping me create it!

Bean Day - A Legume a Day
Ah, the joys of bean art!

Three Reasons to Celebrate Beans

Alright, so I said three reasons. But I guess it is more like three categories, because under each of these categories are many reasons. I’ll stick to just listing two sub-reasons under each of the main categories. I know, I’m showing such restraint – because we all know I can go on about beans for hours… okay, days.

Nutrition and Health Benefits

The general advice tends to be to not lead with nutrition because people care more about taste, convenience, and cost. Indeed, I have sometimes seen eyes glaze over when I wax poetic about bean nutrition. But! I’m going to live life on the edge and start with this because BEAN NUTRITION IS SO INCREDIBLE.

  1. Beans are absolutely packed with excellent nutrition. If you are looking for a nutrient-dense food, beans are your answer. They are a great way to get protein. Plus, beans are one of the richest natural sources of dietary fiber, offering two to three times more fiber than even whole grains (!!). Not to mention, beans also provide many vitamins and minerals. People may not have micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals) as front of mind as the protein and fiber content of beans. But guess what? A serving of beans packs about the same amount of potassium as a banana. Nutritional powerhouses indeed!
  2. Beans may help promote longevity. Among the many health benefits beans can help promote – and there are many – longevity is also on the list. Blue Zones is drawing more attention to this. Blue zones are areas around the world where people live the longest, with a much higher percentage of individuals living to be over 100 years old. And when we look at the staple foods of these regions to see what we can learn from their dietary patterns, any guesses what food is a mainstay? That’s right, friends – people living in Blue Zones eat about 1 cup of cooked beans a day.
Bean nutrition - A Legume a Day

Environmental Benefits

There are a whole host of benefits of beans for our planet, but here are two specific ones:

  1. Beans make it easy to reduce food waste. Food waste can cause many problems, including higher greenhouse gas emissions. The ability of beans to be easily stored for long periods of time can help prevent food waste. For instance, dry beans (provided they are stored properly) last for a long time, as do canned beans. But what about if you already cooked your beans or opened your can of beans and don’t think you can eat them all before they spoil? No problem, I have great news – cooked beans also freeze very well! Added bonus: not only do you prevent food waste, but the beans will be happily waiting for you in your freezer, ready to use when the craving strikes.
  2. Beans can help save water. Growing beans requires less water – often much less water – than other protein sources, as well as other crops, like corn. You can see this in the Our World in Data chart below, where beans fall under the pulses category. So, growing and eating beans is a good way to conserve our precious water resources.
Freshwater withdrawals from beans - Our World in Data
Graph from Our World in Data

Delicious and Versatile

The more I learn about beans, the more I am struck by their incredible versatility. Not only are there hundreds of different types of beans and other pulses, but there are endless ways to enjoy them!

  1. Beans can be used in a wide variety of dishes. There is no limit to the ways we can savor beans! Some people associate beans mainly with dishes like chili and refried beans – and these are delightful. Yet, beans can also do so much more, and thinking outside the box can result in many tasty surprises. From dips to desserts, or even to cocktails, beans are a brilliant addition to breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinners, and sweet treats.
  2. Beans are delicious. I feel like this statement is such a fact that it almost doesn’t need any further explanation. But. I know some people have had a bad experience with beans that turned them off from this amazing food. Maybe they were served mounds of overcooked, unsalted lima beans when they were a kid. If that is you, or someone you know, I would implore you to (please!) not give up on beans because of such a memory. Try different types of beans, sample bean products like bean pastas and chips, and cook beans in different ways (mashed, fried, baked… the list goes on!). You won’t regret it. And for those of you who are already bean lovers, may your culinary exploration of this delectable food continue!
Bean calendar back cover - Bean Appetit - part of the Bean Toolkit
This Bean Appetit calendar showcased some of the versatility of beans.

Happy Bean Day – Today and Every Day!

Not only are beans absolutely delicious, but they can simultaneously benefit the health of our planet and our own well-being – as well as that of our family and friends, who we drag onboard the Bean Train with us. But hey, with beans being this mighty and beautiful, who wouldn’t want to be on the Bean Train?!

Happy Bean Day, everyone!

In this house we eat beans - bean doormat

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