The United Nations has officially declared 2016 the year of the bean. In 2013, the elected food was quinoa, which clearly enjoyed its time in the sun; so if the UN's endorsement is any indication, we are all going to be eating a lot more beans in the future.

The bean, or rather the "pulse", includes all dried beans, legumes such as dried peas and lentils, chickpeas, and all seeds that are grown in a pod.

They provide more protein than any other plant. They also deliver calcium for bones, magnesium for the heart, potassium for muscle health, and more iron than meat.

Beans are also filling and aid digestion because of all the fibre.


Unfortunately, the image of a bean seldom drums up enthusiasm - especially among kids. So here are some ideas for making beans and legumes appealing to the little ones:

• Add a small amount of bacon when preparing any bean dish.

• Snack on edamame.

• Dip crackers/veggies in hummus.

• Make chilli.

• Whip up baked beans, which tend to be sweeter than other bean recipes.

• Encourage your children to create their own rice and bean bowl.

• Sneak white beans into lasagne or pinto beans into taco meat.

• Roast them: Dry cooked beans well. Toss with olive oil and salt and roast until crispy.

• Mash chickpeas or black beans into a burger.

• Puree black or white beans with oil, lemon juice and garlic to make a dip or a topping for fish or meat.

• Toss any bean or legume on salads or into soups.

• Replace half of the butter in a cookie or brownie recipe with pureed white beans.

• Experiment with lesser-known varieties, such as the mung bean or the adzuki bean.

Studies show that diets that include beans and legumes help people lose weight. Bean consumption also correlates to increased overall nutrition.

So buy and eat more beans this year, first because they are good for your health and waistline and second because the UN believes your purchase will support the grander goal of international food security and sustainable nutrition. The bean suddenly doesn't sound so boring anymore.