What’s Bean Going On in Snacks?

As a co-author of Bean Briefs, a twice-yearly summary of research on beans, I keep an eye on what’s going on in the world of beans. So I was pretty excited to see and taste lots of new snacks made with beans at Expo West. Some of these likely were introduced as part of the gluten-free boom. But I’d like to think that snack makers realize that beans are a great food. They’re packed with nutrition, have more fiber than almost any food, and are really tasty and versatile.

Still, I think we snack too much so I’ll never be a big snack advocate, healthy or not. But if you do snack, is a nutritionally-better choice like bean chips better for you? I guess so. Here’s the deal with bean snacks – many dish up more protein and fiber than conventional potato or tortilla chips but they also have just about as many calories and as much fat. How about pairing your bean chips with bean dip? Now there’s a snack idea that I could get behind.

Here are a few of the bean snacks that I tasted at Expo West:

Beanfields Bean & Rice Chips have about twice as much fiber and protein as most corn tortilla or potato chips. Their first ingredients are black and navy beans, plus long grain rice.

Beanitos have been around for several years and are sold in two varieties each of white bean, black bean, and pinto bean chips. In all, the first ingredient is the bean and the second is rice. While they have more fiber than other brands, their calories and fat match conventional chips.

Flamous Brands falafel chips are made from corn, with added chickpeas, fava beans and/or black beans, plus spices. They too have twice the fiber and protein of regular chips and are somewhat lower in calories.

Mediterranean Snack Foods sells hummus crisps and lentil chips made from lentils, garbanzo beans, and/or adzuki beans combined with potato. They are lower in calories and fat than conventional chips but also have less fiber and protein than other bean chips.

The folks at Simply 7 Snacks make hummus chips with chickpea flour, rice, and potato, and lentil chips from lentils and potato. Both varieties have almost no fiber, the most prominent nutrient in beans.

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