I was surprised to learn when reporting this week’s “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” column that the typical American eats a measly 1/3 cup of beans and peas a week. (We’re talking black beans, garbanzos and other legumes, not green beans or green peas.) The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans want us to nudge that number up to 1.5 cups a week.

Given beans’ versatility, the role they play in so many ethnic cuisines and their utter cheapness, I can’t imagine why people don’t eat more of them. On top of those attributes, the humble bean is an excellent source of lean protein and one of the most fiber-packed foods you can put on your plate. Beans hold a special place in the world of nutrition in that they serve equally well as vegetables and as proteins.

I eat beans all the time. I make a mean pot of red beans and rice and a black-bean-and-ground-turkey chili that my family always enjoys. I add black beans to salads and serve refried beans (yes, they count!) on taco night and with the chicken taco salad that’s a staple of our dinner-time rotation. Sometimes when I want a savory lunch, I stir fresh salsa into a half cup or so of beans and heat it in the microwave. A little bit of cheese on top, and it’s like a quick little chili.

I’m not a vegetarian relying on beans as a source of protein. And I’ve never made it a point to add beans to my diet. But I estimate I eat at least two or three cups of beans per week. Turns out that puts me at odds with much of America.

Do you eat beans? Do you make a conscious effort to do so, or does it just come naturally to you? What are your favorite bean-based dishes?

And if you’re not a bean-eater, why not? Is there some way we can help?

Both this week’s “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” column and “Lean & Fit” e-newsletter offer recipes that feature beans of one kind or another. You can sign up to receive the newsletter here.

And, hey, are you following me on Twitter yet? You can read my tweets at @jhuget.