First and foremost, why eat beans? Well, nutritionists and health professionals tout beans for their role in:
▪ Lowering risk of colon cancer
▪ Reducing blood cholesterol, as well as LDL or "bad cholesterol," a leading causes of heart disease
▪ Lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes
▪ Improving diabetes control for existing type 1 and 2 diabetics
▪ Strengthening the immune system
There are thousands of bean varieties, and they all offer a host of benefits. On average, cooked dry beans provide roughly 120 calories per ½ cup (C) and are full of B vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, fiber, and are a low-glycemic carbohydrate, which means they can help to control blood sugar levels aiding in better weight management. It is recommended by the USDA that people consume 3 C of beans/week. Try one of the many varieties below, and find out which ones are your favorite:
▪ Adzuki beans
▪ Butter beans
▪ Black beans
▪ Black-eyed peas
▪ Cannellini beans
▪ Great northern beans
▪ Kidney beans
▪ Lima beans
▪ Mung beans
▪ Navy beans
▪ Pinto beans
▪ Snow peas
▪ Split peas
▪ White beans
So how can you add beans into your daily intake?Toss drained and rinsed canned beans into your salads, into a dish of brown rice, or add some flavor to a stir-fry. Hummus, made from chickpeas or garbanzo beans, is a great substitute for mayonnaise in your sandwich or a perfect dip for your vegetables at a snack or pre-dinner nibble. Add beans to a soup or stew for a boost of flavor and fiber! Sautee beans and add them to a side dish of vegetables. Instead of poultry, meats, or fish, try beans as your protein choice and serve with sauteed or steamed vegetables and a serving of a whole grain such as 1/2 cup brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. The next time you go grocery shopping, stock up on cans of a variety of beans and make sure to always have them in your pantry. This way you'll always be ready to add beans to your meals for a quick and yummy nutritional boost.
What about dried beans?
Well, they do take a bit more time to prepare, but you'll eliminate the added salt you get from canned beans. Here's how to prepare them:
▪ Rinse the beans under cool water and remove any stones or debris (you do not have to rinse split peas, lentils, or mung beans)
▪ Soak beans in water in a large bowl that doubles the height of the beans for 8-12 hours
▪ Replace the water every few hours
▪ Transfer the beans to a pot and boil them for 10 minutes
▪ Lower the flame and simmer the beans for 1-2 hours until tender
Replacing the water and slowly cooking the beans should greatly reduce the raffinose, which is the compound that may cause gas or bloating. The key to avoiding this common complaint is to increase your bean consumption slowly. This should cut down on the gastrointestinal discomfort sometimes associated with beans.
Try this recipe to get started!
Yummy Black Bean Casserole
1 Tablespoon (Tbsp) olive oil
1 C chopped onions
¾ C + 2 Tbsp yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons (tsp) chili powder
1¼ C skim milk
One 1-pound (lb) can black beans, rinsed and drained
One 1-lb can whole kernel corn, drained
One 1-lb can stewed tomatoes
One 4-ounce (oz) can chopped green chilies (mild or hot), drained
¼ C shredded low-fat cheddar cheese (1 oz)
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Lightly oil an 8˝-square baking pan or spray with a nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, except the cheddar cheese. Mix well. Place in prepared pan. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes.