Throughout history and around the world – from Egypt to China and India to the Mediterranean – beans have been a culinary staple, with one notable exception: the U.S. We often overlook the humble bean. It’s a shame because beans are healthy, satisfying, economical, and earth-friendly. Read on to learn how to incorporate these beautiful beans into your diet.
Beans and Nutrition
• High in fiber to help you feel full and keep your cholesterol in check.
• High in folate to support cell production which helps your body restore itself.
• High in protein to help maintain and repair the tissues in your body. Adequate protein is also necessary for a healthy immune system.
• Good source of potassium to assist in muscle and nerve function so your body can perform daily tasks, as well as more specialized tasks like running, properly.
Beans and Economics
• Easy on the wallet – they are one of the cheapest sources of protein.
• Long shelf-life – dried beans can last up to two years stored in an airtight container.
Beans and the Environment
Beans are good for the environment in a few ways. First, they help build and enrich the soil in which they are grown by adding organic matter and improving soil structure. Using beans as part of a crop rotation plan leaves the land in better shape for the next crop. Also, beans are less expensive and less environmentally taxing than raising animals, such as cattle, for food. Large livestock production systems require much more resources; these systems can actually pollute the land and waterways if not managed properly.
Tips for Adding Beans to Your Diet
• To a salad: top your salad with chickpeas or kidney beans.
• To snacks: blend a cup of white beans with olive oil and lemon juice to create a quick and healthy dip or spread.
• To sautéed vegetables: add beans to chopped onions, broccoli, and peppers cooked with olive oil.
• To soups: add a can of beans to your favorite soup to increase its protein and fiber content.
• To wraps: sprinkle some black beans or pinto beans into a tortilla or fajita.
• Canned: Drain canned beans and they are ready to eat!
• Dried: Dried beans are more economical and hold their shape better than canned beans, but you do need to soak them overnight before cooking. After soaking, rinse the beans and cook them in fresh water. Soaking and rinsing helps reduce the amount of gas-causing compounds in beans. The cooking times will vary by variety, but the package should have detailed instructions.
Bonus Recipe: Sautéed White Beans & Kale
You can experiment with different types of beans. If you have spinach, you can use that in place of the kale. Serve with steamed brown rice or quinoa.
Prep time: 10 min; Cook time: 10 min
Adapted from 101cookbooks.com
1 bunch lacinato kale, stems cut off
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups canned white beans, drained and rinsed with water
1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1. Wash the kale well since it tends to carry some grit with it. Dry it off with a paper towel; chop the kale and set it aside.
2. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the beans in a single layer. Stir to coat the beans with a little oil, then let them sit long enough to brown on one side (about 3-4 minutes) before turning to brown the other side (for another 3-4 minutes). The beans should be golden and a bit crunchy on the outside.
3. Add the kale and cook for about a minute, just long enough for the kale to wilt. Stir in the walnuts, garlic, nutmeg and cook for about 30 seconds. To finish, stir in the lemon juice, zest, and parmesan cheese.
3g saturated fat