If you’re a patient of mine, you know I love to recommend adding 3-4 servings/week of legumes (beans and lentils) to your diet. So, I thought I’d do a “Beans 101” post to help anyone who is interested in adding these superstar foods to their diet.
Bean vs. legume vs. lentil
Legume refers to the class of vegetables that includes beans and lentils. Beans, peas, lentils, and even peanuts are legumes. Legumes are usually low in fat, and are high in folate, potassium, iron, magnesium and other minerals. They are also excellent sources of soluble and insoluble fiber. And, because they are a good source of protein, legumes can be the “meat” in a meatless meal. I often call beans the “perfect” food because they’ve got so much going for them. In fact, just 1 cup of beans provides nearly 15 grams of fiber, that’s almost 2/3 of of the recommended 25 gm/day.
The health benefits are impressive. Because of their high protein and fiber content, diets high in legumes have been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. And, the type of fiber they contain favours “good bacteria” to grow, which further benefits the digestive tract and immune system. They are small, but mighty!
Kinds of Beans
There are many kinds of beans available, and most can be found at your grocery store, health food store, or bulk foods store. Here’s a short summary of some common varieties:
1. Black beans: These are sometimes called turtle beans, and are quite versatile. They are often combined with corn, which makes them a “complete protein”. Interestingly, black beans are also high in antioxidants, thanks to their dark colour. They’re easily added to soups, stews and salads.
2. Chickpeas: Also known as garbanzo beans, many people are most familiar with this type of bean. Chickpeas are great in salads, or in dips such as hummus. They’re a good bean to try if you (or your family) are a bit hesitant to take the plunge. And, don’t forget to try them roasted with your favourite spices – so yummy (see recipe below).
3. Edamame: These green soybeans are a perfect snack. Cooked in their pods, they are fun to eat and are full of protein and fiber. Sprinkle a dash of sea salt on them, and they’re better than popcorn.
4. Lentils: Compared to other types of dried beans, lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare. Lentils also come in various colours and sizes. Lentils are great in soups and stews, and are convenient because they cook up so easily.
5. Kidney beans: Shaped like a kidney, these beans are larger than most, and are great for stews and chili’s. They’re also perfect finger foods for toddlers!
Dried vs. Canned.
Dried beans are readily available, cheap and will last a long time if stored in a dark, cool pantry. In order to be cooked, dried beans need to be soaked before they are cooked. Here are a few different soaking methods:
- Slow soak. Cover 1 pound dried beans with 10 cups water. Cover and refrigerate 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
- Hot soak. Bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 pound dried beans and return to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover tightly and set aside at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.
- Quick soak. Bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 pound dried beans and return to a boil. Boil 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Gas-free soak. Place 1 pound of beans in 10 or more cups of boiling water. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Then cover and set aside overnight. The next day 75 to 90 percent of the indigestible sugars that cause gas will have dissolved into the soaking water.
Canned beans are undeniably more convenient, but they also require some care. Canned beans should be rinsed thoroughly, to remove as much of the sodium as possible. Also, many cans are lined with bisphenol A (BPA), a concern for many. Fore more information about BPA, please click here. But, there are a few brands which do not line their cans with BPA, including Eden organic foods.
Cooking with beans has never been easier. Here are a few of my favourite recipes:
1. Chickpea Sweet Potato Curry
2 medium onions
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp grated ginger
1-2 tsp curry powder (I often use more)
1 tsp turmeric
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 large tomato
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
1 cup of water (sometimes I need a bit more, depending on the size of the potatoes)
Saute minced onion in olive oil for 5 mins, then add grated ginger and continue sauteeing for another 2-3 mins. Add curry powder, turmeric and diced potatoes, stirring until coated. Then add tomatoes and chickpeas. Add water and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked.
3. Lentil Soup
Other ways to enjoy beans
-add beans to cooked rice and your favourite vegetable
-add beans to a salad – chickpeas and kidney beans are great for this
-add black beans, diced tomato, avocado and cilantro to a wrap for a quick and healthy lunch
-make vegetarian chili by leaving out the ground beef and doubling the kidney beans