Guide to Beans
Beans, beans, the musical fruit.
Well, they may be musical for some. More importantly however, they're one of the richest sources of plant-based protein available.
A daily staple throughout history, legumes have supplied the bulk of protein for numerous cultures. Yet in much of our western culture, animal foods have largely displaced beans. Beans however, are regaining their popularity. Concerned with their health and fitness, more and more people are choosing beans over meat.
And why not! Beans provide us with the protein our bodies need for repair without saddling us with, the cholesterol and fats of meats. Beans are also a good source of calcium, iron, some B vitamins, and they are rich in fiber. Sprouted beans manufacture many other important nutrients, including a hefty dose of vitamin C. Beans also release glucose into our bloodstream more slowly than other foods, giving steady energy and providing a valuable food for people with diabetes and hypoglycemia.
Despite their vast nutritional benefits, beans are among the most difficult plant foods to digest. Their reputation as the musical fruit attests to that. However, proper handling and before and during cooking--such as soaking raw beans and adding salt only after cooked--can improve digestibility.
The best news is that beans come in an incredible variety of colors, shapes and flavors. Try black beans with your eggs for a Mexican-style breakfast, or a mix of kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas in some vegetable soup for lunch. For dinner? How about some aduki beans mixed with sea vegetables and rice? Once you start exploring beans, the choices for great and nutritious meals will seem endless.
Aduki (Adzuki or Azuki)
Easier to assimilate than other legumes, aduki beans are highly regarded in Oriental medicine as healing to the kidney. These small red beans are a good source of phosphorus, potassium, iron and calcium. Use them in soups, pies, pizzas, and pÔtÚs, or serve them with sea vegetables. They are especially tasty with roasted squash and sunflower seeds. Try cooking them with raisins (1 cup raisins per 1 cup aduki) for an Oriental-style dessert.
Black Turtle (Black Beans)
Sweet but hardy, the black turtle bean is a staple food throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, where it is often paired with fried plantain banana. Interchange black beans with pinto beans in any recipe. They are delicious as an addition to soups or simply refried (refritos negros).
One of the most ancient cultivated vegetables, fava beans have a substantial, robust quality. Substitute fresh favas, also known as broad beans, for fresh limas in any recipe. Soak dried fava beans overnight, then remove the leather-like outer skin and prepare as you would lima beans.
Green, brown, red, orange, yellow or black, lentils are an inexpensive source of protein throughout the world. Hence the nickname "poor man's meat." Nutritionally, these colorful, disk-shaped legumes are anything but poor. Except for soybeans, lentils are richer in protein than any other legume. They are also high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin A. More than 50 varieties alone are grown in India, home of the popular dish dhal. Lentils cook faster than other beans and are a common soup base. Sprouted red lentils add color and protein to salads.
The following preparation suggestions yield great-tasting beans. They should also improve digestibility and decrease intestinal flatulence (yes, those musical notes mentioned earlier).
For more information, please visit your local Jimbo's...Naturally! and pick up a complementary Guide to Beans.
- Soak beans before cooking. Lentils, split peas and dried peas require the least soak time (1 hour), whereas chickpeas and soybeans require the most (up to 10 hours). There is a disagreement as to whether to discard this soak water, as it contains minerals and vitamins leached from beans. If you tend toward flatulence, toss it. (Always discard soybean soak water to avoid the hard-to-digest enzyme in raw soybeans.)
- Cook a 2-inch strip of kombu sea vegetable with each cup of dry bean. It tenderizes beans and makes them more digestible, flavorful and mineral-rich.
- Boil uncovered beans 20-30 minutes. Cover and simmer (or pressure-cook) until completely soft. Add 1/4 -1/2 tsp. Salt per cup of dry beans and cook for another 10 minutes to an hour, until they are soft and most of the water has evaporated. Salt helps make beans more digestible. However, the skins will harden if you add salt too early in the cooking process.
- Combine with vegetables to create lighter, and therefore more digestible, dishes.
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