How well do you know beans?

Growing up, my family didn’t eat a lot of beans, and I’m not really sure why?  It could have been because all three of us kids were picky eaters, or maybe my parents did not have a preference for them.  However, as an adult I was “determined to know beans”.  These little powerhouses are so versatile. From the creaminess of cannellinis, to meaty garbanzos, and sweet adzukis – beans are some of the most powerful, nutrient-dense plant foods around.

Why are beans so powerful?

  • Beans are packed with fiber, which helps us feel satisfied, lessens over-eating, and keeps digestion moving smoothly.
  • Beans have plenty of iron and protein. Adding Vitamin C to beans makes the iron more bioavailable, so add a spritz of lemon or lime, chopped peppers, or tomatoes to make the iron in beans more absorbable.
  • Beans are a rich source of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
  • I’m sure you know the saying…”Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart”…. studies have found they lower the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as cancer and diabetes. Plant power!
  • “The more you eat, the more you fart!” – It doesn’t mean you need to avoid beans completely, however some people feel more comfortable taking some digestive enzymes to help them digest the fibers in beans. See the tips below to also help with digesting beans.

“I was determined to know beans.”

– Henry David Thoreau, The Bean-Field

What To Do With Beans

Many people avoid beans because they just don’t know what to do with them. Are you one of them? Keep reading.

Here are a few ideas of ways to add beans into your lifestyle:

  • Toss beans and diced veggies (such as celery, shallots, and red peppers) with vinaigrette for a bean salad.
  • Blend cooked beans with tomatoes, onions, and your favorite seasonings to create a yummy bean soup.
  • Top a green salad with 1/2 cup of your favorite bean. My favorite salad topping is organic edamame beans.
  • Puree beans with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, salt, fresh rosemary, and your favorite seasonings. Voila! A fast dip or sandwich spread.
  • Add beans to eggs. Top with avocado and salsa!
  • Add 1/4 cup pureed beans to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, or cake recipe. You’ll be surprised at how moist and springy baked goods are when baked with beans.

If you’re new to cooking with beans, try these tips:

  • Wash and soak dried beans for 8-12 hours before cooking.
  • After soaking, drain, rinse, fill a pot with fresh water, bring to a boil, then skim off the foam. It’s important to drain and rinse the soaked beans because a lot of the gaseous properties leach out into the water.
  • To aid digestion, add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, cinnamon stick, or fennel to the water.
  • Cover and simmer for the suggested time.
  • Remember: only add salt at the end of cooking (about 10 minutes before the beans are done) or it will interfere with the cooking process.

Quick tips:

  • For speedier prep, boil dried beans for 5 minutes, then soak for 2-4 hours.
  • Or use canned beans instead…my favorite! Some people find them even easier to digest! Be sure to rinse canned beans thoroughly in a colander or mesh strainer. Try to avoid canned beans with preservatives.

Curious about sprouting beans?

Sprouting beans is my new favorite thing even though it is centuries old. Everything I have learned about how to grow sprouts, I learned from sproutpeople.org (https://sproutpeople.org/) . Sprouting at home is quick, fun, and requires very little equipment – water, a jar, and screened lid (https://sproutpeople.org/sprouting-jar-3-screen-lid-set/) for draining.

Here’s what sprouting beans can do for you:

  • Higher vitamin content – the vitamin content is increased by a huge percentage during the sprouting process. For example, Vitamin B1 in mung beans increases by 285 percent when sprouted.
  • Higher enzyme content – sprouts contain an estimated 100 times more enzymes than fresh fruits and vegetables. These enzymes allow your body to extract higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from the foods you eat in conjunction with the sprouts.
  • Phytic acid decreases – making minerals more easily absorbed.
  • You can use sprouted beans for:
    • salads, wraps, or sandwiches.
    • freshly made hummus and other bean dips.
    • stir fry – add to the pan or top the plate with a garnish.
Katie Abbott, MS, RDN, INHC

Author Katie Abbott, MS, RDN, INHC

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