Beans, Beans, good for your heart… You know the rest. Whatever you think of beans, they are good for your heart. Dried beans are a great source of protein and have been used as a food staple for thousands of years. They are cheap and extremely shelf stable. They are low in fat and sugar, they contain B vitamins and iron as well as flavonoids (like those found in wine) and lots and lots of fiber. Studies show that beans help reduce cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.
Beans come in hundreds of shapes sizes and colors. They are versatile and amazingly convenient because they can be dried and stored for years. Soaking beans for a couple of hours brings them back to life, activating enzymes, proteins, minerals and vitamins. Beans can be eaten raw, sprouted or cooked, ground into flour, curdled into tofu, fermented into soy sauce, tempeh and miso. They are excellent in chilies, soups, dips and salads. One cup of black beans has more than 115% of your daily value for fiber!
Beans can be especially important for people with certain food allergies and intolerances. For instance, I’ve found that chickpea flour is an excellent binder and is excellent for making salmon cakes to replace flour and eggs. Other beans can be used in place of gluten. The beans add fiber and other nutrients missing from wheat, barley or rye.
There are so many ways to cook beans. I love to make them refried. It is so easy and doesn’t have to be fat filled. All I do is sauté some finely chopped onions in a healthy oil, add a can of beans, simmer for about a minute or two then mash up with a potato masher. Add some water or soup stock so it doesn’t dry out and salt to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve. Refried beans are a family favorite in my house whenever we are having Mexican for dinner. We usually go with black, red or pinto beans.
It doesn’t matter if it’s black or white – bean soups are another fantastic way to incorporate beans, as well as in chili either in place of meat or to help reduce the amount of meat.
And if the second part of the old song scares you off, don’t let it. The more you eat the more your body will get used to them.
Here are a few bean filled recipes to help you get more in your diet:
Main Image - White Bean Soup with Lemon and Garlic Cornbread