Beans are the best food you’re probably not eating. Chances are you have a can or two collecting dust in the back of your pantry when it could be fueling your body. Why? Because beans get a bad rap. For example, fans of Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles will no doubt remember the notorious and hilarious campfire scene that involves the after-effects of eating beans. But you don’t have to know that movie to have heard a bean/gas joke in your lifetime.
Poor beans! If they’re not the butt (yes, pun intended) of a fart joke, then they’re often dismissed as food only fit for rail-riding hobos or earthy-crunchy-commune types (lentil salad with hemp seed anyone?)
I say it’s time that someone stood up for the beleaguered bean. Beans are so much more than you might think: creamy cannellinis, meaty garbanzos, sweet adzuki, tender pintos — and so many more — are one of the most powerful, nutrient-dense plant foods around. Consider this: Beans are packed with tons of fiber, as well as plenty of iron and protein. They are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. They are low in calories. Plus, studies have found them to lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
But the truth is that beans are not just healthy, but they are delicious and can easily elevate your humdrum meals. But what to do with them?
Great, Tasty Ideas for Beans!
- Toss kidney, navy or pinto beans and diced veggies (such as celery, green bean, shallots, red peppers) with vinaigrette for a quick bean salad.
- Blend cooked black beans with tomatoes, onion, garlic and cilantro to create a yummy bean soup.
- Top a green salad with mint and fava beans.
- Puree chickpeas with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, tahini, lemon and salt, and your favorite seasonings. Voila! You have hummus — use it as a dip or sandwich spread.
- Add cannellinis into your favorite pasta and marinara sauce to make a heartier vegetarian meal.
- Roast chickpeas with sweet potatoes and tumeric for a sultry and satisfying side dish — see photo above and click here for my recipe: http://www.karenazeezwellbeings.com/spicy-baked-chickpeas-and-sweet-potatoes
- Throw some lentils in with your rice (right in the rice cooker!) for a easy pilaf
- Munch on some freshly cooked edamame with a sprinkle of sea salt for healthy and filling snack
If you’re new to cooking with beans, try these tips for delicious and well-cooked beans.
- Be sure to wash and clean the beans first.
- Soak dried beans for 8-12 hours before cooking (hint: cut a bean in half; if the center is still opaque, keep soaking). Or for a speedier prep, boil dried beans for 5 minutes, then soak for 2-4 hours.
- If you’d rather use canned beans instead (some people find them even easier to digest!). Be sure to avoid canned beans with added salt or preservatives and rinse thoroughly once removed from the can.
- After soaking, rinse, fill pot with fresh water, bring to a boil, then skim off the foam.
- To aid digestion (see above!), add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, or fennel to the water. And chew thoroughly.
- 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.
So give chickpeas a chance (and other beans too!)