Beans: a Powerful Plant Protein
“I was determined to know beans.”— Henry David Thoreau, The Bean-Field
How about you? How well do you know beans?
Creamy cannellinis, meaty garbanzos, sweet adzuki, tender pintos, and so many more; beans are one of the most powerful, nutrient-dense plant foods around.
If beans haven’t been on your health food radar up to now, it’s time to get them in your sights. 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 the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. They sound like a superfood to me!
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? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Quick Bean Salad: Toss beans and diced veggies (such as celery, shallots, and red peppers) with a vinaigrette.
- Yummy Bean Soup: Blend cooked beans with tomatoes, onions, and your favorite seasonings.
- Super Salad Topping: Top a green salad with 1/3 cup of your favorite beans.
- A Fast Bean Dip: Puree beans with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, salt, and your favorite seasonings. Voila!
- Stuffed Baked Potatoes: Include 1/3 cup of beans with your other favorite toppings. It works for baked
sweet potatoes too.
- Healthy Baking: Add 1/4 cup of pureed beans to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, or cake recipe.
You’ll be surprised at how moist and springy baked goods are when they’re baked with beans.
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).
- After soaking, rinse, fill a pot with fresh water, bring to a boil, and then skim off the foam.
- To aid digestion, add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, 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 (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.