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  • Are Beans Really the Magical Fruit?

Published on July 03, 2013

Are Beans Really the Magical Fruit?

By Alicia Heinrich, RD, LN
Clinical Dietitian
Avera Sacred Heart Hospital

Did you know that there is an entire day dedicated to eating beans?  It falls on July 3rd and is adequately named Eat Beans Day. What makes a bean so great that it would have its own celebration? First and foremost beans are unique! They belong to two different food groups. Which food groups do beans belong to exactly? If you thought vegetables and protein you’re right!  USDA’s ChooseMyPlate includes beans under both of these categories because of the high nutrient content of beans. Beans are high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  They are also low in fat, free of saturated fat and trans-fat, and are a cholesterol free protein making them a great addition to meals.   Beans really are rather magical!

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend that adults consume three cups of beans per week to reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote health. Diets that include beans can reduce your risk for certain cancers and heart disease. Three cups of beans per week and you can get the added benefit of reducing the risk of chronic disease. That sounds pretty good doesn’t it? The benefits don’t just stop at your health either. Beans are also an affordable alternative to buying meat which in turn is a little easier on your wallet when trying to budget for meals.  One of the great advantages of beans is that they come canned or dry.  Canned beans will need to be rinsed off before use to help reduce the salt content.  Rinsing canned beans will reduce the sodium by 40%.  Dry beans will need to have a good cleaning and soak before using them in a recipe.  There are a few different ways to soak dry beans listed below.

Cleaning: Before soaking the beans, pick them over, removing any small rocks or dirt pieces. Put the beans in a strainer, sieve, or colander. Rinse with cold water.

Traditional Soak: Clean and rinse beans. Cover with 3 times as much water as beans (i.e. 1 cups of beans to 3 cups of water). Soak overnight. Drain and use as directed in recipe or cover with water and simmer about 1-2 hours until tender.

Hot soak:  In a large pot, heat 10 cups of water to boiling for each pound (2 cups) of beans. Add dry beans. Boil for 2-3 minutes (blanch). Remove from heat, cover and let stand 4 hours or overnight (not more than 16 hours).  Do not remove lid while beans are soaking.  After beans are through soaking, drain them off and rinse with fresh cold water.  Follow recipe instructions.  If the recipe calls for cooked beans, cover the beans with fresh cold water; add 1-3 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender.  Usually 15-45 minutes. 

Time Saver:  Cook up a large pot of beans. Freeze the beans in one to two cup amounts.  Cover the beans with cooking liquid or water to resist freezer burn.

Introducing beans into your weekly meal rotation won’t be difficult.  Many people around the world serve beans the way we eat potatoes.  The general population’s first thought when it comes to hearing the word bean is, GASSY.  Beans more often than not causes intestinal gas in people.  Here are a few tips to cut down on the GAS:

  • Add beans slowly to your diet over a three to eight week period.  When you eat beans on a regular basis the gas will be less of a problem.
  • Chewing the beans well and slowly to help digest them.
  • Soaking or cooking the beans and then rinsing them.  This will reduce the “gassy sugars” in beans by 75% or more.
  • Drinking plenty of water and other fluids to help your system manage the extra fiber.
  • Try an over-the-counter product such as Bean-O that will help breakdown the gassy substances.

Which bean is right for me? Beans come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  Navy beans, kidney beans, black beans, and great northern beans are heard of quite often.  Black beans work well in stews, soups, sauces, and enchiladas. Kidney beans are popular in chili and cold salads.  Navy beans are frequently used in pork and beans, soups, and stews. Beans can easily be added to any recipe and it will give it an extra nutritional punch. Taking small steps to add beans to your diet will benefit you in many different ways.  Beans are convenient, affordable, nutritious, and unique.  Add variety to your weekly meals and be adventurous with beans.


Sources:

Franzen-Castle, Lisa. "Magical Beans." University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension. 01 2011.
"Nebraska Dry Bean Commission ." 2013. <http://nebraskadrybean.com/>.
Northarvest Bean Growers Association. The Bean Cook Book. 2011. 2-15. Print.
United States. Department of Agriculture (USDA). ChooseMyPlate.gov. <http://www.choosemyplate.gov/>.
"United States Dry Bean Council." 2013. <http://www.usdrybeans.com/>.