Beans are such a healthy addition to your diet. Because a 1/3 cup of cooked beans contains around 80 calories, no cholesterol, lots of complex carbohydrates, and little fat, they are a nutritious ingredient in your recipes. They have lots of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and potassium. Beans are low in sodium and high in fiber which promotes digestive health and relieves constipation. Eating beans may help prevent colon cancer, and reduce blood cholesterol (a leading cause of heart disease). The complex carbs and protein help manage diabetes by releasing a slow, steady source of glucose. This prevents sugar spikes associated with simple carbs.
Research suggests beans may reduce disease risk and enhance longevity. In a recent multicultural study, the consumption of beans was shown to be the only dietary component related to longevity. In a study called the “Food Habits in Later Life Study,” investigators found that for every 20g intake of legumes (including dry beans), the risk ratio of death was reduced by 6% in the older people (aged 70 and older) studied.
Buying dry beans for your recipes, you will find that they are very low-cost – just pennies on the pound. Dried beans average at least half to two-thirds of the price of reconstituted (canned) beans. If you’re able to purchase in bulk, you’re often able to save much more. Beans are the cheapest protein source. A bag of beans triples in size when cooked which gives you a lot of beans for your money.
You can soak the low-cost dry beans to get them ready to cook, or you can buy them in cans. You can decide what is best for you after you review your recipe. A 15-1/2 or 16-ounce can of beans (after you have drained and rinsed them) is about 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups of cooked beans.* For complete instructions on soaking beans and cooking them, check out A Quick Way to Soak Dry Beans. Also cooked beans freeze well, and cooking a large bag and freezing portions for future meals is another way to save $. Add salt,sugar, or acid ingredients (i.e. tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar, ketchup) after the beans are cooked tender. Beans can toughen if acids are added too early.
If you want to add more plant-based meals to your diet, beans are packed with protein. They are perfect as a meat replacement in many recipes. This is great for your heart and your wallet. Combine beans with corn, bread, rice,pasta or corn chips for a great taste and a complete protein.
Tips on using beans in your diet:
- Use any kind of cooked beans as a topping on tossed, vegetable, or cabbage salads. We are all familiar with the addition of chick peas to salads but branch out and try other legumes.
- Add cooked, drained beans to any canned soup for extra protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. And you get the addition of terrific taste too.
- There are many bean chili recipes available. Use any leftover chili as a topping on baked potatoes.
- Use leftover baked beans to make a ‘baked bean sandwich’. Try topping the beans with ketchup and mustard on your favorite bread.
- Try baked beans on toast for breakfast.
Health risks associated with beans:
- If you take a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor to treat depression, avoid fava beans because they can interact with your medication and raise blood pressure.
- Some legumes can trigger migraines or an allergic reaction in some people. If this is a problem, talk to your doctor and eliminate that bean from your diet.
- Some beans, like soybeans, contain substances that interfere with the absorption of beta carotene and vitamins B12 and D. Cooking inactivates most of these substances, making vitamin absorption more likely. But it’s still smart to compensate for potential vitamin loss by consuming plenty of fresh fruits and yellow or dark green veggies ( for your beta carotene) and lean meat or nutritional yeast (for vitamin B12).
- Beans can trigger gout. If you suffer from gout, talk to your doctor about your bean consumption. People with gout are often advised to avoid dried peas, beans, and lentils because of their high purine content. Purines increase levels of uric acid and can precipitate a gout attack.
- Although not a true health risk, the fiber content can cause gas. Rinse the canned beans well. Remember if you are soaking beans to throw away the soaking water several times and rinse. Some people also throw away the water during the cooking process (before beans are added to recipe.) This decreases the gas. Try adding beans slowly to your diet two days a week if you are not a bean eater. Experiment with recipes. Adding herbs like lemon balm, fennel, and caraway, or combining cooked legumes with an acidic food, might also help prevent flatulence.
* 1 cup dry beans = 2 – 3 cups cooked beans.
* 1 (19-oz) can cooked, drained beans = 2 cups.
* 1 (16-oz) can cooked, drained beans = 1 3/4 cups.
* 1 (15-oz) can cooked, drained beans = 1 1/2 cups
5 Health Benefits of Beans and 5 Risks, Readers Digest
Beans for a Healthy Heart, US Dry Bean Council
Kidney Beans, The World’s Healthiest Foods
Nutritional Value of Dry Beans, Bean Institute