If you’re a health-conscious cook, beans belong on your menu several times a week. Whether you are watching your cholesterol, concerned about diabetes or simply trying to eat less meat, beans can’t be beat.
Here are four key reasons:
— Protein: A one-cup serving of beans contains as much as 16 grams of protein — 1/4 to 1/3 of our daily requirement.
–Vitamins and minerals: Beans are a good source of calcium, copper, zinc, iron and potassium, and B vitamins including folic acid.
–Fiber: Beans deliver 12 to 15 grams of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, per one-cup serving — half the recommended daily intake. Soluble fiber guards against constipation and promotes healthy cholesterol levels, while insoluble fiber wards off blood-sugar spikes.
–Antioxidants: Like blueberries, pomegranates and other more celebrated “super foods,” beans — especially deeply colored red and black ones — are an excellent source of the plant compounds thought to protect us from DNA damage associated with cancer and other ills.
If, like me, you’re a budget- as well as health-minded cook, buying dried beans is the way to go. The cost per serving is half that of canned beans, and the flavor is better.
I used to think from-scratch beans were too much trouble, but then I made a few changes in my method. Here’s my advice:
— Don’t soak: Maybe the texture is slightly nicer if you do, but it’s not worth the bother.
— Use a slow cooker: Put a pound of rinsed beans in a Crock-Pot, add 6 cups of boiling water and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook on high. They’ll be done in 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
— Cook in bulk and freeze : Spread a pound of cooked beans on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and freeze. Transfer to a food storage bag, and measure out the frozen beans as needed.
— Use the cooking water : When I learned that the same compounds that give black and red beans their color are the source of their antioxidant power, it seemed foolish to pour it down the drain. I incorporate it into my soups, as with the hearty red bean soup here.
A final note: If beans give you a lot of gas, you may want to soak them and discard both the soaking and cooking water, as there’s a school of thought that it ameliorates that problem somewhat.
Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.
Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.
Improves mood, memory, and focus.
Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.