By David Grotto, RD, LDN aka “The Guyatitian”
When interviewed by other food and health journalists, I’m often asked what the one food I would demand if I had to be stuck on an island alone. My reply is usually, “Beans! And it might be best if I were alone on that island.” LOL!
All kidding aside, bean consumption has been on the downturn for quite some time now and it may be because so many fear falling out of social graces from the resulting rumblings down below. But I think it may also have to do with the fact that so many younger adults simply don’t know what to do with them. So, I consider it my personal mission to set the record straight about beans and offer some really great information on why beans are so worth your while to include in your diet and give you some of my tasty tips on how to use them.
Lean on the Bean (for great health and nutrition)
With over 1000 varietals to choose from, beans are the highest protein and richest fiber source of any of the vegetables. That’s right – vegetable, NOT fruit!
Bean consumption has also been associated with longevity, looser waist bands and healthier hearts. Boasting to be one of the richest sources of soluble fiber, beans have been shown to help lower the more harmful LDL cholesterol which high levels are a risk factor for heart disease. Beans are also a good source of potassium which helps in controlling blood pressure.
Recent research has shown that a special type of carbohydrate called resistant starch may be helpful in fighting diabetes and controlling blood glucose (sugar).
Bean there, done that.
Maybe the health and nutrition benefits of beans aren’t enough of a convincer for you? Maybe you tried beans before and they just didn’t tickle your fancy? Perhaps you have texture issues? Okay then – well try these simple tips and stop being such a bean-o-phobe!
- Mix cooked beans and broth in a food processor until smooth. Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze. Add a frozen bean cube to hot soup or pasta sauce.
- Add black beans to your favorite brownie mix – see recipe below.
Simple and tasty.
- Add cooked/canned beans on top of any salad. Take canned salad beans and mix with green and wax beans. Add sweet vinaigrette dressing, coarse ground pepper and a bit of salt to taste. Voila! You’ve got three-bean salad.
- Whip cooked beans into a pate and season with garlic, onion, pepper and a dash of salt for a great spread on crackers or serving with vegetable crudités.
Did someone step on a duck?
Hey – gas happens – perfectly natural. But if you want to keep the production of air caused by beans to a minimum, try these simple tips:
- Eat more slowly. Swallowing air because you eat too fast is one of the main causes of gas.
- Cook dry beans with a strip of kombu (sea weed). Kombu helps break down rafinose, the indigestible carbohydrate often associated with gas.
- Rinse canned beans well before serving. You’ll also reduce the sodium content up to 40%!
- Start small. Try eating 1 tablespoon of beans everyday and work your way up to the recommended three cups per week. The slow introduction of beans allows your digestive tract to produce friendly bacteria that offsets gas production.
Using the ol’ bean
Here’s a great black bean brownie recipe that even throws in avocado for good measure from my 101 Optimal Life Foods book. I think you’ll really enjoy it! Love to get your comments and suggestions on how you use beans.
Beanie Greenie Brownies
By Deb Schiff
1 ½ cups chocolate or carob chips
3 tablespoons margarine spread
4 tablespoons tahini
1 cup whipped avocado
¾ cup pureed beans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup oat flour
1 cup cocoa or carob powder
2 cups agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
Mix together chocolate chips, margarine, and tahini in a large bowl. Bring a medium saucepan filled halfway with water to a boil. Turn off the heat and place the bowl with the carob mixture over the hot water. Whisk the melting cocoa mixture until smooth.
Transfer the cocoa mixture to a stand mixer bowl, or using a hand mixer, whisk in the avocado until incorporated. Whisk in the pureed beans until incorporated.
In a separate bowl or very large measuring cup, sift together the dry ingredients. Then, mix thoroughly with a fork until all the ingredients are combined.
In a large measuring cup, combine the agave nectar with the vanilla.
On the mixer, switch to a paddle. Alternate adding 1/2 cup at a time of the dry and agaves mixture to the batter. When the batter has been mixed well, fold in the walnuts. Let the batter rest.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Using margarine, generously coat a 13 x 9 in. pan. When the oven has reached temperature, spread the batter into the pan, making sure to get it into all the corners. It will be pretty thick. Bake 40 minutes, or until a tester reveals a few moist crumbs. Let the brownies cool completely on a rack (at least two hours) until cutting into 48 pieces.
110 Calories, 4g Fat, .5g Sat Fat, 0mg Cholesterol, 50mg Sodium, 20g Carbs, 2g Fiber, 2g Protein