Beans are great for your health and experts recommend adding them to your daily diet. Beans are also incredibly versatile and with so many varieties to choose from—black beans, navy beans, and kidney beans to name a few – there’s no reason to not eat more of them. Read on to find out why they're so good for your health, and the best method to prepare them.
Health Benefits Of Beans
Fiber Rich And Good for Digestion
Fiber helps your body feel full, so you don't need to eat as much throughout the day. Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough fiber. Beans have fiber in both the skin and the flesh and this fiber remains intact even through the long cooking process.
Beans contain soluble and insoluble fiber, which are both important to keep your digestive system running smoothly. The soluble fiber slows down digestion, which gives you that full feeling, and insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation. It is important to drink lots of water as you need it to help all that fiber move through your GI tract.
For more fiber-filled foods, read this post
Regulate Blood Sugar
Along with being high in fiber, most beans are also low on the glycemic index, (a ranking of foods based on how they affect blood sugar). The high fiber and protein content in beans means the carbohydrates get absorbed at a slower rate over a longer period of time. That helps keep your blood sugar steady and could be one reason beans are thought to help keep diabetes at bay.
A healthy cardiovascular system starts with what you eat, and beans are one low-fat food you want on your team. The soluble fiber in beans binds to cholesterol in the GI tract, which prevents it from being absorbed in the blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) can stick to the walls of your blood vessels, causing inflammation and plaque buildup. Eating one serving of beans, peas, chickpeas, or lentils daily can reduce your LDL levels by 5% and your chances of developing cardiovascular disease by 5 to 6%.
With every 1% reduction of total blood cholesterol, there is about a 2% reduction in the risk of heart attack. Research has also found that getting in an additional 7 grams of fiber per day could significantly lower your risk of developing either high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease by 9%.
Beans are also good sources of the key minerals potassium and magnesium. Potassium naturally removes excess sodium and water from your system, which can reduce blood pressure. Magnesium supports nerve function and blood pressure regulation.
Help Regulate Weight
In addition to satiety-inducing fiber, beans are packed with protein, another nutrient that curbs cravings. The protein and fiber in beans delay stomach emptying, leaving you feeling fuller longer and delaying the return of hunger. While many people turn to meat for their protein fix, most don't realize that beans contain significant amounts of protein too. A half cup of cooked black beans contains nearly 8 grams of protein. Furthermore, the satiety effect combined with the low-fat nature of beans makes them a great food for weight loss.
High In iron
Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies worldwide and the leading cause of anemia, a condition where the body has a lower-than-normal red blood cell count. Many people fall short of the recommended daily iron intake. Eating beans is one way to get started on boosting your iron consumption: a half cup of cooked lentils has 3.3 milligrams of iron. However, because beans are a plant food, they contain non-heme iron, which isn't as readily absorbed as the heme iron you find in meat. For better absorption, it's important to eat your beans with foods high in vitamin C which significantly boosts the absorption of nonheme iron by six times. It’s easy to do by pairing beans with foods such as bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, and citrus.
Good Source Of B Vitamins
Many bean varieties contain B vitamins like thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, B6, and folate that help you convert food to energy, boost good cholesterol, and reduce inflammation, among other things. Research has shown that folate and B6 may be helpful for lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease.
May Reduce Cancer Risk
Beans are rich in antioxidants, which protect against free radicals that could damage your cells and lead to cancer. Research has linked regular bean consumption with lower incidences of both breast cancer and colorectal polyps which are a precursor to both colon and rectal cancers. Other natural substances in beans could also play a part in fighting cancer. Beans are rich in saponins which have been shown to block the reproduction of cancer cells and slow the growth of tumors.
How to prepare Beans
Dry beans are an incredibly nutritious, versatile and inexpensive ingredient. The cost of one ½ cup serving of dry beans is about one-third the cost of canned beans. Cooking with dry beans is easy and rewarding, but to cook with dry beans versus canned beans you need to follow four simple steps.
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Plate the beans in a shallow layer in a pie plate, baking sheet, or bar pan. Pick out and discard any leaves, small stones or twigs, as well as any broken beans.
This method typically is recommended because it reduces cooking time and gas-producing compounds the most while consistently yielding tender beans.
- Place beans in a large pot and add 10 cups of water for every 2 cups of beans
- Heat to boiling and boil for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove beans from heat, cover and let stand for 4 hours
This is the best method for pressure cooking beans.
- Pour cold water over beans to cover.
- Soak beans for 8 hours or overnight
- Drain beans and discard soak water. (NOTE: Cold water starts but does not complete the rehydration process so the beans will appear wrinkled after soaking. They will fully rehydrate during cooking.)
- Rinse beans with fresh, cool water.
This is the fastest method
- Place beans in a large pot and add 6 cups of water for every 2 cups of beans.
- Bring to a boil and boil for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove beans from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.
- Drain beans and discard soak water.
- Rinse beans with fresh, cool water.
Place beans in a large stock pot and cover with fresh, cold water. Place over medium heat and gently simmer the beans. Do not add salt to you water. Beans take 30 minutes to 2 hours to cook, depending on the variety. Beans should be tender but not mushy.
For best results when cooking your beans:
- Keep cooking water at a gentle simmer to prevent split skins.
- Add warm water periodically during the cooking process to keep the beans covered.
- Stir beans occasionally throughout the cooking process to prevent sticking.
- If beans are not tender after the specified cooking time, the reason could be altitude, hard water, or the age of the beans. Keep cooking and test again in 10-15 minutes for tenderness.
- Drain beans immediately after they reach the desired tenderness to stop the cooking process and prevent over-cooking.
- Aromatics may be added at any time during the cooking process. For a stronger flavor, add them during the last half-hour of cooking.
- Herbs and spices like oregano, parsley, thyme, may be added at any time during cooking.
- Wait to add acidic ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes, molasses, or wine until after beans have been soaked and are fully cooked. Adding ingredients rich in calcium or acids too early in the cooking process can prevent the beans from becoming tender.
- Salt your beans to taste once fully cooked.
If you’re looking to add more beans to your diet, learning to properly prepare them will help you reap all their benefits and take full advantage of all their nutrients.