BeansLow in fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, iron and folic acid, beans are just about the perfect heath food. They are also a low-cost source of protein.

One of the perceived downfalls of beans is that they cause gas. However, if you eat them on a consistent basis, your digestive system will adjust to the complex sugars and you’ll notice that you will be less gassy. The key to reducing gas is in how you prepare your beans. By soaking them in cool water overnight and then discarding the water, you will remove 80% of the oligosaccharides that cause flatulence. Cooking beans until they are easy to mash with a fork will soften the starch and fibers, aiding in digestion.

If you are trying to trim down the grocery bill or scale back your meat consumption for your heart health, beans are the way to go. Start with a bean that is easier to digest – black-eyed peas, lentils, mung, anasazi and adzuki – and then work your way to the most difficult ones – navy, lima and soybeans. Consider adding cumin, epazote or kombu while cooking your beans as they contain gas-reducing properties.

Beans You Should Try

A small, reddish-brown bean with a white ridge along one side, adzuki beans have a strong, nutty and sweet flavor. Super popular in Japan, these beans are low in fat and easy to digest. There’s no need to soak them, but they do require 45 to 60 minutes of simmering before they are ready to eat. Try cooking them with brown rice, sautéed scallions, mushrooms and celery. Shape the mixture into cakes and pan-fry.

A great sweet bean to try, the Anasazi is another reddish-brown bean with white markings. These beans must be soaked and require about one and a half hours of simmering. Anasazi beans are a fantastic substitute for pinto beans and pair well with hot chilies, cilantro and lime.

A small, round, green bean that does not require soaking, mung beans need approximately an hour and 15 minutes to cook and make for a yummy addition to Asian-style brothy soups.

Black-eyed peas
The infamous small beige bean marked with a “black eye” is popular in the south. Black-eyed peas are traditionally served on New Year’s Day for good luck. They do not require soaking but take about an hour to cook. My personal favorite is the Hoppin’ John dish served at Wishbone restaurant. It consists of black-eyed peas, rice, ham, green peppers, onions and cheese – a fantastic winter dish.

There are a variety of lentils – green, red, yellow and split peas. Lentils are wonderful because they do not require soaking and cook up quickly compared to other bean varieties. Lentils can be used for more than just lentil soup. Consider adding them to casseroles and curry dishes, or try tossing them with a mustardy vinaigrette and sliced sausage for a classic bistro-style lunch.

Garbanzos (chickpeas)
This nutty, irregular shaped bean has become increasingly trendy over the last few years due to its mild taste. It does require soaking and takes one and a half to two hours to prepare, but is well worth the wait. Garbanzo beans are used as the primary ingredient in hummus and are also popular in Indian stews and Moroccan tagines.

All of the above cooking directions are meant for dried beans. Canned beans can be prepared must faster; however, they typically contain preservatives such as sodium and BPA. The most economical and healthy way to prepare beans is by purchasing them dried in bulk. If you cook beans often, using a pressure cooker can cut the cooking time for dried beans in half. 

 Information Taken From Whole Foods Market

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education
Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living

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