Beans: Powerful Plant Protein
Beans are one of the most powerful, nutrient-dense plant proteins around. There are so many choices: creamy cannellinis, meaty garbanzos, sweet adzuki, tender pintos, and so many more to choose from.
Consider this: Beans are packed with tons of fiber, as well as plenty of iron and protein. They are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. They are low in calories.
Plus, studies have found them to lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
What To Do With Beans
Many people avoid beans because they just don’t know what to do with them (and they don’t know how to get rid of the gases they are so well known for). Are you one of those people? If so, keep reading:
First of all, by first soaking you can easily take care of the excess gas (the physic acid) that these little lovelies produce. But an even better way to get the great protein they provide is to sprout them. Now we’re talking!
The best part is that there’s less starch in sprouted grains and legumes, and the amount of protein and fiber in each seedling becomes higher. You can’t beat that! So, sprouting beans automatically lowers their glycemic index than the non-sprouted ones. This is vital for people who’ve chosen a vegan diet.
Secondly, they can be used in such versatile ways in dishes.
- Toss beans and diced veggies (such as celery, shallots, red peppers) with vinaigrette for a quick bean salad.
- Blend cooked beans with tomatoes, cut up carrots, onions, salt and your favorite seasonings (including turmeric) to create a yummy bean soup.
- Top a green salad with 1/3 cup of your favorite beans or bean spouts.
- Puree beans with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, salt, and your favorite seasonings. Voila! A fast dip or sandwich spread that usually gets devoured fastest at parties I’ve taken it to.
- Include 1/3 cup with your other favorite toppings next time you make stuffed baked potatoes or sweet potatoes. I prefer black beans for this.
- Add 1/4 cup pureed beans to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, or cake recipe. What, you say? You’ll be surprised at how moist and springy baked goods are when baked with beans.
If you’re new to cooking with beans, try these tips for delicious and well-cooked beans.
- Be sure to wash and clean the beans well first. Remove any rocks you may find. (duh)
- Rinse and soak dried beans for 8-12 hours before cooking (hint: cut a bean in half; if the center is still opaque, keep soaking).
- After soaking, rinse well, fill a pot with fresh non-chlorinated water, bring to a boil, then skim off the foam.
- To aid digestion, add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, or fennel to the water. I like to use chicken or vegetable stock for extra flavor.
- Cover and simmer for the suggested time.
- Tip: Only add salt at the end of cooking (about 10 minutes before the beans are done) or it will interfere with the cooking process.
- More tips: For speedier prep, boil dried beans for 5 minutes, then soak for 2-4 hours. Or use canned beans instead (some people find them even easier to digest!). Be sure to avoid canned beans with added salt or preservatives and rinse thoroughly once removed from the can. I dump my canned beans into a colander and let them drain after a really good rinse.
Do you have more ideas and tips you’d like to share or questions about how to cook and serve legumes? Please share your comments below.
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Adapted from an article by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition