|Beans are the perfect substitute for meat and very important in vegetarian and vegan diets.|
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The Importance of Beans
Beans are an essential food in anyone's diet but they are particularly important to those who consume little or no animal products. They are truly nutritional powerhouses and are:
* High in protein, dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates
* Low in calories, fat, sodium and are free of cholesterol
* Rich in vitamins and minerals
* A very inexpensive, nutrient dense food source
Just One Cup of Beans
For example, let's take pinto beans. They are easy to find and very inexpensive.
One cup of cooked pinto beans is only 245 calories and 1 gram of fat yet it provides:
* 15 g or 31% of the daily value (DV) of protein.
* 15 g or 62% DV of dietary fiber.
* At least 20% DV of Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium and 39% Manganese.
* 74% DV of Folate and at least 20% DV of Thiamin and Vitamin B6
* Provides over 200 mg of omega-3 fatty acid.
Lots of Variety
There are many varieties to choose from. Here are a few to try:
Aduki Bean - commonly eaten in Asian cuisine.
Anasazi Bean - unhybridized and indigenous to North America.
Black Bean or Turtle Bean - native to Mexico.
Black-eyed peas - also known as cowpeas and used in Southern cuisine.
Pink Bean - used in Hispanic and American Indian cultures.
Fava Bean - also known as broad bean, these have become more popular in North American cuisine.
Garbanzo Bean or Chickpea - a very versatile bean used in many different types of cuisine.
Great Northern, Cannellini and Navy Beans - types of white beans.
Kidney Beans - found as red or white kidney beans.
Lentils - come in many colors and sizes and eaten all over the world. They cook faster than other beans.
Lima Bean - Also known as "butter beans", they are a favorite in South America.
Soy Bean - also eaten as tofu, tempeh and miso. Very high in protein.
Adjusting to Beans
Some people have a problem digesting beans, especially if they aren't used to eating them and they currently are on a highly processed, low fiber diet. Beans should be introduced to the diet gradually as consuming too many, too quickly can cause gas and intestinal problems. Gas is caused by indigestible sugars (oligosaccharides) contained on their outer coating. But there are things you can do when preparing the beans that will make them more digestible.
Techniques to Improve Texture and Digestibility of Beans
1. Slow soak - Cover the beans with water and soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Change the water once or twice if possible. Soaking helps eliminate the indigestible sugars that cause gas as well as the phytates that bind with important minerals making them unavailable. By rehydrating the beans, they will also cook more evenly and not split open. Soaked beans also cook much faster retaining more of their nutrient value.
2. Boil the first 20 minutes - When you start to cook the beans, boil uncovered for the first 15 to 20 minutes, scooping off and discarding any foam.
3. Add a strip of Kombu to the pot while cooking.
Kombu is a sea vegetable that expedites cooking, improves digestibility of the beans and reduces issues with gas. It also adds iodine, a very critical mineral that is lacking in our diets. Kombu also reduces the need for salt.
|1 gram of kombu provides 2,353 micrograms of iodine!|
4. Cook with herbs like cumin or fennel. Mexicans also use "epazote" or "wormseed leaf" while cooking to reduce gas in beans.
I love anasazis. They are also known as "New Mexico cave beans" after being discovered in a cave once inhabited by Native Americans. This beautiful and colorful unhybridized bean has been cultivated for more than 1,000 years. They are sweet and contain far less of the gas-causing sugars than other beans. I made them for lunch yesterday and they were wonderful.
Anasazi with Kombu
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 2 1/2 cups cooked beans]
1 cup anasazi beans
4 inch strip kombu
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
|Place rehydrated beans in a Dutch oven with 4 cups of water and a strip of kombu.|
Sort through the beans removing clumps of dirt. Rinse well under cold water.
Place beans in a large pot and cover with 4 cups of water.
Soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Change soak water once or twice if possible.
Rinse again and cover with 4 cups of water and a 4 inch strip of kombu.
Bring to a low boil and cook uncovered for 15 minutes.
Remove foam that forms on top of water.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer until beans are almost done (1 hour more or less).
Add cumin and salt to taste and cook an additional 15 minutes or until beans reach desired texture.
Remove kombu, slice into thin pieces and return to pot.
Drain or cook off excess water and serve or use in any recipe that calls for cooked beans.
For a simple and satisfying meat free meal, serve over rice with a side of your favorite greens.