Beans: Good for Your Body, Easy on Your Wallet
Beans are not the most glamorous food, but they pack a nutritious punch at an unbeatable price. They’re also extremely versatile; they can be found in almost every type of cuisine from Greek pitas to Mexican burritos. You may be overwhelmed by the array of beans available at the grocery store; there’s navy, pinto, red, kidney, soy… the list goes on! And should you buy dried beans, or the canned kind? You many have shied away from this superfood in the past, but this article will shed some light on often-neglected world of beans and their amazing benefits.
Sometimes called the “poor man’s meat”, beans have a very high protein content with much less fat than actual meat. Because of this, beans are a great meat replacement for those who are watching their cholesterol. Another benefit for those trying to stay heart-healthy is that these lovely legumes pack a huge amount of fibre, which is known to actually lower cholesterol. Lima beans and black beans top the list of beans with the most fibre: both have more than 13 grams per serving, which can easily fulfill almost half of the 30 gram-per-day recommendation.
Now if that’s not enough to make you consider the humble bean for your next meal, here’s a good reason: beans contain many cancer-fighting antioxidants. In fact, small red beans and pinto beans both beat out blueberries for highest number of antioxidants per serving. Beans also contain a long list of essential vitamins, including vitamin B6, iron, potassium, and folic acid.
When it comes down to a trip to the supermarket, you will probably find a huge variety of beans available. To help make your decision, think about the kind of dish you will be preparing: black beans are often used in heavier soups or Mexican foods, as are pinto beans. Great Northern beans are popular for use in baked beans as well as in soups with a light broth, and navy beans are great with ham. If you have trouble thinking of ways to incorporate beans into your meals, don’t be discouraged; they can fit into a myriad of dishes you already enjoy. Sprinkle some garbanzo beans in with your salad, add a cup of red beans into your soup, or cook up a pot of pinto beans to eat with your nachos.
So what’s the difference between dried and canned beans? First of all, canned beans are pre-cooked and ready to eat. This can be a huge benefit if you are short on time, but beware that canned beans often have more sodium content than home-cooked beans. Look for labels that say “low-sodium” if you’re going to go the canned route. And keep in mind that canned beans, while still fairly inexpensive, do cost more than dried beans.
When bought in bulk, dried beans are very economical. Even the pre-packaged kind is a great value for the amount of protein and vitamins you get. And don’t worry, they’re not as complicated to make as you may think! Most dried beans just need to be rinsed and soaked overnight in a bowl of water; you’ll notice that they get much larger and become very soft from all the moisture they absorb. After this step, they’re ready to add to any dish you can dream up. If you forget to soak your beans overnight, don’t worry! Boiling them in water will do the same thing in a shorter amount of time.
Beans are more than just bland filler for your chili; they’re a healthy and versatile food that can have a place in anyone’s diet. So before you leave beans behind at the grocery store, think about all the ways they can fit in with meals you already know and love at a price you can afford.
Copyright ©2011. Published with permission. Maggie Hawthorne is a freelance writer and is not affiliated with avivahealth.com.