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Just Bean’ Healthy
Beans really are magical – for your health, that is! Not only are they a clean and inexpensive protein source, they are also packed with a plethora of important vitamins and minerals crucial to achieving good health. Plus, they are extremely versatile and can be used in a variety of ways from soups and stews to dips and even dessert.
So Why are Beans so “Magical”?
There are many different types of beans out there to be enjoyed, including navy, kidney, black, pinto just to name a few. And although the exact nutritional composition of beans depends on the type you consume, they all contain an average of only 116 calories per 1/2-cup serving along with 8 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber and almost no fat, which makes them perfect for maintaining a healthy weight, good metabolism and regular bowel movements.
And when it comes to important vitamin and mineral support, beans offer good doses of vitamin K, copper, folate (B6), vitamin B2, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc – making beans powerhouses when it comes to boosting immune health, regulating blood sugar, managing stress, maintaining energy levels and so much more.
Who are Beans Good For?
Well the short answer is everyone! But there are definitely a few groups of people in particular who could benefit from more beans in their diet, including:
As a vegetarian it can be harder to find good sources of complete protein, meaning containing all essential amino acids necessary in our diet. Beans offer a great amount of protein per serving at 7 grams per cup; and by pairing them with rice you get one of the simplest, cheapest, and vegan-est meals in existence that is also one of the best sources of complete protein around. Most beans are low in methionine and high in lysine, while rice is low in lysine and high in methionine. So when you put them together you get a protein content on par with that of meat without the acidic side effects and at a much lower cost! Worried about recipe boredom? Subbing lentils or chickpeas for beans produces the same effect while offering some great mealtime variety.
High fiber, low glycemic diets are essential for those who depend on a diet that regulates blood sugar, and beans win on both counts. They also contain a class of lectins that act as “starch blockers”, delaying the absorption of carbohydrates from the digestive tract, which helps prevent spikes in blood sugar. And since they are low in fat, they help support a healthy weight.
Those with Heart Disease or High Cholesterol
Beans are high in potassium, an essential nutrient for supporting heart health through blood pressure regulation. They are also high in powerful antioxidants called isoflavones that help combat free radical damage that can lead to heart disease; and their high fiber content also helps support healthy cholesterol levels through improved elimination and blood sugar regulation.
Dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar can bring out your child’s cranky side, so choosing foods that help balance sugar levels is key to keeping kids happy and healthy. Beans are an excellent source of soluble fiber, an ingredient that regulates blood sugars and, as a result, may help soften mood swings and calm emotions. Beans also promote healthy growth via their impressive vitamin and mineral content. Plus – they are extremely cost effective and can be enjoyed in a variety of kid-friendly ways! Try adding beans to taco-meat filling or turkey chili, or serve hummus as a dip for vegetables or baked chips in lunches or snacks.
Canned vs Dry
I completely understand the convenience of canned beans and am not opposed to my clients using them when necessary (as long as they’re from a BPA free can), but there are a few reasons why I favour cooking my own from dry. First, it’s cheaper – like, way cheaper!! I’m talking mere pennies to make a serving of delicious, protein packed beans. Second, it’s easier to use them in more versatile ways, like in soups and stews, where using canned beans would likely mean you are left with unappetizing mush at the end of the cooking process. Yuck. And lastly, it allows me to prepare them properly so they are easily digestible. Which leads me to my next topic…
How do you Properly Prepare Dry Beans?
It’s true that beans have a bad reputation for causing gas, bloating and other digestive upsets for some – but these effects can be greatly mitigated simply by preparing and cooking beans properly. They key is to soak beans for the appropriate amount of time to remove the anti-nutrients – such as phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors – responsible for causing all those uncomfortable (and embarrassing!) digestive problems. So how do you do it? Simply place the beans in a clean bowl and cover with water. Some people recommend soaking overnight, but when I can I always soak beans for a full 24 hours, rinsing and replacing the water a couple times for maximum digestibility. Once the soaking time is up, simply drain and rinse the beans until all the scum is washed away, then cook as desired! Another trick I love to use is to cook a big batch of beans and freeze some for quick use at a later date. So there you have it – just a few of the many reasons why nutritious and versatile beans should be a regular part of your diet. And to help you get started, here is a delicious Black Bean Brownie recipe!
- 1 1/2 cups black beans (drained and rinsed very well)
- 1 tbsp. pure cacao powder
- 1/2 cup organic plain oats
- 1 banana, ripe
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup or honey
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of pure cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine ingredients in a food processor, and blend until smooth. Cook the black bean brownies 14-16 minutes, then allow to cool for about 7-10. If brownies appear a bit undercooked, place in fridge overnight.
Adele Cavaliere is a Holistic Nutritionist, published author of the book “21 Days to Detoxify Your Life,” is an elite fitness trainer, yoga instructor and founder of Nutri-School. Adele has worked with countless people empowering them to transform their lives, their bodies and their careers! Adele has worked with celebrities, pro-athletes and her success stories have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Shape, Fitness RX and more. www.adelecavaliere.com
Seeking more Bean Recipes? Try these from our Bean Bonanza.