Beans: A Protein Packed Punch

Beans: A Protein Packed Punch

This month we are focusing on the protein food group. To kick us off, we are focusing on beans as protein sources. This is because today, January 6th, is national beans day!

Beans are more than a substitute for meat. They are nutrient dense legumes that make you feel fuller, faster. In fact, beans shine in terms of their fiber and water content, two necessary ingredients that aid in digestion. Adding beans into your diet is a great way to add variety as well, as they can contribute to your daily servings of proteins or vegetables.

Bean Basics

Beans are full of benefit. Canned or dry, they are affordable to buy and easy to prepare and store. In addition to their affordability, beans pack a nutritional punch. They contain a powerhouse of nutrients including vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, all of which are crucial to keeping your body healthy. To read more about the nutritional benefit, check out these thirteen impressive health benefits of beans.

Beans have one of the highest protein contents within the plant foods, but they lack one crucial amino acid called methionine. Because of this deficiency, beans on their own are considered an incomplete protein and are recommended to be combined with things like rice, corn, nuts, seeds, or grains. This is so your body receives that methionine.

There are a wide variety of bean options out there, and the type of bean that you should use for your dish will depend on what you prefer. In addition, beans come in cans or dried form. The dried form of beans is going to provide you the highest nutritional benefit, but canned beans still are full of nutrients if dried beans are not your style.

The following chart from Of The Hearth is a great tool for anyone interested in incorporating beans into their diet.

Preparing Beans

Canned beans are basically ready to be heated straight from the can, but you will want to rinse them prior to using them in your cooking. Check your nutrition label on the can to understand why – most canned goods are extremely high in sodium!

There are two steps to cooking dry beans — soaking and cooking.

Soaking Instructions

Soaking beans allows the dried beans to absorb water, which begins to dissolve the starches that cause intestinal discomfort. (Note: Lentils, split peas and blackeyed peas do not need to be soaked.)

  1. Sift through the beans and discard any that are wrinkled or discolored. .
  2. Rinse the beans well.
  3. Soak beans. Choose the best method for you:
    • Quick Soak. In a large pot, add 6 cups of water for each pound (2 cups) of dry beans. Heat to boiling; boil for 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and soak for at least 1 hour.
    • Hot Soak. In a large pot, add 10 cups of water for each pound (2 cups) of dry beans. Heat to boiling; boil for 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and soak for up to 4 hours. 
    • Traditional Overnight Soak. This is the easiest method. Place dry beans in a large container; for each pound (2 cups) beans, add 10 cups of cold water. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  4. Drain and rinse beans soaked by any of these methods with cool water.

Cooking the beans makes them edible and digestible. Use cooked beans in your favorite recipes or refrigerate beans in shallow containers to store for later. Freeze any extra beans within 4 days after cooking them. 

Stovetop Instructions

  1. Place beans in a large pot, add enough water to cover the beans, and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently until beans are tender but firm. Most beans will cook in 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on the variety. Periodically, try a taste test or mash a bean against the side of the pot with a fork or spoon. Check occasionally if you need to add more water. The bean chart above depicts approximate cooking times.
  3. When to add flavorings:
    • Add herbs and spices towards the end to reduce flavor loss.
    • Add acids (lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes, wine, etc.) after beans are cooked. Acidic foods can prevent beans from becoming tender.

Leave us a comment if you use this method to cook beans and let us know how it goes! Happy national bean day!

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