Beans have sometimes been ridiculed for their digestive properties. Beans, also referred to as legumes, rank high on the nutritional scale; therefore, eating a variety of beans in the diet contributes significantly to a healthy lifestyle. Bean attributes outweigh their sometimes flatulent outcomes. Beans fit positively into the current Dietary Guidelines.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, released on January 31, 2011, emphasize three major goals for Americans:
During this same time MyPlate was introduced and the food group formerly referred to as meat and beans became the protein group. So let’s see how beans can be fit into the Dietary Guidelines.
Beans are low in calories and provide complex carbohydrates to provide energy to perform work and physical activity. Beans, which are rich in fiber, can help with weight control. People who eat more fiber tend to weigh less than those who don’t.
Consume More Vegetables
Beans are a plant food and provide many nutrients, such as antioxidants, phytochemicals, folate, manganese, potassium, iron, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and non-lactic calcium. When eaten with whole grains, beans provide a complete protein. Soybeans, which are a Louisiana commodity, are high in many nutrients. For more information on the nutritional benefits of soybeans, click here.
Consume Fewer Foods with Salt, Fat and Sugar
Unlike meat, beans are not only low in fat, but are free of saturated fat and trans fat. Beans have a low glycemic index, are digested slowly, and help maintain a normal level of blood sugar. Beans are good for people with certain food allergies - they are a great source of nutrients in gluten-free diets.
Tips for Cooking Beans at Home
To cook beans on the stovetop, soak them first. Important - all beans except lentils, split peas and black-eyed peas must be soaked.
After rinsing soaked beans thoroughly, put them in a stockpot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally until tender.
There are a variety of beans in which to choose: red (kidney beans), great northern (white beans), navy beans, lima beans, pinto beans, black beans, soybeans, cranberry beans, adzuki beans, fava beans, cannellini beans, garbanzo beans, broad beans and black-eyed peas (that are really beans), butterscotch beans, scarlet emperor beans, and yellow beans.
Makes 1 loaf of bread or 24 muffins (12 servings)
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup white, granulated sugar (can use low calorie sugar substitute)
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups cooked navy beans, cooked without salt
2/3 cup orange juice
1 large egg
1 cup nonfat milk
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
½ cup fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
½ cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Puree navy beans with orange juice in a food processor until smooth. Add pureed navy beans, egg, and milk to flour mixture. Stir just until flour mixture is moistened. Add orange peel, blueberries, cranberries and walnuts to flour and bean mixture. Stir just until combined. Pour into greased loaf pan or divide between 24 muffin cups (greased or lined with paper liner). Bake loaf for 20-30 minutes (bake muffins for 15-20 minutes). Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from loaf pan or muffin cups. Store in airtight container.
Berry Bean Bread from the US Dry Bean Council