Spilling the Beans

With the Paleo craze trending at the moment, its understandable to see that beans aren’t quite getting the attention they used to.  However I find them to be a deliciously nutritious part of our diet to help maintain digestive health, lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar levels thanks to their protein and fibre and in some cases their iron content.

I also find beans a great way to reduce my meat intake and they clearly do the trick, as my three boys don’t complain when they are served up beans instead of steak.  My cooking is either that good or they’re frightened of their mother/wife! 😉 Either way I’m here to spill the beans on why they are actually so good for you.

Firstly its important to note beans must always be prepared and cooked properly as they contain high levels of toxic lectins, which can cause health problems and unpleasant side effects. However when boiled long enough, beans lose their toxicity and become a real superfood that’s probably the most budget friendly.

How to prepare Dried Beans?

  • Be sure to wash and clean the beans first.
  • Soak dried beans for 8-12 hours before cooking – I usually do this overnight (hint: cut a bean in half; if the center is still opaque, keep soaking). I add a bit of ACV in the water to help the process.
  • After soaking, rinse, fill a pot with fresh water, bring to a boil, and then skim off the foam.
  • To aid digestion, add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, or fennel to the water.
  • Cover and simmer for the suggested time.
  • Remember: Only add salt at the end of cooking (about 10 minutes before the beans are done) or it will interfere with the cooking process.

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However, if you’re short on time I do buy tinned organic beans in BPA free tins. Just be sure to avoid canned beans with added salt or preservatives and rinse thoroughly once removed from the can and you’re good to go. I love the global organics range and find them affordable.

So to entice you, here is a quick run down of some of the best-known beans around and how they can improve on your health.

Adzuki beans:

Why is it awesome? Great for heart health thanks to the their potassium and magnesium levels, which are good for regulating blood pressure and improving blood flow.  High in essential B vitamins – necessary for cellular energy production that fuels metabolism.  Also a good liver detoxification.

How to use it? Create yummy patties with cooked adzuki beans, combined with rice, onion, garlic, fresh herbs and egg and shallow fry.  Add to soups, stews and casseroles for extra fibre, protein and flavours.

Black beans:

Why is it awesome? Promotes blood health due to their very high iron levels, which is essential for carrying oxygen in our blood cells and for the production of hemoglobin.  Also a good source of fibre to cleanse and protect the colon.

How to use it? Enjoy in salads with vegetables and fruit high in vitamin C, such as oranges or spinach.  Eating pulses with vitamin-C-rich foods increases iron absorption, as the type of iron found in plants is harder to absorb than iron found in meat.

Butter beans:

Why is it awesome? A quality source of potassium, iron, copper, manganese and soluble fibre – all essential for a healthy cardiovascular system and digestive tract.  Also great for building and repairing muscle tissue in the body.

How to use it? A great alternative to chickpeas for a butterbean hummus. Its mild and creamy taste is also a lovely addition to a salad.

Chickpeas:

Why is it awesome? Great for bone health, thanks to being rich in manganese, which helps build bones as well as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.  Also they help regulate appetite and reduce food cravings.

How to use it? Hummus anyone?  Aside from the obvious, chickpeas are great in casseroles and stews as well as salads and even cookies!

Kidney beans:

Why is it awesome? A lovely bean to add to your diet to improve digestion and bowel regularity thanks to both its soluble and insoluble fibre.  Also high in blood building iron, phosphorus and vitamin K, suggesting these beans have an anti-cancer effect.

How to use it? Cooked rice and kidney beans make a complete protein meal. Enjoy with sautéed chopped onion, garlic, peppers, tomatoes and season with chili powder, coriander, thyme, salt and pepper.  Perfect replacement for flour in baked goods such as cakes!

Lentils:

Why is it awesome? Lentils of all types are great for cardiovascular health thanks to their extremely high levels of molybdenum and iron.  Lentils are also rich in vitamin B1, which helps regulate the nervous system and maintain a steady heartbeat.

How to use it? Sprouting lentils increases their levels of amino acids creating a food that is a complete protein in its own right.

Mung beans:

Why is it awesome? Green mung beans have long been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine to keep the body running smoothly due to their detoxifying properties and anti-inflammatory benefits. In addition they help lower cholesterol and can help lower blood pressure.

How to use it? A staple of Chinese cooking, they can be added to any stir-fry and salad.

So whether you enjoy adzuki beans, black beans, butter beans, chickpeas, lentils or mung beans, beans are one of the most powerful, nutrient-dense plant foods around. Enjoy!

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2 Comments

  1. Carmel on August 26, 2023 at 6:48 pm

    Hi Sharon,
    Just wondering if you have anything to add about cannellini beans? thanks!

    • Sharon Selby on September 2, 2023 at 4:06 pm

      Good point Carmel! I love cannelini beans. They are so great and so versatile in recipes in both savoury and sweet dishes. What would you like to know? Sharon xx

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