Well, we are into the second week of January. How are your health goals holding up?
What if I told you about a food that was super healthy, inexpensive, readily available and could easily be incorporated into your diet? In fact, you probably already have several varieties of this miracle food in your pantry right now. What is it? Beans.
I know, beans seem sort of, well, boring. Once I tell you some bean facts, you might just change your opinion. Beans are actually seeds from the flowering plants in the Fabaceae family, also known as the legume family. Beans usually grow in pods.
Beans contain amino acids which combine to form protein. This helps us build muscle and aids our bodies in all sorts of ways.
There are two categories when it comes to protein: complete and incomplete. Animal protein, soy and quinoa are complete proteins. This means they contain all nine amino acids. Incomplete proteins should be combined with seeds, nuts, dairy or grains to make a complete protein for maximum health benefits. Think rice and beans.
Beans contain folate, or vitamin B9, which is important for our bodies. Dried beans contain nearly double the amount of folate as their canned counterparts. Beans also contain zinc, iron, magnesium and fiber. The fiber in beans may help prevent food cravings, which may help with weight loss.
Beans are also rich in polyphenols, an antioxidant which can help slow the aging process (don’t we all want that?), reduce inflammation in our bodies and even prevent cancer. Studies show beans may also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Research shows that beans, especially black beans, may help your gut health by improving the intestinal barrier function.
Some studies show that beans can help reduce your bad cholesterol and that people who consume beans are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Add to all of these amazing health benefits, there is the additional bonus that beans are inexpensive. Even though beans may seem rather boring, they can be used in a myriad of ways. I think we can all agree beans are definitely up there in the super food category.
So, what about that whole “magical fruit” issue we all grew up chanting about? It turns out soaking dried beans (preferably overnight) in cold water, and then draining off that water and cooking beans in fresh water, can reduce the risk of any intestinal discomfort or flatulence.
Of course canned beans are also affordable and simple to use. Just be sure to rinse and drain them before use. That being said, every time I cook dried beans, I am always more impressed with the outcome. Their texture and flavor is always better.
Soaking them the night before is preferable, but if you forget, you can just bring them to a boil with plenty of water and then cover and set aside for an hour. Be sure to drain, rinse and cover them with plenty of fresh cold water before cooking. Salt the beans towards the end of cooking.
Be sure to check out this Friday’s food column for some yummy recipes starring beans.
South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.