Beans have gotten kind of a bad rap due to their high fiber content, but that high fiber content is one of the factors that makes beans so amazing. While the typical American falls sorely short of recommended fiber intake on any given day, just one cup of beans easily gets you halfway there. We all know that maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important factors in preventing disease. Beans to the rescue! The fiber in a cup of beans keeps you full longer than other foods with equivalent calories, which can help to cut calories without feeling deprived. In combination with all of the other beneficial nutrients provided by beans, this helps to keep your digestive system moving, your blood sugar balanced, and your cardiovascular system healthy.
nutritional profile of beans.
Beans are a magical food. They provide an impressive amount of plant-based protein and just a cup gives you over half of the recommended daily intake of both fiber and folate.
They are a rich source of… I started to list all of the great nutrients the lowly bean provides but I realized that I would pretty much be naming everything…except cholesterol and excessive fat…but that’s a good thing! Add to that the fact that as plant foods, beans are loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants not listed or quantified on nutrition labels. Beans aren’t as sexy as their exotic superfood counterparts, but they boast an amazing nutritional profile. The nutrition facts displayed here are for 1 cup of black beans, boiled, without salt (nutrient info. from the USDA nutrient database).
Many varieties of dried beans are typically available in bulk food sections. One pound packages are usually offered in less variety and are slightly more costly, but either way, dried beans are quite cheap.
No matter which way you prepare them, beans are not a last minute food – so if you aren’t able to cook them the day before or at the very least throw them in the crockpot in the morning on the day you need them, you may need to buy canned beans. When buying canned goods, be sure to read the labels for strange and unnecessary ingredients (i.e., if you don’t know what it is, it’s probably not good) as well as sodium levels. If no-salt-added varieties are available, they are usually your best option. Otherwise, aim for no more than a 1:1 ratio of calories to sodium content (e.g., if a serving contains 100 calories, it should have no more than 100mg of sodium).
Beans are easy to store. Uncooked, keep them in an airtight, cool, dry, dark place and they will last at least a year. Once they are cooked, refrigerate them in an airtight container and they will usually keep for almost a week.
SORT & RINSE: Spread beans on a towel to check for and pick out any small rocks & debris. Rinse the beans well in a colander to get rid of any dirt.
SOAK: There are different soaking and cooking times for different kinds of beans, but as a general rule, soaking them overnight is best in terms of digestibility. Typically the beans will almost double in size and be “wrinkle‐free” if they’ve soaked long enough. If you forgot to soak them overnight, bring them to a boil on the stove, remove from heat, cover, and let soak for about an hour. Either way, drain the soaking water and rinse the soaked beans. Many say you can skip soaking altogether, but it will increase cooking time and you will most likely notice a difference in the way your digestive system handles them (♫ Beans, beans, the musical fruit…the more you eat, the more you ???).
COOK: The easiest way to cook beans is to put them in the crockpot (covered with water 4:1, water:dry beans) and leave them on low for the day (6‐8 hours). If you need to cook them faster, cook them on the stove (also covered with water). Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover, and cook 1‐2 hours (see chart below for approximate times for different varieties of beans I typically use). Be sure to keep an eye on the water level and add more water if necessary. If desired, seasonings (e.g., garlic, cumin, oregano, etc.) can be added at any point during cooking, but DO NOT ADD SALT OR ANYTHING ACIDIC until beans are fully cooked or they will not usually get soft at all.
SEASON: When the beans are soft all the way through, salt them to taste/preference (I usually add about 1 tsp. of salt per cup of dried beans cooked) and add any other seasonings desired.
Head to the know your food page for a dynamic list of great bean recipes or try my recipe for crockpot black bean burritos. This article from Thrive Cuisine also has a lot of great info on the nutritional value of beans if you are looking for more!