Beans are known as poor man’s meat and they’ve nourished the world since the beginning of time. Dried beans, also known as legumes, are packed with nutrients. They are also advantageous because once dried, beans are almost imperishable; therefore they have a long shelf life.
There are many types of beans: black beans, great northern beans, lima beans, kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, mung beans, fava (or broad) beans, garbanzo beans (or chick peas), cannelloni beans and black eyed peas. Nutritionally speaking they are all powerhouses of energy, vitamins and minerals. They are good sources of protein, iron, phosphorus and potassium. Most are also fat-free, and unless canned, low in sodium. They are also a very good source of fiber. They even offer a small amount of calcium (about 40-80 milligrams per cup).
How can you incorporate more beans into your diet? Try this:
ß When dining out at salad bars, include some garbanzo beans or a three-bean salad in your green salad.
ß When making soups and salads at home, add beans.
ß Add an extra can of beans to your chili recipe.
ß Using canned beans does up the sodium but if you drain and rinse them, they are a convenient way to use beans for soups or dips.
ß The next time you make potato salad, add a rinsed can of navy beans to the bowl and mix.
ß Beans and Rice is a classic dish and a wonderful accompaniment to Tex-Mex dishes or can serve as a main meal. If you have leftover ham or pork, you can add cubed pieces to a rice and bean mixture for extra flavor.
Seek out some low fat bean recipes and enjoy these nutritional powerhouses. Try the quick and easy recipes below to help you include some nutrient-packed beans into your diet this summer.
EASY BEAN DIP
15-ounce can navy beans or white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 strips bacon, cooked crisp, drained and crumbled
3 tablespoons bleu or Gorgonzola cheese
dash of pepper or paprika if desired
Put drained beans into food processor; add lemon juice, parsley, and garlic. Mix until well blended. Remove from processor into small bowl. Mix in bacon and cheese, sprinkle with paprika and serve with pita chips, or whole-wheat crackers. Can be made ahead, keep refrigerated.
QUICK BEANS AND RICE
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup uncooked instant rice or instant brown rice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup coarsely chopped tomato
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (add more for more heat)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
15-ounce can black beans, drained
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese or shredded cheddar-jack cheese
cubed ham, if desired
Boil water in saucepan, stir in rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
Heat oil in skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. When hot, add onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes until tender. Add chopped tomato, salt, crushed red pepper, and cumin; sauté 2 minutes.
Stir in cooked rice, cilantro and black beans (and ham if using); cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Divide bean mixture between four plates, garnish with shredded cheese.