Healthy Eating Beans, Peas and Lentils (Legumes)
Legumes, otherwise known as beans, peas and lentils, are often overlooked in meal planning. However, legumes are an inexpensive way to add variety and nutrition to your diet. They are loaded with nutrients in the form of protein, vitamins and minerals, while being low in fat and high in fiber. Doesn't this sound like the description of the perfect healthy food?
No tooting, please!
In spite of the nutritional advantages, if there is a drawback to the legume family of foods, it is that they can produce digestive disturbance in the form of gas. There are several things you can do to alleviate this problem:
*If you are not used to eating legumes, introduce them slowly. It is normal for everyone to produce some gas during digestion, but it should not be painful, putrid or pervasive.
*When using canned beans, discard the juice and rinse the beans before use.
*If you are using dry beans, throw out the soaking water(or use the water for your plants or garden), rinse before cooking and cook thoroughly.
Interesting Fact about Healthy Eating Beans: In some parts of the world where beans are a staple food in the diet, the cook will bring beans to a boil and discard water at least three times before cooking to make the beans more digestible.
*Eat slowly, chew your food well, and don’t overeat.
*Try taking enzyme products, like “Beano,” right before you eat. This may help to alleviate gas problems by helping digestion.
*Add some fennel to your beans (or chew some fennel seeds later, should you feel any adverse effects from eating legumes or any other foods). I have also heard that adding summer savory, dill or anise to your beans will help, but I have never tried these myself. Use about one teaspoon per cup of dry beans.
Warning: Fennel seeds should not be taken in large doses by pregnant women, since they are a uterine stimulant.
In addition to these tips for avoiding digestive problems, here are some tips for cooking legumes:
*Dry beans should be sorted before cooking. This can be done by spreading the dry beans out and removing any foreign particles.
*Most legumes, with the exception of split peas and lentils, need to be soaked before they are cooked. There are two methods for doing this, and either method is effective. It should be noted that the Fast-soak method seems to remove more of the gas-producing compounds.
Cover washed and sorted beans with water and allow them to soak overnight. Then drain the water, rinse the beans, add more water and cook according to directions. See description of each bean below for specific cooking times.
Cover washed and sorted beans with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 3-5 minutes, and cover and let stand for one hour. Discard soaking water, rinse, cover with new water and cook as directed.
*Do not salt the water until beans are done cooking. Salt will slow down the cooking time and toughen the bean coats. Other spices and vegetables may be added, however.
*If beans are older and drier, with a wrinkled appearance, they will take longer to cook.
*If foam forms on top of the water when you are cooking beans, skim it off and continue cooking.
*Beans should be tender and the skins beginning to loosenwhen they are done. See particular bean for approximate cooking time.
*If you are using more than one variety of dry beans in a recipe, it is better to cook each type of bean separately, and then add them to your chili or other dish. This is because the beans will be fully cooked at different times, and you may end up with some overcooked, mushy beans or some undercooked, hard beans if you cook them all together.
*Cooked beans freeze very well, so you may want to cook larger batches of beans and then freeze some for quicker use in the future.
*1 cup of dry beans will produce 2 1/2 cups of cooked beans.
Here are some varieties of legumes that can form part of a healthy diet:
Adzuki (aduki) beans – a very small, dark-red bean that is popular in Japanese dishes and other Asian foods.They need to be soaked before cooking (either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 45 minutes to cook.
Black bean – shiny black bean (In its dry form it looks like a black jelly bean!) often used in Mexican food; turns brown when cooked. Theyneed to be soaked before cooking (either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 60 minutes to cook.
Black bean recipe idea: Add to green salads for extra protein and texture. Use black beans in your favorite chili recipe. Click here for a good chili recipe.
Black-eyed peas (cowpeas) – cream-colored beans with a black “eye", originated in Africa, particularly popular in southern cooking in the U.S.; need to be soaked before cooking (either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 45 minutes to cook.
Butter beans – a large, flat white bean similar in appearance to lima beans, but not as sweet. They need to be soaked before cooking(either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 75 minutes to cook.
Cannellini beans – a white medium-sized bean in the same family as kidney beans, frequently used in Italian food. They need to be soaked before cooking (either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 45 minutes to cook.
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – a round tan-colored bean that is popular in the Middle East and India, and which can be made into flour. They need to be soaked before cooking (either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 75 minutes to cook.
Garbanzo bean recipe idea: Add to green salads for extra protein and texture. Used along with Tahini to make hummus. Garbanzo beans can be used along with other beans in your favorite chili recipe. Click here for chili recipe.
Fava beans – a cream-colored, European broad bean that is not as popular as it used to be since, if eaten in large quantities, they can cause problems with the blood. They need to be soaked before cooking (either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 90 minutes to cook.
Flageolet beans - a pale green, mild tasting bean that is popular in Italian and French cuisine. They need to be soaked before cooking (either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 45 minutes to cook.
Flageolet bean recipe idea: You can use Flageolet beans in Minestrone. Click here for Minestrone recipe.
Haricot (also known as white, navy or Great Northern) beans – Available in small or large sizes, a white version of kidney beans that is popular in soups and the bean used in “pork and beans” or “Boston Baked Beans.” They need to be soaked before cooking(either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 60 minutes to cook.
Navy bean recipe idea: Click here for Navy Bean Soup recipe.
Kidney beans – a popular North American bean that can be light red or dark red, get their name because they are shaped like a human kidney; popular in Mexican foods and often called “chili” beans; same family as haricot or white navy beans. They need to be soaked before cooking (either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 45 minutes to cook.
Kidney bean recipe idea: Click here for Refried Beans recipe.Click here for Chili recipe.
Lentils – a tiny legume that can be red, brown or green; one of the oldest know legumes; popular in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. This legume does not have to be soaked, and when whole, will take about 45 minutes to cook, and in split form will take about 30 minutes to cook.
Lentil recipe idea: Click here for Lentil Soup recipe.
Lima beans – a medium-size flat bean, similar to butter beans, but with a sweeter flavor; turn greenish when cooked, popular ingredient in U.S. southern cooking; native to America and used with corn in Native American dish, succotash.They need to be soaked before cooking(either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 75 minutes to cook.
Mung beans – a small, green or yellow bean, native to Asia, that is widely used for bean sprouts, can also be used as a vegetable. They need to be soaked before cooking (either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 45 minutes to cook.
Mung bean recipe idea: Sprout beans and use in salads and on sandwiches. To sprout mung beans, cover about 1/2 cup or less of beans with water in a quart jar (a screened lid or a piece of screen secured with a rubber band helps) and soak for 12 hours, rinsing several times. Drain water off and allow beans to sprout, continuing to rinse them several times a day, for about two days. When sprouts are ready, refrigerate and use as soon as possible to avoid spoilage.
Pinto beans – a speckled bean that turns pink when cooked, same family as kidney and navy beans, popular in Mexican dishes. They need to be soaked before cooking (either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 75 minutes to cook.
Pinto bean recipe ideas: Click here for Refried Beans recipe. Click here for Chili recipe.
Soybeans – a small, cream-colored bean that is high in protein; cultivated since ancient times, especially in Asia; used to make tofu (bean curd), miso (paste) and tempeh (fermented cake).They need to be soaked (either overnight or using fast-soak method) and will take about 150 minutes to cook (should be boiled hard for the first hour).
Soybean (Tofu) recipe idea: You can use crumbled, sautéed tofu in place of hamburger in Sloppy Joes. Click here for link to Sloppy Joes recipe.
Split peas– dry form of peas that are split for cooking; may be yellow or green; popular for soups. This legume does not have to be soaked and will take about 45 minutes to cook.
Split pea recipe idea Click here for Split Pea Soup recipe.
PAGE SUMMARY for Healthy Eating Beans
Legumes are an inexpensive way to add protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals to your diet.
You can help alleviate the digestion issues associated with eating beans by proper preparation, or by using enzyme products such as Beano.
Chewing a small amount fennel seeds may help eliminate the digestive problems that may occur after eating beans.
When cooking with dry beans they must first be soaked, either using the fast-soak method or the overnight method.
Healthy eating beans come in many varieties and each type has something to add to your healthy eating lifestyle.
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