if Jack only new the true value of those magic beans at the market!
Beans and legumes have been a fundamental part of human history for centuries providing a complex profile of nutrition. They were instrumental in the migration of people across oceans and over land masses as they provided the sustenance needed. Part of the legume family, which also includes split peas and lentils, these little seeds are power-stations for health. Beans and legumes play an important role today in the move towards plant based diets and are one of the most economical choices for food sustainability worldwide. They are hardy, store and transport well, are a great plant based protein, high in fiber and rich in micro-nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Beans are an essential addition to a healthy diet and are an important food-source worldwide.
Fun fact: Peanuts are considered a legume and are not actually nuts.
2 main categories:
- Snap-beans (also known as string-beans or green beans)
- Shell beans
Snap beans got there name from making a snapping noise when you break it in 2. Simplicity at its finest. They have also been referred to as string beans due to the stringy nature of the pod, however, over hundreds of years, this stringiness has been bred out, making the pods more tender and edible. Lastly, most of us know them as green beans. However, green beans can also be yellow, red or burgundy in colour! Go figure! The most important thing to know is the entire bean is edible raw or cooked. Considered a seasonal vegetable, green beans are often pickled, canned or frozen and can be enjoyed all year round.
There are dozens of varieties but the most basic are haricot vert (a tender french version), wax (or yellow), romano (loved by the Italians) and your straight up green varieties. They can grow as bush beans or pole beans and are best when they are picked before they get too mature, as they can get fibrous and starchy.
Enjoy green beans raw or blanched in a salad, sautéed with butter and garlic or in stir-fries, steamed, baked in casseroles, added to soups and stews, fermented and pickled.
Fun fact: Green beans are high in chlorophyl which gives them their green colour. Yellow beans are simply absent of this.
Snap beans are specifically high in:
- Vitamins A, c and k and the B vitamins folate, thiamine and niacin.
- Minerals of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
- Rich in phytonutrients (just look at that colour!).
- High protein.
- Low fat.
- High fiber.
Shell beans include both fresh and dry varieties and the pods are not consumed. Fresh shell beans are extracted from the pod when the seeds are still tender and are steamed or cooked fresh while dry beans are left to harden and cure in the pod for several weeks before they are extracted.
The most common freshly eaten shell beans are edamame (young soy beans) and fava (broad-beans) which can be eaten directly out of the pod after steaming. Dry beans require soaking and cooking for a much longer duration than fresh shell beans.
Most common dry beans include:
- Chickpeas (garbanzo)
- Black beans
- Lima (butterbeans)
- Kidney or cannily beans
- Black eyed peas
- Adzuki bean
- Navy beans
- Great northern beans
- Soy beans
- Mung beans
- Lentils (green, brown and red)
- Split peas
Health Benefits of eating beans and legumes:
Like green beans, shell beans boast a host of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants along with high fiber, high protein and low fat. Here are some reasons to add both green and dry beans into your regular meal planning:
- Improves intestinal mobility and reduces constipation.
- Adds pre-biotic resistant starch to assist the good bacteria in the gut.
- Can help regulate blood sugar release and is low on the glycemic index, making it suitable for some diabetics.
- May reduce risk of colon and other cancers.
- Can assist in regulating blood lipids and reducing bad cholesterol, or LDL’s.
- Supports cardio-vascular health.
- May support bone health.
- Improved immune system.
- Anti-inflammatory food.
- Can protect against eye disease such as macular degeneration due to presence of leutein and zeaxanthim.
- Supports the gut-brain connection and may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- A good source of plant proteins and iron for vegans and vegetarians.
- Some beans even contain B12.
Fun fact: Plant iron is more difficult to absorb than iron from animal sources but Vitamin C helps the bio-availability of iron for digestion. Include Vitamin C rich foods with your beans for better iron absorption!
Storage and Preparation:
- Store green beans in the fridge and use within a few days of purchasing.
- Store dry beans in a airtight container or gas jar in a cool, dark area. They should last indefinitely.
- Prepare dry beans by soaking, preferably overnight, and then cooking until tender. This depends on the bean but may take a couple of hours. Lentils and split peas do not need soaking and cook much faster. You can easily find cooking times on the internet.
- You can opt for frozen or canned beans as well but be sure to rinse and drain.
- Add them to soups, stews, salads, bowls, wraps, turning them into dips, roasting them, curry’s and even brownies and cakes.
- Sprouted beans such as mung or lentils are a great addition into salads and asian dishes.
- Replace a portion of animal protein with some additional beans or legumes.
- Eat a variety of beans to get the whole spectrum of nutrition.
- Remember to add beans and legumes in small portions and gradually if they are not a part of your regular diet as they have complex starches that are more difficult for some people to digest and may cause more gas. It is important to feed that fiber to the gut for all those happy little bacteria to fee on though, so don’t be afraid of some tootin’!
- Some with digestive disorders and IBS may have a more difficult time with these foods as well. Ensure lots of soaking and cooking for best digestion and don’t over do it!
Ready to get started on your bean journey? Give these recipes a try:
Baked Beetroot FalafelBaked Beetroot Falafel
Are yu interested in adding more healthy foods to your diet? A health Coach can assist you on this journey! Contact me for a free consultation to find out if health and Wellness Coaching is for you!