Fall In Love with Beans
Healthy, hearty and economical dry beans also provide fiber that reduces cancer risk. They come in so many varieties, shapes, colors and textures, you’ll never get tired of them. This Fall, try a different kind of bean every week.
Dry beans and peas are both known as “legumes” and are staple foods in many cultures. In ancient Rome, beans were so valuable that prominent families derived their names from legumes. Cicero, for example, comes from the Latin word for “chickpea.”
Today, however, beans are a go-to source of inexpensive protein with about 7 grams per serving (1/2 cup). Their cancer-preventive fiber content is 6-8 grams for that amount. (Experts advise eating at least 25 grams of dietary fiber every day from whole plant foods.) For all that, they only cost about $1 per 14-ounce can!
By putting beans on your plate, you also get the B vitamin folate and the minerals potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium. Plus, beans contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals including flavonoids, saponins, lignans, inositol and sterols.
Beans are also convenient. Keep a few cans of no-salt-added beans on hand for a quick meal or side dish. When preparing canned beans with added salt, drain and rinse them first to wash away 40 percent of the sodium.
A Dozen Delicious Beans
- Adzuki beans are tiny reddish brown beans with a nutty, sweet flavor. Look for them in the Asian section of your supermarket. Enjoy them tossed with whole grains.
- Black beans have a subtle earthy flavor and are a staple throughout Latin America. They’re popular in soups and mixed with rice.
- Black-eyed peas derive their name from a small black speck on their white skin. They originally came from Africa. In Southern states, people eat them on New Year’s Day for good luck.
- Cannellini beans are large white kidney beans common in Italian fare. Toss with tuna, mix with cooked greens or enjoy them in soups such as minestrone.
- Cranberry beans have small red lines on their ivory skins, but cooking makes the red disappear. Use them in casseroles, soups and stews.
- Garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas, have a nutty flavor. They’re popular in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking. Purée them to make hummus or add to vegetable curry or a salad.
- Great Northern beans are mild, delicate white beans that take on the flavors of other foods. They’re popular in cassoulet, a French white bean casserole.
- Kidney beans, named for their shape, come in white and red varieties. They’re a favorite in chili and are tasty with brown rice.
- Lentils come in many colors. Red lentils cook up soft, making them a good choice for soups, stews and purées. Other lentils hold their shape and can be used in salads. Unlike dry beans, dry lentils do not need presoaking and cook in about 15 minutes when simmered.
- Lima beans, often called butter beans for their flavor, are an important part of succotash and are common in soups and casseroles. Baby limas have a milder flavor.
- Pinto beans are a reddish beige color with mottled brown flecks. When cooked, they turn light brown. They have an earthy flavor, are easy to mash and are frequently used in Mexican dishes.
- Split peas are a favorite soup ingredient. Green split peas are common in the U.S., but the yellow variety used in Europe are becoming more available in this country.
Sweet Potato Bean Soup
- 1 can (15 oz.) low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/4 medium onion, chopped
- 1 stalks celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1 Tbsp. no-salt-added tomato paste
- 1/4 tsp. paprika
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 can (15.5 oz.) cannellini (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup fresh basil or parsley, coarsely chopped
In large pot over high heat, pour in broth and add sweet potatoes, onion, celery, tomato paste, paprika and cumin and bring to boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Stir in beans. Cover and simmer until beans are heated through, about 3-4 minutes.
Gently stir soup until well mixed and ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with basil or parsley and serve. For creamy soup, purée 1 portion of the soup, return to pot and combine well before serving.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 250 calories, 3.5 g total fat (42 g carbohydrate, 15 g protein, 10 g dietary fiber, 480 mg sodium.