Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Health Tips: Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit...

...I'll let you finish the song in your head. 
 Although beans are not a fruit, they are a little magical.  Or musical, depending on which version of the song you prefer.  I have only recently realized that I like beans.  As a kid, I refused to eat them and would go so far as to pick out every bean from a bowl of chili.  But, I also thought I didn't like chocolate so that goes to show you how smart I was.  Fortunately, I'm much smarter now and gladly eat both!

It turns out that beans are not only yummy, but they are super nutritious.  Beans are a great meat substitute because they have almost no fat, are high in protein, and even have some iron.  But unlike meat, beans are an excellent source of fiber.  A half a cup of black beans, for example, has 7.5 grams of fiber.  They are also a great source of folate, (also known as folic acid) thiamin, and magnesium.  That's a lot of good stuff packed into about 115 calories!

Wait, it gets better.  Unlike a lot of healthy foods, beans are actually one of the cheapest foods you will find in the grocery store.  I bought a 1 pound bag of dried beans for $1.50 this week.  That's the equivalent of about 5 cans of beans.  You won't find a better deal than that! 

Dried beans have a reputation for being inconvenient.  Although they do take some time to cook, they require almost zero effort.  Just soak and simmer.  I like to cook the whole pound of beans at once and freeze them in 1 1/2 cup portions ( a can of beans is a cup and a half of beans).  When I am making a recipe that calls for one can of beans, I just get them out of the freezer and thaw them for a minute or two in the microwave.  In a pinch, canned beans are still a pretty good bargain, and I always keep a few around.

Beans are known to be found in chili, show up frequently at barbeques, and hang out a lot with weenies.  But they do way more than that.  They can be added to salads, soups, pilafs, or pureed to be used in sauces.  You can also substitute beans for meat in recipes such as tacos and casseroles.   I think they are pretty good even on their own.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating 3 cups of beans per week so get creative!  In the past week I have posted two great bean recipes: Pinto Beans with Cheesy Cornbread, and Homemade Beef and Bean Tacos.  Look for more to come soon!

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