I was kindly invited to dinner one evening and on the table sat a large pot of beans. This caused me to begin to wonder what actually comprises a bean? Beans are considered a legume and there are many kinds: kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, just to name a few. Beans are used in many ways including soups, tacos,and chip dip. Beans have been a staple in the human diet for centuries and are one of the oldest cultivated plants. Documentation of their use goes even before biblical times.
Beans offer many nutritional benefits; they contain potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and zinc which are all important micronutrients. The low levels of salt are advantageous for those with high blood pressure. The high levels of soluble fiber may help lower blood cholesterol which is a big factor to cardiovascular disease. One-half cup of red kidney contains 8 grams of protein! This is a great way to gain vegetable protein and especially beneficial for those on a vegetarian diet. Beans also have an important amino acid called lysine. This amino acid is not synthesized by animals and, therefore, must be consumed. Lysine is an essential building block for protein in the body.
North America has a low intake of beans, partly due to bean’s oligosaccharides content that may lead to intestinal discomfort. There are ways to decrease the oligosaccharide in beans by the way they are prepared. Soaking beans and then discarding the water before cooking may decrease oligosaccharide thereby decreasing intestinal discomfort. Cooking in water with a more alkaline pH may decrease olgiosaccharides.
Beans are packed with many nutrients and are great to add to any meal. If you are on a vegetarian diet, beans will add protein. If you need less salt in your diet, beans have no sodium. If you are running on a tight grocery budget, beans are relatively inexpensive. There are many recipes that incorporate beans.