Step Two: Add Some Beans, An Easy Change towards a Healthy, Plant-Based Life

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My second , 5-minute “Get Healthy” Simple Step:

 Add Some Beans

Pop question:

How many beans do you need to eat to live longer?

  • 1/4 cup?
  • 1 cup?
  • 1 pound?

Answer:

For every 20g of beans you eat (that’s only about a tablespoon), you might live 6% longer.

That’s because beans are a healthy source of plant-based protein, loaded with heart-healthy fiber, and provide other key nutrients like iron and calcium.   Beans have been around for centuries, feeding centuries of people all over the globe – from the soybeans of Japan to the chickpeas of India and the pinto beans of the American West.  Nowadays, canned beans are still one of the cheapest proteins on the market (you can get cooked organic beans around $1/ pound), making healthy eating both affordable and convenient.

My second, 5-minute “Get Healthy” Simple Step: Add Some Beans

When you do your weekly grocery shopping, pick up 4 cans of beans.  Could you eat these 4 cans of beans in a week?  Of course you can!  Toss them on salad, add them to pasta, cook them into soup, or purée into a creamy dip.  Bottom line: keep it simple.

Here’s my Ultimate Chef’s guide to Beans —

How they taste, what to do with them, and why you need more

The Taste:

What used to be considered strictly “poor man’s food” is now popping up in trendy restaurants as chefs and farmers discover heirloom, varieties like Anasazi, European Soldier, and Yellow Eye Stueben.  While beans offer a rainbow of colors and sizes to choose from, their flavor and textures are quite consistent. A bean aficionado might be able to distinguish between pinto and black turtle, but, for most of us, beans all seem to pretty much fall into the same taste profile.  However, you can play with beans in the kitchen 2 main ways:

    • How you cook them
  • How you flavor them
Chef’s Tip: You can add healthy, delicious flavor to beans by infusing the cooking liquid with ingredients like chipotle peppers, garlic, onion, and bay

How to Cook the Ultimate Beans:

From braising to stewing to roasting, there are quite a few options for cooking beans.  My experience as a plant-based chef has taught me a few key lessons on basic cooking techniques for beans:

Roasting

Skill Level: Intermediate – Advanced                       Taste Level: Nervous Seedling

Use on: Already cooked beans.  Chickpeas and edamame makes delicious bite-sized snacks after roasting with a spiced coating.  If you’re ever Peru or another part of South America, try some Roasted Habas. These crunchy snacks are a regional favorite for crunchy street food snacking,

How to do it: Preheat oven to 350. Make a coating by combining 1 tbsp. chickpea flour with 3 tbsp. warm water.  You can season this coating with spices like chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, or garlic powder. Drain the cooked beans and get them as dry as possible.  Then, toss around in the coating. Spread the beans onto a baking sheet and roast for bout 65-70 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let completely before storing. Just store in an open container (like a bowl), on the counter.

Chef’s Tips for Ultimate Flavor: Rather than just regular seasonings, add some interesting flavors to your coating. Use wasabi powder for some wicked heat, nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor, or toasted sesame seeds for a nutty crunch.

Crunchy Wasabi Edamame – Healthy, Plant-Based, Oil-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan Protein, Baked Snack Recipe

Braising

Skill Level: Intermediate                          Taste Level: Curious Seedling – Confident Brussel Sprout

Use on: Any beans. This is the main way to cook beans from raw.

How to do it: First, you’ll want to soak the beans. To do this, simply cover the beans with a few inches of water and let sit for 6-10 hours.  Then, drain and rinse off the soaking liquid. Place the soaked beans in a pot and cover with fresh water, enough to come about 2 inches over the beans. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer until the beans are tender, about 45-90 minutes, depending on the size and age of the beans.

To make the Ultimate:  You can infuse the cooking liquid with all sorts of flavor.  I love adding smoked chipotle peppers (instead of the traditional smoked ham) to black beans for an irresistible Black Bean Soup.  Or fresh bay leaves add bright flavor to simple Shiitake Mushroom Miso Soup with Black Beans and Spinach.  Braised sweet onions create a satisfying backdrop to hearty Giant Peruvian Lima Beans that even meat lovers gobble up.

Canned or Frozen

Skill Level: Beginner                             Taste Level: Curious Seedling – Confident Brussel Sprout

Use on: Any canned or frozen bean. The most commonly available in US markets are: garbanzo, black beans, red kidney, cannellini, and pinto.

How to do it: Okay, so technically you aren’t really cooking the beans, but that’s okay! For canned beans, you want to drain and rinse off the liquid from the can. This liquid isn’t appetizing and can cause gas. Frozen beans just need to be cooked 1-2 minutes, either in the microwave, boiled, or just cooked into whatever stew, soup, or warm dish you’re already making

To make the Ultimate: Add some flavor! Even if you’re just looking for a quick, satisfying snack, add some flavor with dried spices, soy sauce, or even chili sauce. Sprinkle smoked salt onto chickpeas, add a dash of chili powder to a bowl of pintos, or stir miso paste in with frozen edamame. Microwave for a minute to activate the spices, grab a spoon, and dig in.

Chef’s Tip: When using canned beans, you should always drain and rinse the beans thoroughly. The liquid in the can is not delicious and can upset your stomach

Healthy Bean Nutrition:

  • Heart-Healthy Fiber,
  • Plant-Base Protein,
  • Antioxidant Color,
  • Essential Iron and Calcium

Some truths about beans:

Fiber Truth:

Beans are loaded with fiber.  You probably already know this.  Did you know that just 1 cup of beans has about ½ of your daily fiber?  It’s so simple.  There is NO fiber in animal-based protein.  No fiber in chicken breast, salmon, shrimp, eggs, grass-fed steak, or hormone-free cheese.  Fiber helps keep you full without any calories.  It gives you long-lasting energy and has extra heart-healthy benefits.  It lowers your cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and protects against stroke and diabetes.

Big ‘Ole Italian Salad – Healthy, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Oil-Free, Plant-Based, Vegan Recipe

Protein Truth:

In the plant-based food world, beans “bring it” when it comes to protein.  1 cup of black beans has about 16g of protein, over 1/3 of the daily protein goal for women.  One of the most common mistakes of a someone starting a plant-based diet is to overdo it on veggies and salads, forgetting to add complex carbohydrates like beans.  While there is protein in fruits and vegetables, eating your daily 1 cup of beans can help ensure that you’re getting enough protein.  It can help ensure your energy level stays up and you stay satisfied.

Iron Truth:

Iron deficiency is a common concern for someone adopting a plant-based diet.  However, “vegetarians do not have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than do meat eaters”.  In fact, beans and Dark Greens are healthy sources of vegan iron.  Plant-based iron is composed of non-heme iron, which is harder for your body to absorb than animal-based iron.  Vegetarians need to be mindful, then, of getting a little extra iron in their diet – more reason to get your daily 1-cup serving of beans, and plenty of healthy, dark greens.  On the flip side, Vitamin C greatly helps with iron absorption.  Vitamin C is in foods like spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, and cauliflower.  So, eating a big salad with a bunch of beans on top makes for a Vitamin C – Iron powerhouse combination.  There isn’t any Vitamin C in that big piece of steak.  Without that Vitamin C, most of that iron might not get absorbed in your body.

Antioxidant Truths:

Beans are full of antioxidants. Just like with fruits and vegetables, the many colors of beans point to the many antioxidants under their skin. In fact, darker beans have been shown to have more antioxidants than their lighter counterparts. Don’t get too wrapped up in the details, though. Eat a variety of beans that fit your tastes.

Get Your Beans Recipes:

Hungry Yet?

Here are some healthy, plant-based recipes to inspire you to Get Your Beans:

Black Beans, Pinto, Mayo Coba, Giant Lima, and More: 16 Delicious Oil-Free Vegan Bean Recipes

References and More Reading:

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