Tapati (tapati) wrote,

In Defense of the Lowly Legume

Legumes and indeed, all carbohydrate-based foods these days, often get a bad rap. However, in defense of legumes they do have a lot of good things to offer and have been a vital mainstay of poor people's diets throughout the world and down through the ages. The fiber they provide help prevent some of the diseases of the colon that modern low fiber diets have contributed to. (I had zero polyps when I was examined on '06--the doctor said that's very rare for someone my age in America.) Fiber is also good for a heart-healthy diet since it helps lower cholesterol.

Here's some more information for anyone wanting to make an informed decision about the role of legumes in their diet, perhaps in moderation and with an application of Beano.

          During the lean years of the Great Depression, beans were also tagged "poor man's meat" because of their protein power at pennies per pound. Beans are a source of Niacin, Thiamin, Riboflavin, B6 vitamins and many other nutrients as well. They are also rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber. All of these nutrients are necessary for normal growth and for the building of body tissues. Beans are high in potassium which is required for the normal functioning of nerves and muscles. A cup of cooked beans contains more potassium than a banana. In fact, beans have more calcium and iron per cup than three ounces of cooked meat but contain no cholesterol and with less calories.

          Beans are the best source of folate and are excellent sources of minerals and vitamins. High in fiber they have good cancer fighting characteristics and have been specifically linked to lower the risk of colon cancer.

          Recent research has brought to light that beans have 'anti-aging' agents or antioxidants found in the seed coat. There are eight flavonoids in the outer bean layer, six of which are particularly strong antioxidants. Because of new research, we are learning that beans have a perfect nutrient base for people interested in weight loss. They also aid in reducing cholesterol, improve digestion and, as already mentioned, are an aid in cancer prevention.

          Beans are grown throughout the world. The legumes we supply come from the United States and are grown throughout the country on 1,700,000 acres of land producing from 1 to 1.4 million metric tons annually, half of which are exported all over the world. From improved agricultural practices, we feel beans grown right here at home in the USA have the highest quality of any bean grown anywhere.

Cooking Beans

          Beans can be eaten raw, sprouted or cooked. Unknown by many, they can even be ground into a flour and in this form beans cook up in two or three minutes into a hearty soup. But this is not all, for the more adventurous among us, beans can be juiced into milk, curdled into tofu, fermented into soy sauce or made into transparent noodles called vermicelli. Truly, beans rival the versatility of wheat in what you can do with them. Let's look at some of the different processes in preparing beans for eating.

Soaking: This step isn't completely necessary, however, there are some real advantages. A shorter cooking time is probably the biggest advantage. Figure about an extra hour of cooking time for beans that are not pre-soaked. Beans should be soaked for at least 6 hours. During this time, the beans will absorb water until they have increased in volume and weight about 3 times. You should add 5 times as much water as dry beans. Soaking also leaches some of the gas producing properties out of the bean. But for this to work, you need to discard the soaking water and replenish it with fresh water before cooking. The longer you soak them the less gassy beans will be. You can also drain the water after 12 hours, then rinse and re-drain them every 12 hours for 2 to 3 days until the sprouts are as long as the bean. This not only dramatically increases the vitamins in the beans but also removes some of the gas producing qualities. After you have sprouted them as described above, cook them like regular soaked beans. You can also quick soak beans by boiling them for 10 minutes first, then setting them aside for two hours. As with a cold soak, you should discard the soaking water and replace with it fresh water before cooking them. Boiling the beans kills the seeds so don't expect them to sprout after you've heated them.

One lb. dry packaged beans = 2 cups dry = 6 cups cooked beans.

Cooking: After soaking, most people cover the beans with water then boil them. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the bean. You should check them for softness every 15-30 minutes then pull them off the heat when they've reached their desired softness. But you can also throw them in a crock pot in the morning and let them go until the evening. And we've already mentioned that beans ground into a flour cook up almost instantly into a soup or paste, depending on how much water you use. If you've boiled your beans for several hours and they still haven't softened, it's probably because they are old. Old, air stored beans 5 or more years old get 'hardened' and may never soften up. There are two ways of getting around this. You can put them in a pressure cooker for 45-60 minutes and this should do the trick, or you can grind them. Incidentally, normal beans that aren't 'hard' cook in about 20 minutes is a pressure cooker. Hardened beans still contain much of their nutrition.
          After your beans are cooked, add your flavorings, meat, vegetables or whatever you are adding to make the bean dish you are preparing. Don't add these ingredients while the beans are cooking as there are many ingredients that will increase the beans' cooking time before they become soft. This includes the acidic foods which include tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar and similar ingredients. Adding a bit of cooking oil, butter or margarine to the cooking beans will help to keep the foaming down as they cook. Consider cooking a double batch and freezing the beans not used immediately. Beans soaked for 12 hours or more often have a more uniform shape than quick soaked beans. You may need to increase the cooking time if your water is overly hard or you live at high altitudes.
          Cooked beans will store nicely in your refrigerator for a week and they freeze nicely for a minimum of 6 months.

Source: http://waltonfeed.com/self/beans.html where you can find much, much more information.

Tags: cooking, health, vegetarian

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