Beans About Beans

Cultivated by farmers for perhaps 10,000 years, and a protein source for, among others, America's "cowboys," beans contain good things. Fiber, protein, carbohydrates, iron, folic acid, thiamine, lecithin (a precursor of choline, and important in liver function; deficiencies are common), and the amino acid tryptophan are among the nutrients in beans.

Protein

Corn and beans, two of the "three sisters" from the Americas (the three sisters were corn, beans, and squash) are considered "a complete protein." Together they provide essential amino acids: cooked beans, such as pintos, are apparently low in the amino acid methionine, while steamed or roasted corn is relatively rich in it, according to "Pinto Beans and Corn" (1972; Mother Earth News). Mother Earth News recommends serving two parts corn per one part beans.

Likewise rice and peas are a complete protein, with lysine in yellow peas complementing cysteine and methionine in rice, according to Nutribody Proteins, which notes that peas and rice are less likely to cause allergic reactions than some foods, and are easily digested.

Fiber and Starches

The insoluble fiber in beans helps both to prevent digestive disorders and clean out blood cholesterol. Insoluble fiber may also be important in preventing glucose metabolism problems. Also, among the carbohydrates in beans is a starch that makes its way to the lower intestine, and there, like honey and other "prebiotic" foods, can help support the growth of good bacteria.

Cancer-fighting Anti-oxidants

Coumestrol, a substance which mimics estrogen and may help prevent stomach cancer, is found in many legumes, including green peas. Also, after chocolate and a number of herbs, many beans are found among top antioxidant foods, according to the USDA. String or snap beans (green or yellow), however, are not in this group.

Note also that the anti-oxidant capacity of the beans gets cut to about a third when the beans are cooked (however cooking beans is usually necessary; otherwise many beans are toxic). The exact anti-oxidant capacity of any variety of beans, like other nutrients, depends of course on the soil where the beans are grown, preparation methods, and what oxidants are involved.

Toxins

Many beans like other foods also contain nutrients and proteins which are beneficial for some, in some quantities, but can be toxic. The secret to not getting an overdose is proper preparation of the beans.

Molybdenum

Many beans are rich in molybdenum, a high-melting point metal (alloys of it may be considered someday for lining the pipes and coating the outside of the graphite core of molten salt reactors, according to molten salt advocate/physicist Dave LeBlanc). It can help prevent cancer and reduce sensitivity to sulfites, but in excess may cause gout.

Purines

Many beans are also high in purines, likewise associated with gout. Some people however argue that purines in vegetables are not that dangerous, and may not produce gout in the way purines in meat do.

In any case, a serving of peas or beans contains less than the purine limit for a low-gout diet according to the World's Healthiest foods. However, if gout is an issue, fresh and dried bean and pea consumption should be limited to no more than a cup (or two) of cooked beans daily.

Beans sprouts and "green beans" may be particularly high in purines. Peanuts, on the other hand, are quite low (but high in fat).

Lectins

One more thing beans have is lectins. Excessive quantities of these can irritate the stomach. What's considered "excessive," however, varies from person to person. The lectin "phytohaemagglutinin" in some beans, particularly red kidney beans, may, if the beans are cooked without being soaked, cause food-poisoning-like symptoms. Lectins in wheat, consumed in excess, may aggravate celiac disease.

However the lectins in wheat germ and soy beans, consumed in moderation, may bind only to malignant (cancerous) cells and help to prevent some cancers. Peanut agglutinin, a lectin found in peanuts, may inhibit breast cancer. The lectin in fava beans may help to prevent colon cancer. Your reaction to lectins depends on the type and quantity according to Dr. Peter D'Adamo, who markets commercial nutrition products.

The scoop about lectins is this: eat the right amount and they destroy cancer and other "foreign" cells; eat too many and they irritate your intestines or produce food-poisoning like symptoms. Again, what's right varies, and each individual has to decide for himself.

If you are sensitive to lectins, soaking beans before cooking reduces these. Because of lectins, most beans (lentils and peas excepted) should not be ground and used as a "flour" in baking, but should be first soaked, with the water discarded, then cooked.

Variation in Beans

Beans are not all alike. Some can in fact be eaten raw or sprouted (usually small ones, including peas, black eyed beans, adzuki beans, and lentils; also perhaps garbanzo beans), although, as noted above, sprouts and raw beans may be higher in purines. Others, if sprouted, are only good for the garden. "Green" or yellow wax string beans (unripe fruit of beans) can also be eaten raw, in the pod. Sugar snap peas and snow peas are also eaten in the pod, albeit after cooking.

Soybeans, as well as kidney and lima beans, are toxic sprouted or raw. Most large beans are in fact toxic if not soaked. Red kidney beans should be soaked (without being sprouted) three-to-eight hours before cooking, the water discarded, and the beans rapidly boiled in new water ten minutes before being simmered an hour or more. This destroys the toxic hemaglutin in these beans.

Persons with intestinal disorders may wish to avoid red kidney beans altogether or to pressure cook them for ten minutes more after cooking, and may not wish to eat sprouted or uncooked beans at all.

Similarly, to reduce the effects of phytic acid (which blocks absorption of some minerals) in soybeans, some recommend serving these with fish.

Nutrients: Variation Too

Nutrient content varies also with the type of bean, as well as with the soil, and cooking method. Lentils, black-eyed beans, and lima beans are among the richest in iron, while soybeans and peas are the best sources of protein. Garbanzo beans, soybeans, and perhaps navy beans are tops in calcium (perhaps moreso when the garbanzo beans are mixed with sesame paste to make "hummus-bi-tahini," "hummus with tahini"). Green beans and fresh peas contain several vitamins (C, K, and A) along with fiber and protein.

Cooking Beans

Beans may be barbecued, refried (cooked, mashed, and then "refried" in oil or fat, traditionally bacon fat, which is what cowboys' beans were supposed to be refried in although I am betting those were sometimes refried, at least on the cattle trail, in salt pork); or part of soups, stews, or chili. Beans can be mashed to make a dip or salad, cooked and combined in a salad, or become part of a casserole.

Again, dried beans should be soaked before cooking. As noted above, you can perhaps get away without soaking fast-cooking lentils, peas, and adzuki beans. If you do soak these to expedite cooking (plus reduce any toxins or tannins as well as sugars in the coating that may cause gas), do not soak them more than three or four hours, so as to avoid sprouting.

After soaking, always discard soaking water to get rid of toxins that may inhibit nutrient absorption. According to a research study cited by World's Healthiest Foods, discarding soaking water reduces toxins in dried beans, including most tannins (tannins may make beans less digestible), and does so without reducing the proteins and "resistance starch" in the beans,. The latter, as noted, supports the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Frozen and fresh beans don't need soaking. A rule of thumb: the fresher the bean the more digestible, and the faster it cooks. Miss Vickie's Pressure Cooker Recipes recommends discarding dried beans when wrinkled as these will take forever to cook. As for frozen beans, these can be partially thawed before cooking to expedite things.

To avoid sprouting beans, keep soaking water cool. In summer, Ellen's Kitchen notes, this means soaking beans in the fridge (though perhaps, in a cool house, they can be soaked at room temperature in the morning). Also, as a rule, never soak beans longer than six-to-eight hours.

Dried beans should be cooked until they can be mashed with a fork. Make sure that the bean is cooked through the center too according to Miss Vickie. Add honey or molasses when you want to slow cooking down. This keeps the beans firm while the flavors meld. Likewise add tomatoes and vinegar after the beans start to get tender. Like spices, honey can help to reduce bloating (but you can add spices at any time).

Marinating: Tomatoes, Vinegar, Beer, Seaweed?

Because acids slow cooking down, beans cook best, Ellen's Kitchen says, if tomatoes and other acids (such as vinegar) are added after the beans are somewhat tender. And, although at train stations in Mexico, in the old days, one could find delicious mashed "pintos con papas" (pintos with potatoes) rolled into burritos, the pintos still with a bit of dirt in them, it's best to remove dirt too before cooking beans (excessive dirt on beans can make the beans cook more slowly apparently).

If you must however, you can add a bit of vinegar right away, which has the effect of marinating the beans, making them more flavorful. Plus vinegar keeps bacteria down until the beans are hot. The trick is to add just a teaspoon or two, per cup of dried beans.

Alternately you can try replacing some cooking water with beer or whiskey. Only mildly acidic, these help kill bacteria too. Beer thus has become a component in some barbecue sauces. Twelve ounces of beer will marinate two-to-four cups of dried beans, depending on how strong you like the flavor. This is a great way to get rid of some toxins also.

If dirt and vinegar slow cooking down, what speeds it up? According to R. M. Crayne's The Body Ecology Diet, a bit of kombu added to beans while cooking reduces cooking time and also the gas experienced from eating beans, plus makes beans easier to digest. For vegans, a pinch of crumbled seaweed plus some olive oil may serve also to flavor beans as they cook, as salt pork has done traditionally.

Spicing Up Beans

Besides soaking and seaweed, the way to reduce the bloating and gas some get from beans is spices of course. Thus, lentils and garbanzos are curried in India and other countries; garbanzos are combined with plenty of garlic to make hummus or hummus-bi-tahini and falafel in Israel and the rest of the Levant (Egyptian falafel however is made by spicing fava beans instead of garbanzos); and pintos are served spiced in refried beans in Mexico, or in fiery Tex-Mex chili in the Southwest. In New Orleans, red beans, served over rice, are likewise zipped up with a bit of pepper sauce.

Spices for beans include various peppers (roasted, dried, or fresh), garlic (roasted or fresh), onions, cumin, turmeric, parsley, cilantro, oregano, cinnamon even, and more.

Sources


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Protein

Corn and beans, two of the "three sisters" from the Americas (the three sisters were corn, beans, and squash) are considered "a complete protein." Together they provide essential amino acids: cooked beans, such as pintos, are apparently low in the amino acid methionine, while steamed or roasted corn is relatively rich in it, according to "Pinto Beans and Corn" (1972; Mother Earth News). Mother Earth News recommends serving two parts corn per one part beans.

Likewise rice and peas are a complete protein, with lysine in yellow peas complementing cysteine and methionine in rice, according to Nutribody Proteins, which notes that peas and rice are less likely to cause allergic reactions than some foods, and are easily digested.

Fiber and Starches

The insoluble fiber in beans helps both to prevent digestive disorders and clean out blood cholesterol. Insoluble fiber may also be important in preventing glucose metabolism problems. Also, among the carbohydrates in beans is a starch that makes its way to the lower intestine, and there, like honey and other "prebiotic" foods, can help support the growth of good bacteria.

Cancer-fighting Anti-oxidants

Coumestrol, a substance which mimics estrogen and may help prevent stomach cancer, is found in many legumes, including green peas. Also, after chocolate and a number of herbs, many beans are found among top antioxidant foods, according to the USDA. String or snap beans (green or yellow), however, are not in this group.

Note also that the anti-oxidant capacity of the beans gets cut to about a third when the beans are cooked (however cooking beans is usually necessary; otherwise many beans are toxic). The exact anti-oxidant capacity of any variety of beans, like other nutrients, depends of course on the soil where the beans are grown, preparation methods, and what oxidants are involved.

Toxins

Many beans like other foods also contain nutrients and proteins which are beneficial for some, in some quantities, but can be toxic. The secret to not getting an overdose is proper preparation of the beans.

Molybdenum

Many beans are rich in molybdenum, a high-melting point metal (alloys of it may be considered someday for lining the pipes and coating the outside of the graphite core of molten salt reactors, according to molten salt advocate/physicist Dave LeBlanc). It can help prevent cancer and reduce sensitivity to sulfites, but in excess may cause gout.

Purines

Many beans are also high in purines, likewise associated with gout. Some people however argue that purines in vegetables are not that dangerous, and may not produce gout in the way purines in meat do.

In any case, a serving of peas or beans contains less than the purine limit for a low-gout diet according to the World's Healthiest foods. However, if gout is an issue, fresh and dried bean and pea consumption should be limited to no more than a cup (or two) of cooked beans daily.

Beans sprouts and "green beans" may be particularly high in purines. Peanuts, on the other hand, are quite low (but high in fat).

Lectins

One more thing beans have is lectins. Excessive quantities of these can irritate the stomach. What's considered "excessive," however, varies from person to person. The lectin "phytohaemagglutinin" in some beans, particularly red kidney beans, may, if the beans are cooked without being soaked, cause food-poisoning-like symptoms. Lectins in wheat, consumed in excess, may aggravate celiac disease.

However the lectins in wheat germ and soy beans, consumed in moderation, may bind only to malignant (cancerous) cells and help to prevent some cancers. Peanut agglutinin, a lectin found in peanuts, may inhibit breast cancer. The lectin in fava beans may help to prevent colon cancer. Your reaction to lectins depends on the type and quantity according to Dr. Peter D'Adamo, who markets commercial nutrition products.

The scoop about lectins is this: eat the right amount and they destroy cancer and other "foreign" cells; eat too many and they irritate your intestines or produce food-poisoning like symptoms. Again, what's right varies, and each individual has to decide for himself.

If you are sensitive to lectins, soaking beans before cooking reduces these. Because of lectins, most beans (lentils and peas excepted) should not be ground and used as a "flour" in baking, but should be first soaked, with the water discarded, then cooked.

Variation in Beans

Beans are not all alike. Some can in fact be eaten raw or sprouted (usually small ones, including peas, black eyed beans, adzuki beans, and lentils; also perhaps garbanzo beans), although, as noted above, sprouts and raw beans may be higher in purines. Others, if sprouted, are only good for the garden. "Green" or yellow wax string beans (unripe fruit of beans) can also be eaten raw, in the pod. Sugar snap peas and snow peas are also eaten in the pod, albeit after cooking.

Soybeans, as well as kidney and lima beans, are toxic sprouted or raw. Most large beans are in fact toxic if not soaked. Red kidney beans should be soaked (without being sprouted) three-to-eight hours before cooking, the water discarded, and the beans rapidly boiled in new water ten minutes before being simmered an hour or more. This destroys the toxic hemaglutin in these beans.

Persons with intestinal disorders may wish to avoid red kidney beans altogether or to pressure cook them for ten minutes more after cooking, and may not wish to eat sprouted or uncooked beans at all.

Similarly, to reduce the effects of phytic acid (which blocks absorption of some minerals) in soybeans, some recommend serving these with fish.

Nutrients: Variation Too

Nutrient content varies also with the type of bean, as well as with the soil, and cooking method. Lentils, black-eyed beans, and lima beans are among the richest in iron, while soybeans and peas are the best sources of protein. Garbanzo beans, soybeans, and perhaps navy beans are tops in calcium (perhaps moreso when the garbanzo beans are mixed with sesame paste to make "hummus-bi-tahini," "hummus with tahini"). Green beans and fresh peas contain several vitamins (C, K, and A) along with fiber and protein.

Cooking Beans

Beans may be barbecued, refried (cooked, mashed, and then "refried" in oil or fat, traditionally bacon fat, which is what cowboys' beans were supposed to be refried in although I am betting those were sometimes refried, at least on the cattle trail, in salt pork); or part of soups, stews, or chili. Beans can be mashed to make a dip or salad, cooked and combined in a salad, or become part of a casserole.

Again, dried beans should be soaked before cooking. As noted above, you can perhaps get away without soaking fast-cooking lentils, peas, and adzuki beans. If you do soak these to expedite cooking (plus reduce any toxins or tannins as well as sugars in the coating that may cause gas), do not soak them more than three or four hours, so as to avoid sprouting.

After soaking, always discard soaking water to get rid of toxins that may inhibit nutrient absorption. According to a research study cited by World's Healthiest Foods, discarding soaking water reduces toxins in dried beans, including most tannins (tannins may make beans less digestible), and does so without reducing the proteins and "resistance starch" in the beans,. The latter, as noted, supports the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Frozen and fresh beans don't need soaking. A rule of thumb: the fresher the bean the more digestible, and the faster it cooks. Miss Vickie's Pressure Cooker Recipes recommends discarding dried beans when wrinkled as these will take forever to cook. As for frozen beans, these can be partially thawed before cooking to expedite things.

To avoid sprouting beans, keep soaking water cool. In summer, Ellen's Kitchen notes, this means soaking beans in the fridge (though perhaps, in a cool house, they can be soaked at room temperature in the morning). Also, as a rule, never soak beans longer than six-to-eight hours.

Dried beans should be cooked until they can be mashed with a fork. Make sure that the bean is cooked through the center too according to Miss Vickie. Add honey or molasses when you want to slow cooking down. This keeps the beans firm while the flavors meld. Likewise add tomatoes and vinegar after the beans start to get tender. Like spices, honey can help to reduce bloating (but you can add spices at any time).

Marinating: Tomatoes, Vinegar, Beer, Seaweed?

Because acids slow cooking down, beans cook best, Ellen's Kitchen says, if tomatoes and other acids (such as vinegar) are added after the beans are somewhat tender. And, although at train stations in Mexico, in the old days, one could find delicious mashed "pintos con papas" (pintos with potatoes) rolled into burritos, the pintos still with a bit of dirt in them, it's best to remove dirt too before cooking beans (excessive dirt on beans can make the beans cook more slowly apparently).

If you must however, you can add a bit of vinegar right away, which has the effect of marinating the beans, making them more flavorful. Plus vinegar keeps bacteria down until the beans are hot. The trick is to add just a teaspoon or two, per cup of dried beans.

Alternately you can try replacing some cooking water with beer or whiskey. Only mildly acidic, these help kill bacteria too. Beer thus has become a component in some barbecue sauces. Twelve ounces of beer will marinate two-to-four cups of dried beans, depending on how strong you like the flavor. This is a great way to get rid of some toxins also.

If dirt and vinegar slow cooking down, what speeds it up? According to R. M. Crayne's The Body Ecology Diet, a bit of kombu added to beans while cooking reduces cooking time and also the gas experienced from eating beans, plus makes beans easier to digest. For vegans, a pinch of crumbled seaweed plus some olive oil may serve also to flavor beans as they cook, as salt pork has done traditionally.

Spicing Up Beans

Besides soaking and seaweed, the way to reduce the bloating and gas some get from beans is spices of course. Thus, lentils and garbanzos are curried in India and other countries; garbanzos are combined with plenty of garlic to make hummus or hummus-bi-tahini and falafel in Israel and the rest of the Levant (Egyptian falafel however is made by spicing fava beans instead of garbanzos); and pintos are served spiced in refried beans in Mexico, or in fiery Tex-Mex chili in the Southwest. In New Orleans, red beans, served over rice, are likewise zipped up with a bit of pepper sauce.

Spices for beans include various peppers (roasted, dried, or fresh), garlic (roasted or fresh), onions, cumin, turmeric, parsley, cilantro, oregano, cinnamon even, and more.

Sources