Beans, Beans They’re Good For Your Heart (and other things)
Until today, my entries have been health-centered, nutrition being the focus, and recipes appearing last. Beginning today, recipes are going to be front and center with their health benefits following as a close second. Why the change? I don’t know about you, but the more I read about food and health, the more I think about what I eat. While this nutri-consciousness is an important step in making informed choices about what we eat and why, all that thinking was beginning to cloud my passion for delicious food and cooking. So, moving forward with the confidence that my choices are naturally healthy ones, it’s time to put joy first again: I am reestablishing my focus on the gorgeous, satisfying, captivating effect of good food.
Today’s recipe, a cannellini bean hummus, is a variation of my mother’s amazing classic garbanzo hummus recipe as well as the result of having a huge container full of leftover cooked beans. I bought dried cannellini (knowing that canned beans likely contain the BPA found in the can’s lining) soaked them overnight changing the water once, and simmered them covered by 2″ of broth (made with “Better than Bouillon”) for 40 minutes. I had almost twice the volume of beans than when I started! You’ll note below that the darker colored beans have higher antioxidant levels, so feel free to experiment with all kinds of beans for this recipe. Cannellini beans make it a light, creamy hummus.
3 cups cooked cannellini beans, (start with about 1 1/2 cups dried and see instructions above for soaking and cooking)
2-3 T lemon juice, if using Meyer lemons you may need more to taste
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 c olive oil
1 1/2 t fresh rosemary, finely minced
1/4 t Himalayan salt, or more to taste
In a food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth. Serve with sliced jicama “chips”, organic corn chips, or your favorite veggies and crackers.
Bean Nutrients Beans are naturally low in total fat, contain no saturated fat or cholesterol, and are rich in fiber, protein, calcium, iron, folic acid and potassium. They are high in flavanols, cancer-fighting phytonutrients found in many plant-based foods. A study by the USDA found that three varieties of beans–red, kidney and pinto–ranked in the top four foods studied beating many fruits and vegetables for antioxidant benefits. Beans get their color and antioxidant activity from phenol and anthocyanins, and there is a link between the darker colors and higher phenol levels. This study found red beans to have the highest antioxidant level, with black beans coming in second place.
Being a legume, beans are in a class of foods that includes peas and lentils. One-quarter cup of any legume is equivalent in protein to an ounce of meat. A cup of legumes contains about 15 grams of protein, soybeans being the exception coming in at 29 grams of protein in a cup! Beans are also a good source of soluble dietary fiber, containing about 4 grams per cup of cooked beans.
Bean Health Benefits Published research has found that eating beans on a regular basis reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Several studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found significant reductions in heart disease and breast cancer risks by eating beans two to four times per week. Further, research by the National Cancer Institute found that beans reduce the risk of colon cancer. Being high in soluble fiber, beans reduce cholesterol and/or tryglycerides which helps the heart. In addition, folate found in beans is a B vitamin which reduces homocysteine levels in the blood; this also reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease. It’s the phytonutrients in the beans that are the superheroes preventing breast cancer. And it’s the fiber and phytonutrients that maintains colon health.
Getting Enough So, how do we incorporate 2 to 4 cups of beans into our weekly diets? Try making hummus and other bean dips, making bean soups and side dishes, and including beans in tacos and salads.