Besides being nutritious and delicious, beans are just plain cute. Envision the colorful row of legumes in the bulk bin section. Spotty pintos, salmon-colored lentils, cranberry beans and heirlooms like “Eye of the Tiger”… Irresistible!
I keep a couple of cans of beans on hand in case I need a last-minute meal. But I prefer dried beans because they are more healthful, inexpensive and, when properly prepared, lighter on the digestion.
If you are overwhelmed by dried beans, don’t be! There are a couple of steps involved in their preparation, but each takes just a minute. In between is passive soaking and simmering time. This is one of the easiest ways to save money on your grocery bill and put a nutritious meal on the table!
I use a simple de-gassing technique that makes them much easier to digest and I will get to that in just a sec. But first…
Canned beans retain many of the macro and micro-nutrients during processing. Both dried and canned can be good sources of fiber, protein and iron.
However, there are several problems with canned beans.
- They are usually loaded with table salt which can deplete the body’s mineral stores.
- BPA (a known hormone disruptor) is usually present in the lining of the cans.
- They tend to be gassy.
Eden Organics is a better brand of canned beans since they use sea salt, are BPA free, and are de-gassed.
Average cost of organic, de-gassed, bpa-free canned beans (Eden Organics):
$2.24 per can
Average cost of same quantity dried beans (organic, de-gassed):
$0.47 for beans +$0.20 kombu = $0.67
HOW TO DE-GAS DRIED BEANS
Kombu is a glutamate-rich sea vegetable that tenderizes beans, easing their digestion. (It is not the same as MSG, so no need to worry.) Kombu is easy to find in any health food store, farmers’ or Asian market.
I am frequently reviewing the risk of eating seafood and sea vegetables in light of Fukushima. This article by Chris Kessler, L. Ac rings true and provides clarity amidst many alarmist reports. For now, I am continuing to eat things from the sea.
- *Some say that salting your soaking water may prevent beans from softening. Others consider a salty soak to help along the process. In my own experience, I’ve never had trouble when soaking in salted water, and I have noticed that beans often seem to do a little better with salt.
- 1-2 hours after a long soak is an average, but cooking time may be longer. It depends on a lot of factors (size, variety, age) and is not always straightforward. I’ve had sizeable pintos cook up in 30 minutes after an overnight soak and little white beans that required 4 hours of simmering. For stubborn beans, simmering for a day in a crock pot is a good way to go.
- One medical study found that although soaking beans reduces gas-producing oligosaccharides, nutrition value is retained.
- Cook beans slowly. Beans that are very soft and broken down will be less gassy. A slow simmer is the way to go.
- Season with spices that aid digestion, for instance, cumin, ajwain and epazote.
- Serve with cultured foods, such as sauerkraut, fermented pickles, or end the meal with a shot of kombucha or water kefir.
- Eat beans with healthy fats. Traditionally beans were cooked with lard, bacon grease or other healthy cooking fats. I also like them simply with butter, lemon and sea salt. The fat somehow makes them more digestible as well as being very tasty.
- Cooking with acid (lemon or tomatoes for instance) may keep beans from softening, so, if using, add these in at the end.