The Health Benefits of Black Beans
Legumes are a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas and lentils. They are a versatile, budget-friendly source of protein and nutrients. You can add legumes to your casseroles, soups, chili, salads, and even brownies! Today we are going to talk about the nutritional benefits of eating black beans.
People were eating black beans in Latin America more than 7000 years ago and they are still a staple in many kitchens around the world. According to the USDA, beans fit in two food groups: they are both a vegetable and a protein. One cup of black beans (cooked from a dried state, with no salt or fat added) provides 198 calories, 12 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 9 g fiber and just 1 g fat. It is suggested that you include a grain or cereal when eating beans. This is because both beans and grains are incomplete proteins, meaning they lack some essential amino acids. Together, they complement one another to provide all essential amino acids, and can take the place of high-quality animal proteins such as a steak.
There are many health benefits of eating beans. Below are some examples:
- Beans are filling with a relatively low calorie content. This is due to their high content of protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber. In fact, a study found that eating beans when dieting helps you lose about 4 more pounds than people who diet but do not include beans.
- Due to their fiber and phytochemicals, beans may protect against colorectal cancer. This could be due to their role in increasing the bulk and weight of stool, diluting and protecting against harmful substances in the bowel, and speeding their elimination from the body.
- Beans may help reduce blood cholesterol and glucose levels because they are high in fiber, quercetin and saponin.
- Because beans are full of potassium, calcium and magnesium, they can help relax blood vessel walls and reduce high blood pressure.
- Beans promote bone and joint health due to their potassium, iron, zinc and magnesium.
- They may prevent anemia due to iron deficiency.
- Beans help to prevent anemia due to folate deficiency. Their folate content may also help to reduce DNA damage.
Note: Studies show that eating beans has a positive impact on blood glucose, LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, even if you do not experience weight loss.
- Beans are naturally nutritious, but canned beans can be overloaded with fat and sodium. If you have high blood pressure, read the labels and choose a brand with a ratio of about 1:1 (calories: mg sodium). Remember that it is not enough to rinse the beans since they already have high amount of sodium in their pulp. Instead, try organic brands that come with very low amounts of sodium and are BPA-free. You may also want to explore the option of cooking your own beans at home.
- Some people are especially sensitive to the fiber in beans and may experience intestinal discomfort. This happens because beans contain certain types of fiber and complex carbohydrates that the human body cannot digest, as we lack the necessary enzyme. To prevent this, try these tips:
- Use the Quick Soak method to help reduce intestinal gas.
- Gradually add beans to your diet over a 3-8 week period. Introducing them to your diet over time may help to increase your tolerance and reduce digestive symptoms. Eating beans on a more regular basis can reduce gas problems.
- Rinse canned beans until there is no more foam or bubbles.
- Soak dried beans overnight and then cook them in fresh water. I would suggest changing the water again after it starts boiling and cooking them in the second batch of water.
- Drink plenty of liquids to help your system with the extra fiber from the beans.
- If you do not eat beans frequently, you can take OTC pills to reduce gas or OTC digestive enzymes (alpha-galactosidase) to help you better tolerate dishes with beans.
- Canned: Avoid dented cans due to the risk of botulism.
- Dried packaged beans: Avoid packages with holes, as they may be contaminated with bugs.
- Dried bulk beans: Avoid broken beans and beans with mold. Buy just what you need to cook for no more than 2-4 weeks.
You can store dried beans in sealed packages or glass containers for up to 6 months. Cooked beans will last for 5 days in the refrigerator or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Make sure you cover the beans with the cooking liquid before freezing. This will prevent dehydration and ensure they keep a good consistency once defrosted.
Cooking on the Stove
Soak the beans overnight and then cook them in fresh, new water. You can also use the Quick Soak method.
Once your beans have soaked, cover them with three times their volume of fresh water. Add herbs or spices as desired. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally until tender.
Cooking Beans in a Crock Pot
1 1-lb bag dried black beans
1 teaspoon salt
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried epazote (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
- Mix the black beans, salt, and 6 cups of cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.
- Put the chopped onion, bay leaf, and epazote in the crock pot. Pour the beans and cooking liquid into crock pot, cover, and turn to low.
- Cook for 4-8 hours or until beans are cooked to your liking. Cool beans and liquid, portion into containers, and freeze.
Note: Epazote is an herb commonly used in traditional Mexican and Guatemalan dishes. You can find it at specialty shops and Mexican grocery stores.
*Recipe via Oldways
For more ideas how to cook and make the best beans, download the WIC program cookbook.
Karen Ambrosio, BSND, MSCN