Grocery shopping is SO crazy these days. You walk into a store for a few items and $100 later you walk out…with just a few items! The price of meat is especially disturbing.
Didn’t a chuck steak used to be about $1 a pound? Now it’s up to about $4 a pound.
Fortunately there is a much cheaper protein source that we can all take advantage of. Beans! Yes, I know, many people say they don’t like them.
However, at a cost of approximately 25 cents per cup for dried beans, and a little more for canned varieties, they are a significantly cheaper source of protien.
So keep reading, I may be able to convince you to give them a try!
From a nutritional standpoint, beans are a powerhouse. They are not only high in protein and soluble fiber but a good source of vitamins and minerals.
Diets rich in soluble fiber are associated with improved blood glucose control and blood cholesterol levels.
For vegetarians they are an essential source of protein, iron and zinc. Sounding pretty good so far, right?
Beans are available bagged, canned, frozen and fresh. Canned beans do contain sodium so look for lower sodium beans and rinse them. Rinsing can remove up to 40% of the sodium.
Beans come in many shapes, colors, sizes and textures. Some examples are:
• Black Beans – These are an excellent source of fiber, folate, iron and magnesium. Black beans are a staple in South and Central America and the Caribbean cuisines.
A favorite snack of mine is to mix some black beans and salsa, sometimes add a little pepperjack cheese.
Heat in the microwave, throw some guacamole on top and eat with baked tortilla chips.
Healthy and crazy tasty! (Ask me about my favorite “Black Bean Brownie” recipe. It’s awesome!)
• Soybeans – These babies are an excellent source of calcium, iron and potassium. They contain nine essential amino acids. Soybeans can be steamed, roasted or stir-fried. Edamame are the baby, green beans still in the pod.
A great snack is to boil the pods in salted water for about five minutes. Drain, pop them out of the shell and snack as is or season to taste.
• Kidney Beans (red or white) are high in fiber and folate and flavor! Due to the thicker skin of this bean, they hold up better in dishes that are cooked longer such as chili, but they are also often seen on salad bars.
The white (aka cannellini) bean is a bit milder and is used in Italian salads and sauces.
• Chick Peas (aka Garbanzo) are huge in Middle Eastern cooking and are one of the most common legumes (peas/beans) in the world.
They are chock full of fiber and folate and contain potassium and magnesium.
Homemade hummus is an all time favorite of mine, but you can also toss them in a little olive oil, spread on a pan and season to taste.
Bake until crispy and you have a wonderfully crunchy, tasty, healthy snack!
When cooking these or any other of the many varieties of beans, cook more than you need.
Once cooked they last up to four days in the fridge and can be frozen for a year without losing their quality.
Also, when using in recipes, add acidic ingredients such as tomato or vinegar only when the beans are almost tender as acid slows their cooking process.
Okay, I know you’re all thinking that this all sounds great, but what about the unpleasant gastro-intestinal effects?
Yes, flatulence can occur due to the indigestible carbohydrates.
However, by slowly increasing your fiber intake (from all sources—whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans) your system becomes more accustomed and there are fewer effects.
Also, discarding the soaking water from dried beans can also reduce this side effect. You can also invest in a supplement containing digestive enzymes, such as Beano.
Digestive enzymes aid in the digestion of those foods that commonly cause gas. They need only be taken when you eat—with your first bite—to improve your condition.
There are an incredible amount of awesome recipes out there using these wonderful, versatile, tasty and let’s face it, cheap protein sources! Give’em a shot…you have nothing to lose—and you may gain a whole new appreciation for these nutritional powerhouses!