The search for additional food protein brings dry beans to the forefront. More than just a meat substitute, beans are so nutritious that the latest dietary guidelines recommend we triple our current intake from 1 to 3 cups per week.
What makes beans so good for us?
Here's what the experts have to say:
Chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease all have something in common. Being overweight increases your chances of developing them and makes your prognosis worse if you do, says Mark Brick, PhD -- which means that trimming your waistline does more for you than make your pants look better. Brick, a professor in the department of soil and crop sciences at Colorado State University, is investigating the ability of different bean varieties to prevent cancer and diabetes.
Beans are comparable to meat when it comes to calories, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a registered dietitian at Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Wellness Institute in Chicago and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. But they really shine in terms of fiber and water content, two ingredients that make you feel fuller, faster. Adding beans to your diet helps cut calories without feeling deprived. Our diets tend to be seriously skimpy when it comes to fiber (the average American consumes just 15 grams daily), to the detriment of both our hearts and our waistlines. One cup of cooked beans (or two-thirds of a can) provides about 12 grams of fiber -- nearly half the recommended daily dose of 21 to 25 grams per day for adult women (30 to 38 grams for adult men). Meat, on the other hand, contains no fiber at all.
This difference in fiber content means that meat is digested fairly quickly, Brick says, whereas beans are digested slowly, keeping you satisfied longer. Plus, beans are low in sugar, which prevents insulin in the bloodstream from spiking and causing hunger. When you substitute beans for meat in your diet, you get the added bonus of a decrease in saturated fat, says Blatner.
Dry Bean Classes and Uses
Dark Red Kidney
Dark red kidney beans are large, reddish-brown kidney-shaped beans containing a robust, full-bodied flavor and have a soft texture. Dark red kidney beans are often cooked or canned as whole beans. They are popular in salads, chili, bean casseroles and soups.
These medium-sized mottled beige and brown skinned beans contain an earthy flavor and powdery texture and can be found canned or dry bagged. When cooked, they lose their mottling and turn light brown. Pinto beans are most often used in refried beans, bean paste, chili and other Mexican dishes.
Cranberry beans are medium-sized oval-shaped beans with mottled tan and red skins. When cooked, their red specks disappear. With their creamy texture and chestnut-like taste, they are a great addition in northern Italian, Spanish and Portuguese dishes.
Pink beans are small, pale-pink beans with a rich meaty flavor and slightly powdery texture. Pink beans supplement the supply of edible beans used in canned chili and other products. Related to kidney beans, pink beans are often served barbecue style, cooked in Old West recipes or served with spicy seasonings.
Navy beans, or pea beans, are small white ovals with a mild flavor and powdery texture. They are commonly found in canned products or in bagged form. They are used for cooking in pork and beans, soups, stews, baked bean dishes and are great pureed.
Small red beans are small, oval-shaped with red skin. They have a more delicate flavor and softer texture than kidney beans. These beans hold their shape and firmness when cooked. Small red beans are popular in Cajun, Creole and Mexican cuisine. They are a must for red beans and rice, soups, salads, stews and salsa.
Black beans are small oval shaped beans with deep black skins and a dark-cream-to-gray flesh. They have a soft texture and a mild, sweet flavor. The black bean, sometimes called turtle beans, are used in classic Latin, American, Caribbean and Southwestern (U.S.) dishes. They are also a staple in black bean soup and the Brazilian dish of Feijoada.
Great northern beans are a medium-sized, flat kidney-shaped white bean. They like to take on flavors of other foods when cooked together. Great northern beans are excellent for baking and go well in baked bean recipes, casseroles and salads.
Light Red Kidney
Light red kidney beans have a full-bodied, robust flavor. These large, kidney-shaped beans are popular in the Caribbean, Portugal and Spain. They are most commonly used in chili, baked dishes, salads and paired with rice.
Also known as cannellini beans, the white kidney bean is a large white bean with a firm texture and skin, containing a nut-like flavor. The white kidney bean is popular in Italian cuisine, including minestrones, fagioli’s and salads.