Black beans have been a pantry staple for at least 7,000 years! Related to the famous kidney bean, black beans have several monikers including turtle beans and frijoles negros. Does your family eat these magical legumes?
Black beans, and beans in general, are nutrition rock stars! They contain ample amounts of fiber and protein which slows digestion, aids in blood sugar regulation and supports the heart. On a micro-level, these black beauties are a fabulous source of folate (hello pregnant moms and those looking to conceive), phosphorus, magnesium and iron. Did you know, blacks beans are also a fantastic source of antioxidants including anthocyanins and flavonoids? And, they are a great source of prebiotics (the other half of the probiotic equation), the resistant starch in beans helps provide the substrate needed for the happy bacteria in our gut (if probiotics are the flowers growing in your garden, then prebiotics are the dirt and nutrients needed to grow the flowers). Recent research links regular bean consumption (as little as 1/2 cup per day) to reduced risk for many chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, obesity, stroke and inflammatory diseases.
But, the million dollar question is: how do we improve the digestion of beans? There are many tricks to help decrease the gas associated with beans. Start by introducing beans slowly, try ½ cup on your salad or in soup a few times per week and increase from there. Soaking beans and discarding the water can reduce tannins, phytates and raffinose. Raffinose is related to flatulence, soaking beans can remove over a third of this substance. Add spices! Spices can act as a digestive aid: India is famous for adding ginger and turmeric to legume rich dishes and East Asian countries often add kombu, a fiberous seaweed, during the cooking process.
Did I mention that they are cheap! On a budget, but trying to include powerhouse foods? Check this out:
1# dry black beans ($1.79 at a local Anchorage store) = 5 cups cooked beans (equivalent of 3 cans)
So, how do you take advantage of this cost savings? Cook dry beans! Challenged by the idea? Start with a slow cooker recipe that requires very little effort on your part! Café Johnstonia has created a straight forward recipe (more like a tutorial for those lacking in bean cooking experience). As mentioned above, 1lb of dry beans will yield 5 cups of cooked beans. You can freeze the extra! Package and freeze in appropriate portions, I like 2 cups per bag. Frozen beans keep for approximately three months. And the cheap, humble black bean just keeps on giving…
Now then, on to the best part – my favorite black bean recipes:
This Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger from the Minimalist Baker is super easy and fast! I freeze the extra and throw them on my lunch time salad at work.
Shake up the standard lunch/dinner side salad and play with this easy Avocado-Lime Black Bean Salad from Oh She Glows.
For the sweet tooth in the family, black beans are still a hit, experiment with Black Bean Brownies from Chocolate Covered Katie.
Black beans are inexpensive, nutrient dense, tasty bundles just waiting to make a daily appearance on your plate. Go on, give them a try! And don’t forget, share your favorite black bean recipes with us.
Sherrill Collins, MS, RDN, LD