Beans are a great component to your everyday healthy nutritional program! Not only are they packed with calcium, iron, potassium, B vitamins, they are a great source of protein and fiber! Beans may also lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, keeping your heart healthy. The best part is, they are extremely versatile and can be used to make salads, dips, salsas and even brownies— yes, I said brownies! Don’t miss out on my Black Bean Brownie recipe below!
Canned Beans vs. Dried Beans
Canned beans are super easy to use, and you’ll find a number of options on your grocer’s shelves. But, like many packaged foods, they can pack a lot of salt. When selecting canned beans, choose a low-sodium variety. Scan the nutrition labels and opt for the product with the lowest sodium. Most recipes call for draining and rinsing canned beans and doing so removes a bit of the added sodium. You can drain, rinse and re-rinse a few times, to eliminate as much sodium and liquid as possible. Getting as much moisture out of the beans helps so they don’t get too soggy in your recipes.
If you have the time to prepare dried beans, they are always the preferred choice, and they are quite easy to prepare. Using dried beans will also allow you to control how much salt is added and you can get the texture you prefer.
You can either use a pre-packaged bag of beans or beans bought in bulk. To prepare dried beans, rinse the beans and pick out any small stones. Next, place the beans in a large bowl, cover them completely with water, and soak for several hours or overnight. Soaking the beans reduces their cooking time and also helps decreases the potential for any unwanted GI issues. The longer you can allow them to soak, the better.
Drain the beans and place them in a large pot. Bring them to a boil for about five minutes, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans are done to your liking. Cooked beans freeze well; simply portion them out in Ziplock bags or freezer containers and they are good to go for up to six months. As you can see, they do take a little bit more time to prepare but you can prepare them in bulk so they do last quite a while. I also like to use a Crock-Pot, which saves on time! Simply add your beans directly to a Crock-Pot filled with water or a low sodium soup broth, set it and forget it!
Incorporating Beans into Your Meals
There are so many ways I like to incorporate beans into my everyday life. Here are a few simple ideas to help you:
• Add black beans to your favorite salsa for a homemade black bean salsa.
• Add beans on top of a whole-grain or corn tortilla.
• Add beans over top your egg whites for a Mexican scramble.
• Add beans to any cold salad.
• Add beans to any soups and stews.
• Pureed beans of your choice with olive oil and your favorite seasoning makes a great dip.
• Add black beans to a bag of coleslaw with lean protein and salsa for an easy taco salad.
• Use black beans to make delicious black bean brownies! See recipe below.
As you can see, beans are a great addition to any meal and are so versatile and nutrient dense. You can have them warm, cold, savory or sweet! For a sweeter option, give my 100-calorie Black Bean Brownies a try!
Gina Aliotti’s Black Bean Brownies
1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 egg white
3 tablespoons unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder)
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar substitute such as baking stevia
1 teaspoon instant coffee* (optional)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8X8 square baking dish with non-stick spray.
2. Combine the black beans, eggs, apple sauce, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract, sugar and instant coffee in a blender— blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. If you are using chocolate chips, fold them into the brownie mixture.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until it comes out clean when punctured with a toothpick (about 30 minutes).
*Chocolate chips add additional calories and fat