Did You Know…

— Written By Ivy Reid and last updated by Pam Brylowe

Dry Beans are Great for Cold Weather Meals

 Did you know that dry beans are produced in pods and belong to the family of plants called legumes. The shape of the bean distinguishes it from other legumes like peas and lentils. Usually beans are kidney-shaped or oval, while peas are round, and lentils possess a flat, disk-like shape.

Soaking Dry-Packaged Beans — Before cooking, soak dry-packaged beans to help soften and return moisture to the beans and reduce cooking time. Most beans will rehydrate to triple their dry size, so be sure to start with a large enough pot.

Preferred Hot Soak and Quick Soak Methods — Hot soaking helps dissolve some of the gas-causing substances, making the beans easier to digest. For each pound of beans, add 10 cups hot water; heat to boiling and let boil 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for at least one hour (Quick Soak), or up to 4 hours (Hot Soak). Traditional Overnight Soak — For each pound (2 cups) dry-packaged beans, add 10 cups cold water and let soak overnight, or at least 8 hours.

Cooking Dry-Packaged Beans — Drain soaking water and rinse beans; cook in fresh water. In general, beans take 30 minutes to 2 hours to cook depending on variety. Check bean packaging for specific cooking times and instructions. Spice up beans while they cook. Seasonings such as garlic, onion, oregano, crushed red pepper, parsley or thyme can be added to the pot while beans are cooking. Add acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, vinegar, wine or citrus juices, only at end of cooking, when the beans are tender. Add salt only after beans are cooked to tender. If added before, salt may cause bean skins to become impermeable, halting the tenderizing process. To test for doneness, bite-taste a few beans. They should be tender, but not  overcooked. When cooling, keep beans in cooking liquid to prevent them from drying out.

Cooking With Canned Beans — Canned beans are a great convenience since they are already presoaked and precooked. Always drain and thoroughly rinse canned beans before adding them to a recipe. It is not necessary to recook canned beans, just heat them if a recipe calls for it. Canned beans, like dry-packaged beans, absorb flavors from other ingredients in a dish because their skins are completely permeable.

Storing Beans —Uncooked dry-packaged beans can be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry area. If kept for more than 12 months, dry-packaged beans will lose moisture and may require longer cooking times. Nutrient value is  not lost with age. Canned beans may be stored up to 12 months in their original sealed cans. Cooked beans may be refrigerated, in a covered container, for up to five days. Cooked beans may be frozen for up to six months.

Counting Beans – 

One 15-ounce can of beans = one and one-half cups cooked beans, drained

One pound dry beans = six cups cooked beans, drained.

One pound dry beans = two cups dry beans.

One cup dry beans = three cups cooked beans, drained.

Dried beans are an extremely beneficial component in all diets because they are high in complex carbohydrates, protein and dietary fiber, low in fat, calories and sodium, and completely cholesterol-free. As little as a half-cup of beans added to the daily diet can be very helpful in reaching important nutrition goals.

Protein –  Beans are an excellent, non-fat source of protein. Just one cup of beans provides as much as 16 grams of protein. Adults generally need to eat between 50-60 grams of protein a day. The body converts this protein into amino acids which make up and repair muscle and bone tissue. Protein also fights infections, helps heal wounds and regulates enzymes and hormones.

Fiber – Beans are one of the best sources of dietary fiber, containing both insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber, generally thought of as “roughage” that moves quickly through the digestive system, is important in our diets because it helps promote a healthy digestive tract and can reduce the risk of some types of cancer. Soluble fiber plays a role in helping to lower blood cholesterol levels, one of the main risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease. Beans are an extremely beneficial component in the diabetes diet because they are high in dietary fiber and low in fat and sodium. A high-fiber diet helps control diabetes and maintain healthy blood glucose levels.

Like any source of fiber, beans should be added gradually to the diet. Consumption should be increased over a four- to eight-week period, even if it’s a bite or two per day, with a goal of one-half cup beans per day. It is also important to drink plenty of liquids when adding more fiber to your diet, because fluids help reduce the natural side effects of digesting fiber-rich foods. The key is to continue eating beans once the body’s system is adjusted.

Potassium – Beans contain an abundance of potassium, which may help reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Many dry beans contain a good source of potassium naturally. Just one-half cup of cooked dry beans contains as much as 480 mg of potassium. Plus, dry-packaged beans are naturally low in sodium, with no more than 5 mg of sodium in a one-half cup serving.

Folate –  Our bodies do not produce folate, an important B vitamin that provides many health benefits, so it is important to get it from the foods we eat. Foods containing folate include dry beans, leafy green vegetables, fruit and fruit juices. Of all these foods, dry beans are the best source of folate. Eating one cup of cooked dry beans provides, on average, 264 mcg of folate, which can help most Americans reach their daily recommended intake. Folate protects against heart disease and may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer.

Black Bean Dip

1 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained                    ½ teaspoon of cumin

1/2 cup medium hot salsa                                                         ½ cup shredded carrot

1 clove garlic                                                                             Tortilla chips, baked not fried

In a blender, combine beans, 1/4 cup salsa, garlic, and cumin. Blend until smooth. Stir in remaining salsa and carrot. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to blend. Serve dip with low-fat tortilla chips or crackers. Yields 1 1/2 cups of dip. Each 2 tablespoons of dip has 20 calories, less than 1 gram of fat, no cholesterol, and 60 milligrams of sodium.

This article was compiled by Ivy Reid, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with Jones County Cooperative Extension using information obtained through the American Dry Bean Board Website at http://americanbean.org and Give Your Heart A Healthy Beat which was developed by N.C. Cooperative Extension.

North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

This article will be published in the Jones Post newspaper on January 3, 2013 and was compiled by Ivy Reid, Director.