According to a news release from University of Missouri Extension, it turns out, beans are a highly nutritious and budget-friendly vegetable which can benefit both the health and bank acount of those who consume them regularly.

“Beans and other legumes like lentils are among the most commonly eaten foods in the world,” Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension, said. “Although we grow many varieties of beans in the United States, they are not as popular here because there is a perceived difficulty in preparation.

Feel better

Edible beans, like pinto, navy, kidney, pink and black beans, are part of the legume family. Other members of the legume family include lentils, peas, chickpeas, peanuts and soybeans.

Although dry beans vary considerably in size, color, shape, flavor, texture and cooking times, they are all nutrient-rich foods.

“Beans contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients while providing very few calories. One-half cup of cooked dry beans contains about 115 calories,” Duitsman said.

Beans are an excellent source of protein, providing around eight grams per half-cup serving. They are high in fiber, offering up to 30 percent of the daily value of dietary fiber.

Beans also are good sources of folate, iron, potassium and magnesium while containing little or no fat, sodium or cholesterol.

Beans also contain healthy phytochemicals which may help to prevent osteoporosis, heart disease and certain cancers. Some of the phytochemicals in beans are natural antioxidants which are disease-fighting compounds thought to fight cancer, heart disease, aging and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

In a USDA study analyzing the antioxidant capacities of more than 100 common foods, three beans made the top four — small red, red kidney and pinto beans.

Other beans, like black beans, navy beans and black-eyed peas, were ranked in the top 40.

“Research indicates consuming more beans could improve overall health and also decrease the risk of developing certain diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and many types of cancers,” Duitsman said.

Beans for every meal

Bottom line, beans offer a huge bang for the buck and easily could be offered with every meal, but should beans be consumed canned or dry?

“Canned beans are convenient since they don’t have to be presoaked and cooked, and can be eaten straight from the can or heated in recipes,” Duitsman said.

A 15-ounce can of beans equals one and one-half cups of cooked dry beans, drained. Although purchasing canned beans will cost about three times more than purchasing dried, they will take much less time to prepare.

Since the nutrient content of canned versus dried beans is about the same, the extra 20 cents per serving may be worth it for some families.

“The one big difference is the sodium content, which can be very high for canned beans. To reduce the sodium content in canned beans, simply drain and rinse the beans or purchase no-salt or low-salt varieties,” Duitsman said.

Fun facts, recipe

To prepare dry beans, ensure you follow the four steps of preparation. First, clean, rinse, soak and cook.

Beans expand greatly when cooked. One cup of dried beans may become 2 to 3 cups of cooked beans, depending on which bean being used.

Gas-reducing tips. Beans contain some non-digestible carbohydrates, which can cause intestinal gas and stomach discomfort. When beans are well soaked and well cooked, the carbohydrates become more digestible and cause less gas.

Mediterranean Bean Salad

1 (15.5-oz.) can beans (Great Northern, navy or white kidney), drained and rinsed

Half c. sun-dried tomatoes cut into strips

1/3 c. black olives, drained and chopped

1/3 c. fat-free or reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled

1/3 c. red onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Fresh ground pepper

Drain and rinse beans. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Serve on a lettuce leaf with grilled flat bread, tossed with pasta, in a pita pocket sandwich, on top of tossed salad or with whole-grain chips or crackers.

Makes six servings. Per serving: 150 calories, 7 g fat, 5 g protein, 16 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber and 200 mg sodium

For more information on nutrition contact one of the following nutrition specialists: Dr. Lydia Kaume, Barton County, (417) 682-3579; or Dr. Pam Duitsman, Greene County, (417) 881-8909. Information also is available online http://extension.missouri.edu.

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