The word is out, beans are in! Legumes(beans, peas and lentils) are not only nutritious but delicious. Though beans have often been neglected in the Western diet, they have long since been an important part of traditional diets around the world. Many people in North America are discovering that beans are not only tasty, easy to prepare, economical but are good for you. Legumes are an important food source. They are an excellent source of protein, are low in fat, high in fiber, loaded with complex carbohydrates and have many essential micro nutrients.
We do not know the exact relationship between diet and disease however it has become accepted that healthy eating can improve our chances of preventing diseases such as heart disease, strokes and some forms of cancer. Substituting beans, peas and lentils for foods that are high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates is likely to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Research is showing that plant protein helps protect the heart by lowering blood cholesterol levels in many people.
Beans are good for diabetics too because they contain complex carbohydrates and lots of fiber that helps keep blood sugar on an even keel. It is also a good way to add variety to gluten free diets.
New research suggests that muscle soreness after strenuous and prolonged exercise can be reduced by eating foods that contain antioxidants which includes fruit, vegetables and beans. Red kidney beans, pinto and black beas are included in the US Dept of Agriculture's list of the 20 best "muscle-saving" foods.
The beans which our mothers used to make the occasional casserole or soup are not the same as today's beans. The new strains of beans are being grown with thinner skins which shorten the cooking times. Dried beans do NOT have to be soaked overnight - you can use the quick soak method. With the explosion of interest in bean cookery, there is much more rapid turnover in supermarket and bulk food stores, hence beans are fresher and have faster cooking times. The cooking times suggested in many recipe books will produce "bean mush".
Canned beans make it easy for the busy cook to prepare a tasty meal quickly. (Just be sure to rinse them well before using).
There are now many delicious recipes for everything from appetizers, soups, salads, main and side dishes and none are hard on the pocket book.
Another great thing about beans is their flexibility - you don't have to follow a recipe slavishly but can use your available supplies and ingenuity. You can also use them as a meat extender in some of your favorite recipes.
As we continue to eat healthier by cutting fat and not flavor and by eating less meat, there is an increasing emphasis on legumes as an essentil part of today's diet. Two recent food pyramids, The Asian an Mediterranean both support this trend by recommending a daily serving of beans, peas and lentils.
Let the bean bonanza begin!
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