Benefits and How To Do It

Benefits and How To Do It

Beans, peas, and lentils are all legumes, a group of plant-based foods that grow in pods. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), legumes are a vegetable subgroup packed with nutrients. Legumes offer a wealth of health benefits at a budget-friendly price, from folate and potassium to iron and zinc.

Legumes keep you feeling fuller for longer thanks to their protein and fiber content. The fiber also supports gut health. Plus, their complex carbs provide sustained energy. Legumes can even help regulate blood sugar and pressure.

However, there’s more to these nutritional powerhouses. Soaking beans, a common practice, offers additional advantages beyond quicker cooking times. Here are the benefits of soaking beans, how to soak beans properly, and helpful tips for incorporating these versatile legumes into your diet.

According to the USDA. dry beans and chickpeas should be cleaned and soaked before cooking. Because of their small size, dry peas and lentils typically do not require soaking. Nevertheless, you might want to soak them to reap additional health benefits. Canned beans, peas, and lentils do not require soaking as they’ve been pre-cooked during the canning process.

Soaking beans before cooking them helps them absorb water and cook evenly. It reduces cooking time.

Beyond reducing cooking time, soaking beans unlocks additional benefits.

Reduce Digestive Issues

Beans contain oligosaccharides, a class of carbohydrates that can be challenging for your body to digest. This can potentially lead to digestive discomfort like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, distention, and diarrhea. Soaking beans can help reduce these side effects by releasing some oligosaccharides into the water.

Reduce Antinutrients

Legumes contain compounds known as antinutrients that hinder nutrient absorption. Some examples are lectins, which can cause digestive problems if beans aren’t cooked right; phytic acid, which can grab onto iron, calcium, and zinc, making them tougher for the body to use; and tannins, which can make it harder for the body to digest protein and absorb vitamins and minerals.

Soaking or cooking beans can improve digestibility and boost nutritional quality by reducing antinutrients. The reduction varies depending on the legume type and soaking time.

Improve Texture and Softness

Soaking beans allows them to retain their shape while improving their texture and softness. The softer texture is especially desirable in dishes where a creamy consistency is key. Imagine smooth hummus, silky bean purees, or creamy bean soups.

Canned beans and dry beans have unique characteristics. Canned beans undergo a brief boiling process, are sealed in liquid, and cooked at high temperatures under steam pressure. In contrast, dry beans are harvested, dried, and packaged after being removed from their pods.

Here are some other differences:

  • Prep time: Canned beans are pre-cooked and don’t require soaking—just draining and rinsing. Dry beans require inspection for debris and must be soaked before cooking, resulting in a longer meal prep time.
  • Sodium: Canned beans usually come packed in liquid that contains sodium, but you can find low-sodium or no-salt varieties. Draining and rinsing them reduces the sodium content. Dry beans contain no added salt.
  • Texture: Canned beans are typically softer than their dry counterparts, which can retain a firmer texture after cooking.
  • Taste: Some people prefer the flavor of dry beans over canned ones, as dried beans can absorb more flavor from seasonings and cooking liquids.

Canned and dry beans can last over a year at room temperature, but remember to check the best-if-used-by date before consuming them.

While dry beans tend to be more cost-effective, canned beans offer convenience. Nutrient-wise, dry beans appear to offer more nutrients. For instance, dry kidney and black beans provide more protein, fiber, and nutrients like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, manganese, and folate than their canned bean counterparts.

There are three main methods to soak beans, ensuring they’re ready for cooking. Before soaking beans, inspect them and remove any damaged beans or debris. Then place the beans in a pot large enough to accommodate their growth as they typically triple in size. Next, choose one of the following soaking methods:

  • Hot soaking method: This method can help reduce intestinal gas. For every pound (lb) of dry beans, add 10 cups of hot water. Bring to a boil and let it boil for 2-3 minutes. Then, remove from heat, cover, and set aside for 4-24 hours.
  • Quick soak method: This is similar to the hot soaking method, but you let the beans sit for at least one hour after boiling and covering.
  • Traditional or overnight soak method: This method doesn’t involve boiling water. For every pound of dry beans, add 10 cups of cold water and let the beans soak overnight or for a minimum of eight hours.

Once soaked, drain the soaking water and rinse the beans under running water. Cover the beans with fresh water in the same pot. Simmer the beans for 1.5-2 hours or until tender, following package directions if available. Consider adding onions, garlic, or herbs and spices to enhance flavor during cooking. Here are some nutritious meal ideas incorporating beans:

  • Fill a tortilla with scrambled eggs, black beans, salsa, avocado, and a sprinkle of cheese
  • Combine cooked quinoa, chickpeas, diced veggies (like bell peppers, cucumber, and tomatoes), and a cilantro-lime dressing for a salad entrėe
  • Prepare a hearty soup with soaked beans, broth, carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes, spinach, and herbs and spices
  • Make vegetarian chili with cooked kidney beans, diced tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, chili powder, and cumin
  • Stir-fry soaked beans with vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, snap peas, and mushrooms, and serve over brown rice or quinoa
  • Dip crunchy veggies like carrots, cucumber slices, and bell pepper strips into homemade bean dip made with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, and seasoning

Beans are a nutritional powerhouse, packed with essential nutrients and offering numerous health benefits. Both canned and dry beans provide valuable nutrients, but dry beans are often more economical and may offer higher nutritional content.

Properly soaking dry beans enhances their digestibility and nutrient absorption, ensuring they’re ready to elevate a wide range of dishes. From hearty soups and nutritious salads to flavorful dips and satisfying wraps, beans can be a versatile and delicious addition to your meals.

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