Human beings around the world have consumed, and enjoyed, beans for centuries. But, beans were not commonly eaten on their own. They usually had partners on the plate with them, like grains and fat.
Beans and grains naturally complement each other.
For example, rice and beans are a staple in many Latin cultures, hummus (chickpeas) and pita bread in Middle Eastern cuisine, Dahl (lentils) and Nan bread in India, black beans and corn tortillas in the Americas, and Pasta e Fagioli (bean and pasta soup) from Italy.
Many cultures often paired beans with some type of fat as well.
This pairing would enhance flavor, nutrition, and digestibility. Beans contain protein and large amounts of carbohydrates. If you measure the carbohydrate content, it by far surpasses the protein. Combining beans with fat helps slow absorption of the carbohydrates, keeping blood sugar balanced.
Some traditional bean and fat combinations include hummus that contains the fat of sesame seeds (tahini), traditional cassoulet from France prepared with duck and/or goose fat, and in Mexico, Latin countries and the Mediterranean, combined with pork lard, olive oil, or other fat.
I remember growing up eating canned baked beans in America. It always came with a cube of pork fat. Us kids would always fight over who got that creamy little mouthwatering lump. Not only did the fat make the beans more succulent and delicious, but it was also rich in vitamins A and D that benefits the endocrine system and bones.
Beans often get a bad rap because folks can have difficulty digesting them.
First and foremost, the digestive system in modern humans has been compromised from eating too many refined grains and sugars, plus over-using antibiotics that destroy intestinal flora. With our intestinal bacteria compromised, digestion of beans, as well as many other foods, becomes difficult.
Secondly, they need to be properly prepared. This includes soaking them eight to twenty-four hours to release acids, anti-nutrients, gas-causing enzymes, and trisaccharides (sugars).
I highly recommend cooking beans with a small piece of kelp sea vegetable. Kelp contains glutamic acid that helps soften tough fibers, making beans more digestible and producing less gas. That’ll make your friends and family happy, for sure!
You could also add a tablespoon of vinegar to the soaking water to neutralize the anti-nutrients.
Beans also take time to prepare, but they are worth it.
I personally LOVE beans in a variety of dishes; chili, burritos, rice and beans, bean soup, hummus with pita or vegetable crudités – yum!
Small types like lentils and adukis can be cooked in one hour or less, but larger varieties like kidney, garbanzo, and cannellini can take up to two hours or longer. Less, if you use a pressure cooker.
The beauty of cooking beans is you don’t have to babysit them. Put them on the stove with the appropriate amount of water and bring to a boil. Skim the foam that rises to the top and discard. Adjust the temperature to simmer and cover. No need to stir or sauté… they practically cook themselves.
I understand we’re all busy, so if you do not have time to prepare them from scratch, use pre-cooked canned beans. Keep in mind that many canned foods contain the endocrine disruptor, Bisphenol A (BPA); the hard plastic coating on the inside of the can. BPA disrupts the functioning of the thyroid gland and endocrine system.
Keep in mind when eating beans that quantity changes quality.
I had a client that was suffering from hypothyroid. We altered her diet and she started feeling better rather quickly. Within one month she stopped losing her hair, felt less swollen in her neck, and had a big surge in energy levels.
BUT, she noticed whenever she ate hummus she broke out in a rash on her stomach and became bloated and uncomfortable. To get to the bottom of this gaseous dilemma, I asked her to keep a food journal.
She realized she had been eating hummus two and three times per day as a “healthy snack”. Plus, because it was a snack and not a meal, she always rushed through eating the hummus and had forgotten to chew.
Even though hummus is garbanzo beans that are pureed into a slurry, it still needs to be mixed with saliva otherwise it can contribute to digestive distress and bloating. Hummus can easily slide down the throat without chewing. Thank goodness for the pita bread or vegetable crudités that usually accompanies it. When hummus and pita are paired together, as it was traditionally eaten, it ensures some chewing.
As you can see, beans can be a delicious addition to a healthy diet, but you need to become aware of how they have been traditionally prepared and eaten.
Here are some of my fave Bean Recipes.
Andrea Beaman is an internationally renowned Holistic Health Coach, Natural Foods Chef, Speaker and Herbalist. Named one of the top 100 Most Influential Health and Fitness Experts, she is also a recipient of the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Award for Excellence in Health-Supportive Education and a Health Leadership award from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Since 1999, Andrea has been teaching people how to harness the body’s own preventative and healing powers using food, herbal remedies and alternative medicine.