Nutrition Know-How: How & Why You Should Add Legumes to Your Diet
As part of National Nutrition Month, University of Vermont dietetic interns Rutu Shah and Olivia Johnson will be tabling about the featured Vermont Harvest of the Month: Dry Beans! Stop by outside of Main Street Café on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for free food and giveaways.
What are dry beans?
Dry beans are simply beans that are matured, dried, and removed from the pod. There are a variety of dry beans in the market, some with more common names (kidney, garbanzo, or cannellini beans) and some that might be more unfamiliar (adzuki or mung beans). Similar to dry beans are lentils and peas, all of which are in the family of legumes.
Why should we eat legumes?
Legumes are great sources of protein, especially for those who do not eat meat. They are also incredibly high in soluble fiber, which not only can help you feel full, but also can help to reduce cholesterol. Legumes are also excellent sources of many vitamins and minerals, especially folate, iron, magnesium and potassium, which can benefit cognitive function and heart health. Many legumes are also great sources of other vitamins and minerals: for example, mung beans are a great source of zinc, which can help with improving immune function.
How do I prepare dry beans?
Though it requires a bit more effort than opening a can of beans, dry beans are usually tastier when cooked fresh and cheaper if bought in bulk. Start by spreading the legumes on a flat surface such as a baking sheet to pick out any broken beans that may have been missed during processing. Rinse and then soak under cold water for at least an hour. Soaking the beans is important because it helps to break down raffinose, the sugar which causes the gas and bloating that legumes are known for. To cook the legumes, place in a large pot with enough water to cover and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, and add more water as needed until beans are tender and can easily be broken with a fork. Cooking times vary for the type of bean, lentil or pea being used.
Cooking times for common dry beans are:
- Black beans: 1 hour
- Kidney, navy or pinto beans: 1.5 – 2 hours
- Cannelini beans: 45 min – 1 hour
Get creative: Legumes can be used in a variety of recipes – soups, side dishes, homemade veggie burgers, salads and so much more! How do you enjoy legumes or beans? Let us know in the Comments section below.
Rutu Shah is student in the University of Vermont Master of Science in Dietetics program. She is completing her clinical practicum in Nutrition Services at Fletcher Allen Health Care.