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Feed Your Heart with Healthy Beans

02.09.14 Feed Your Heart with Healthy Beans

canned beans

Beans, beans they're good for your heart....

The more you eat, the more you can reap the health benefits of this power legume. Although it appears that Americans don't eat nearly enough beans, eating only 6.5 pounds a year, on average. How much should we be eating? Studies have shown that adding beans into your diet four or more times per week greatly help to reduce the risk of heart disease. 

Naturally low in fat, zero cholesterol and a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals, beans are also slow to digest thanks to the high fiber content, giving us sustained amounts of energy rather than just a quick burst.  And they're inexpensive, FULL of antioxidants (contain 8 flavonoids that work to protect cells in the body from damage caused by free radicals) and contain the important nutrients: folic acid, magnesium, copper and iron. For a closer look at beans and their nutrional value, here's a nutrient profile.

If stored properly, dried beans will last for a good year or more. It's important to keep beans in an air tight glass jar and stored in a cool, dark spot. There are better options now for canned beans without BPA used in the lining of the can. Look for Eden's brand (BPA free can) or beans that are sold in tetra packs.

If you're cooking dried beans, it's best to start with a simple sorting and discard any wonky ones or debris that may have been mixed in. Then, give the beans a good rinse and soak overnight, for 6-8 hours. If there's no time for an overnight soak, give the beans a quick soak: boil the beans for a minute or two, turn off the heat and let stand for an hour. Throw out any beans that rise to the top and discard soaking water. Add enough clean water to cover the soaked beans by at least a couple of inches, bring to a boil and then let simmer while covered for 1-3 hours unti tender.

Cooking time varies according to the size of the bean and also how long it was stored. Peas and smaller beans tend to need less than an hour to cook wheras larger beans can take up to 3 hours. A good tip is to add a tablespoon of fat to help control the foaming. And a good measuring tip: one cup of dried beans yields about 2 1/2 cups of cooked beans.

Or, can them yourself! Marisa McClellan, the author of Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year Round and the soon-to-be-released cookbook, Preserving by the Pinthas created this very easy to follow guide for canning beans in Weck jars.  She used the 1/2 liter Weck jars so they would most resemble the amount of a can of beans, making it easier to use in recipes. Read Marisa's post How to Pressure Can Dried Beans to learn more about canning beans.

What's your favorite dish to make with beans?

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