I think we would all agree this has been a long cold winter but March is here and spring is not far away.
Plus March brings National Nutrition Month and it is time to spill the beans on the great health benefits of the lowly bean!
Beans are gaining popularity again. They have long been known for their high fiber and high protein content, but did you know they also provide folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, and other minerals and phytonutrients?
Lori Scharmer is North Dakota State University Extension service agent for Ward County.
How do you like your beans? My husband and I love a hot bowl of chili with beans on a cold winter weekend but my favorite is homemade bean soup made with a meaty ham bone. That is comfort food.
Regular consumption of legumes (beans) has been shown to help reduce blood cholesterol levels, control blood sugar levels, control diabetes, reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease, and play a role in weight management.
Plant food sources, such as beans, are naturally low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories, while offering essential nutrients to keep us strong and healthy. Filling your plate with vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains does not need to mean deprivation. The nutrients and lower calories allow you to eat more of a satisfying meal while arming your body with antioxidants. The extra fiber beans or legumes provides allows you to feel fuller on less food.
Beans can add color, flavor and nutrients to any spring menu. Add them to soups, stews, casseroles and salads or serve them alone as a side dish. Add lima beans for iron, kidney beans for calcium and zinc, or pink beans for potassium.
You also can save money when you start adding beans to your grocery cart. Try canned, frozen or dry beans and legumes of different varieties. If you buy dry beans, decrease cooking time by up to half by soaking them before cooking.
If you start with dry beans, you will need to rehydrate them. This is the procedure for the preferred hot soak method:
Sort beans by laying them on a cookie sheet and removing any small stones or dirt pieces. Place in a colander and rinse under cold water. Add 10 cups of cold water to a pot for each pound (2 cups) of beans you plan to cook. Bring the water to a boil and boil for one to three minutes. Cover the pot. Let stand. A four-hour soak is ideal. Finally, drain and rinse the soaked beans. Add fresh, cold water to fully cover beans. If you wish, add 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Simmer the beans until they are tender. Serve them plain or follow a favorite recipe.
Canned beans are a convenient option. Reduce sodium by draining and rinsing canned beans. Add fresh cilantro, cumin, curry, lime juice, hot sauce or more of your favorite spices to add flavor. Also try this tasty recipe:
Black Bean Quesadillas
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained, rinsed
1/4 c. chopped tomato
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
8 6-inch whole-wheat tortillas
4 oz. soy cheese/jalapeno jack, shredded
32 spinach leaves, shredded
1 cup salsa of choice
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mash beans. Stir in tomato and cilantro. Spread evenly onto four tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese, spinach and salsa. Top with remaining tortillas. Bake tortillas on ungreased cookie sheet for 12 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.
Per serving: 250 calories, 8 grams fat, 11 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 158 milligrams calcium, 238 milligrams potassium,480 milligrams sodium and 1 microgram folate.
For more information and recipes, view the NDSU Extension Service's publication "Now Serving: Beans!" at the Web site (www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1485.pdf).