Beans are a Bargain!

by Trish Ross

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Are you overwhelmed with your credit card bills? Want to cut your food budget? Want to have great tasty meals at a fraction of the price? Want food that is fast and simple to prepare? Want food that is good for you? You may be surprised to learn that beans are the answer! The world of bean cuisine has taken off in the past few years. Now there are many tasty recipes from appetizers to main dishes to try for just pennies a serving.

The good news is that legumes (beans, peas and lentils) are quick and easy to prepare. There are many varieties of canned or dried beans to use for almost any recipe. Dried (bulk or packaged beans) can be quick soaked, and because so many people are using them, today's beans are fresher so they have faster cooking times. If you use the cooking times in an old recipe book, it will likely be a recipe for bean mush!

Even better news is that beans are good for you. Finally in North America we are realizing that legumes are an important food source. Now we are constantly being told about how nutritious beans are and the need to include them in our diets to help reduce your chances of cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Two recent food pyramids, the Asian and Mediterranean, developed by the Harvard School of Public Health and World Health Organization, have helped legumes gain the recognition they deserve. Both recommend eating a daily serving of foods containing plant proteins.

Here are some of the bare bean facts. Beans are:

- The richest source of plant protein

Research is showing that plant protein helps protect the heart by lowering blood cholesterol levels in many people.

- Low in fat

Only about four percent of calories in legumes come from fat calories. The new food guides suggest we choose lower fat food more often.

- High in fiber

Beans provide lots of fiber, which reduces LDL (the bad cholesterol), and that can help to combat heart disease. Dietary fiber helps to enhance the health of the large intestine.

- Rich in vitamins and minerals

They are an excellent source of folic acid, potassium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Beans are also a good source of zinc and calcium.

- Other Bean Benefits

Beans are a good way to add variety to gluten-free diets. They are good for diabetics, as both complex carbohydrates and fiber help keep blood sugar on an even keel.

Not so many years ago, there were a limited number of bean varieties readily available and few interesting recipes. Today the bean craze has officially begun. There are many tempting recipes using a wide variety of ingredients. Some take less than half an hour from first chop to table, dispelling the myth that beans take a long time to cook.

If you haven't already begun to add a variety of beans to your family's diet, we urge you to start introducing new recipes slowly and soon I think you'll find that bean cuisine is a great way to save money and eat healthfully too.

Trish has been extensively researching the world of beans for the past 10 years. She is the author of Easy Beans: Fast and Delicious Bean, Pea, and Lentil Recipes and More Easy Beans: Quick and tasty bean, pea and lentil recipes. She has made bean cookery a healthy choice for today's busy cook.

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