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Beans in one form or another have been a staple of human nutrition for many thousands of years. They form a part of the cuisine of most present cultures. They can play a very useful role in a program of healthy nutrition. They are a source of protein that is fat free and provides fiber. In a balanced vegetarian diet beans/legumes combined with whole grains provide protein that has the balance of amino acids necessary for human metabolism.  

There is a large collection of varieties. They differ in how much protein and fiber content they have. The protein content can be important for a vegan diet, but when they are being used in combination with animal protein it is not a major consideration. For people looking to maximize fiber intake that is a consideration. The fiber found in beans is soluble while that found in grains is non-soluble.

Beans all by themselves don't have much taste. To make them enjoyable requires requires flavor and seasoning. Familiar traditional recipes like chili or pork and beans accomplish this in ways that don't contribute much to a healthy diet. There are other approaches. I've found a lot of Mediterranean and Caribbean recipes that use them in combination with herbs and other vegetables with or without meat. Since I an not trying to follow a strict vegetarian diet, I usually add some chicken and chicken broth to them.

The cheapest way to use them is to buy dried beans. That requires soaking overnight and then cooking for about an hour. Using canned beans is quicker and easier. Since I am usually just cooking for myself, that is what I am prone to do.

I have a favorite recipe to offer as an example of a healthy bean meal.

Black Beans and Rice

2 tbs olive oil

1 med can black beans drained

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

fresh or dired chilies (optional)

3 ozs chicken chopped

1/2 cu chicken broth

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp oregano

1 tbs cider vinegar

Chop onion, garlic and chilies. Saute lightly in oil using medium sized boiler. Add chicken and saute until it changes color. Add beans, chicken broth, cumin, oregano and vinegar. Simmer until nice and thick. Serve over rice, white or brown.

Originally posted to Richard Lyon on Tue Jun 17, 2014 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing.

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