About Beans

Overview

Beans are used and enjoyed by many cultures in many ways. They might be small, but they pack quite a punch when it comes to their nutritional content. But one of the greatest things about them, is their versatility. They can be cooked, they can be dried, they can be added to other foods and they also have recipes designed specifically for them.

Significance

Beans are a dietary staple in many countries. In Mexico, beans are served with rice and are also prepared refried style. This is where they are mixed with garlic, onion and olive oil or lard then mashed to a pulp. Hummus is a popular item in the Middle Eastern region, especially India. It is derived from chick peas also commonly known as garbanzo beans. Actual hummus is made with the addition of tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. It is commonly eaten with pita bread and also used as a dip. In America, baked beans, bean dips, bean salads and green beans are all very popular items. All of these recipes are synonymous with Superbowl parties, pool parties, graduation parties and picnics. The three bean salad is very common in the summer time. They usually contain any of the following - green beans, yellow beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans or garbanzo beans.

Types

There are baked beans, lima beans, pinto beans, coffee beans, kidney beans, lintels, fava beans, pinto beans (these are used to make refried beans), green beans, soybeans and even jelly beans. Baked beans are usually white and have been cooked with the addition of brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, molasses and sometimes onions. Two variations are pork and beans and ham and beans. Often times, pepper is added to them which can give them a really spicy kick.

Features

Beans have many notable features and characteristics. They are high in fiber, a good source of protein, high in B vitamins, low in fat, and they are also low on the glycemic Index. This is a chart listing how fast a carbohydrate is digested. Their low rating is because of the high fiber content causing them to be digested slower. Another interesting characteristic about beans is that although they are a good source of protein, they are still incomplete. An incomplete protein is one that doesn't have all the essential amino acids present. This is why they are often eaten with another incomplete protein to balance it out. A couple examples would be beans and rice and pea soup with corn bread.

Identification

The actual common name for beans is legumes. A legume is characterized by having a pod that splits down a seam on two sides. An interesting fact is that peanuts are considered legumes. They have the same appearance as regular beans but they are very different in taste and texture. Edamame is another well-known pod-bearing legume. Common to Japanese cuisine, they have seen rapid growth in popularity in the US and they can be found in frozen sections of most grocery stores. They are usually served right in the pods. They are steamed and drizzled with sea salt, then eaten by inserting the pod into the mouth and pulling downward. The soy beans pop out and mix with the sea salt giving them a delicious flavor.

Size

Most beans have a common oval shape to them and are about the size of a small pebble. The exception would be chick peas which are round and lentils which are shaped like a lens. The kidney bean obviously gets its name from the fact that it is shaped like a kidney. These are also a larger bean.

Benefits

Other than the common knowledge of beans being good for the heart, they have also been known to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and reduce chances for certain cancers such as prostate and breast. Soybeans are especially good because they are the only bean that is a complete protein. This is especially beneficial for vegetarians.

About this Author

Kevin Rail has worked in the fitness industry since 2001 and has been writing since 2004. He has professional experience as a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, motivational engineer and freelance fitness writer. He currently writes a monthly column for Ron Jones High-Performance Health. Rail has a bachelor's degree in sports management: fitness and wellness from California University of Pennsylvania.

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