I used to hate beans as a kid. Unlike (what seems like) every other nutritionist I did not grow up on a vegetarian commune eating seeds and berries, I grew up with McDonalds (and a few berries, but you know what I mean) I ate the typical diet of a Canadian kid in the 90's (aka healthier then our American neighbours, but still not great). I ate pretty much whatever my mom cooked but I did have a few foods I despised. Beans, green peppers and celery. Celery was stringy and gross tasting and even coated with peanut butter not good. Green peppers are undeniably the worst of all the peppers, where is the flavour, where?. Then there were beans. They seem useless, bland, squishy. Good for chili (which I didn't even like until later in life) and nothing else. However, when I began my journey of nutrition and food education I discovered the magic of beans.
Fun Fact: Since my first post for Whole Health Kitchen on April 22nd, 2015 there have been no recipes containing green peppers (and there probably never will be).
I was wrong. Beans are one of the worlds most perfect foods, which is likely the reason they are consumed by almost every culture in the world and have been for thousands of years (except the people on paleo). They are an inexpensive forms of plant based protein, approx. 15 grams per cup. They are also an amazing source of fiber which helps to lower cholesterol. This fiber content also prevents blood sugar levels from rising to rapidly after a meal (aka they are a low Glycemic Index food) making them a great choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. This fiber content also increases bulk in stool which aids in preventing constipation. The efficacy of our digestive systems are the window to our overall health so an increased intake of fiber is beneficial for the prevention of a wide variety of other disorders. Not just great sources of protein and fiber, beans also contain zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, iron and vitamins B1, B6, E, and K.
Once I learnt all of this I knew I had to give beans another try. It took a few years and A LOT of recipe testing and to my surprise I discovered there were some beans I actually loved. Large broad beans (like the ones used in the recipe below) including Lima beans and the lesser known Scarlett Runner beans are my favorites. I also discovered I love White Kidney beans (but am still not a fan of the Red ones, I think my mom cooked with them too much when I was a kid). Also dried, soaked and cooked yourself are so much better then canned - but canned is also an amazing quick option so they are always available. If you are not a bean lover give this recipe for Spanish Beans and Tomatoes a try. It is extremely simple but the flavors are amazing. Eat it warm on toast, over rice or like me, just with a spoon. I actually even love to eat this as a warming breakfast in the winter time. Another recipe to try out which really showcases beans is my Tomato Soup with Scarlett Runner Beans and Black Garlic (Scarlett runner beans can be purchased at whole foods or in Kensington market if you are located in Toronto).
Do you have any foods you don't like but know are good for you? Comment below and lets try and come up with a recipe you will actually enjoy!
Spanish Beans and Tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika, sweet
2 bay leaves
1 cup lima beans, cooked
1 can tomatoes, diced
about 1 tsp salt
add oil to a pan on medium heat add onions and cook until translucent (about 3 min). Add garlic, paprika, cumin and bay and cook for 1 minute. Add beans and tomatoes and season with salt. Bring to a rolling bubble and then reduce heat to low. Cook until beans soft and flavors develop - at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better.