National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated annually from September 15th to October 15th, pays tribute to the history, culture and traditions of Americans with Hispanic ancestry. Enjoying food and eating together are ways to unite people of all cultures and ancestries together.
A food commonly consumed across Hispanic cultures (and many other cultures) that I’d like to highlight nutritionally are beans. Beans are one of the most nutrient-rich, versatile, and economical foods eaten throughout the world.
Many meals in Hispanic culture contain beans as a side dish or as even as the main entrée. Some examples include rice and beans, black bean soup, and refried beans. Beans can also be a main ingredient in enchiladas, tamales, tostadas, nachos and quesadillas.
Beans are part of the legume family. A legume plant produces seeds in a pod. Dry beans are the mature seeds in those pods. These beans differ from green beans or wax beans where a person eats the entire pod. Other legumes include peas, peanuts and lentils.
Nutritional content and benefits of beans
Beans are a source of complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and phytonutrients. While nutritional profiles differ slightly from one type of bean to the next, generally 1 cup of cooked beans provides:
Protein: 15 grams
Fat: 1 gram
Carbs: 45 grams
Fiber: 15 grams
Iron: 20% of the Daily Value (DV)
Calcium: 8% of the DV
Magnesium: 21% of the DV
Phosphorous: 25% of the DV
Potassium: 21% of the DV
Folate: 74% of the DV
Beans also contain decent amounts of zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, and vitamins B1, B6, E, and K.
The fiber in beans can help create a feeling of fullness and satisfaction, helpful for those working to manage their weight. Beans also have a low glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods raise blood sugar slowly, which is important for managing diabetes. Beans also contain a wide range of cancer-fighting chemicals, specifically isoflavones and phytosterols that help reduce cancer risk.
12 Ways to Eat More Beans
Here are a dozen ways to eat beans that don’t require a new recipe or too much effort. Start by draining and rinsing canned beans to wash away about 40% of the sodium. Or, if you have time, soak and cook dried beans.
- Toss beans into a mixed green salad. Try a different type of legume each week. Store the leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator, so you can enjoy beans from the same can a few times.
- Liven up any sandwich with a smear of hummus. Use that same hummus as a veggie dip. Or try bean dip.
- Warm up to a bowl of steamy three-bean chili. Instead of meat, use kidney, pinto and black beans in your favorite recipe. Or combine beef and kidney beans for a meat and bean chili.
- Grab roasted chickpeas for a snack or sprinkle some on salads, in soup or even on top of your favorite hummus.
- Fancy up tuna salad with chickpeas and fresh herbs.
- Add favorite beans to a bowl of greens, whole grains, roasted vegetables and salmon or chicken.
- Mix black beans, kidney beans, corn and salsa together with freshly snipped cilantro. Toss with a red wine vinaigrette and enjoy it as a salad or roll it in a whole grain wrap.
- Fill a whole grain tortilla with red beans, salsa, sautéed onions and peppers and a sprinkling of cheese.
- Toss chickpeas with diced cucumber, tomatoes, olives, parsley and a Greek-style vinaigrette.
- Add black beans to a tomato basil sauce and serve over whole-wheat spaghetti.
- Top tortilla chips with kidney beans and cheddar cheese. Microwave briefly. Then add a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt, your favorite salsa and some fresh herbs.
- Thicken chili, stews or soups with smashed white beans.
Here are links to a few bean-heavy recipes on my Nourishing Plate website:
Mexican Barley Stuffed Peppers – https://www.nourishingplate.com/recipes/mexican-barley-stuffed-peppers?rq=beans
Chicken Avocado and Lime Soup – https://www.nourishingplate.com/recipes/chicken-avocado-and-lime-soup?rq=beans
Lemon Rosemary White Bean Dip – https://www.nourishingplate.com/recipes/lemon-rosemary-white-bean-dip?rq=beans
Tips for Better Bean Digestion
Unfortunately, many people have problems with increased gas or flatulence produced after eating beans. This is due to difficulty digesting the starch and fiber in beans. Here are a few tips to help you comfortably increase your intake of beans!
- Increase your bean intake gradually. Try adding them into your diet in ¼ cup increments and increasing very slowly.
- When cooking dried beans, soak the beans before cooking. For a “quick soak” combine 1 part beans to 3 parts water. Boil for five minutes then let sit for an hour before cooking. For a “long soak” combine 1 part beans to 3 parts water. Let the beans soak for 8 hours or overnight. When ready to cook the beans, discard the soaking water (which now contains some of the beans’ difficult to digest phytic acid) and use fresh water for cooking. As the beans are cooking, skim off and discard as much of the frothy foam as possible (the foam also contains difficulty to digest compounds).
- Rinse canned beans thoroughly before cooking.
- Try digestive aids, such as Beano, to help reduce the amount of gas beans produce.
Forge is delighted to partner with Laura Rutledge, MA, RDN, CSO, a Registered Dietician Nutritionist who focuses on oncology nutrition for during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment. For more information and recipes from Laura check out Nourishing Plate. You can find additional blogs from Laura on Forge’s blog!