Packed with plant power
Beans are truly versatile in cooking, and, with over 700 different varieties, they are one of the top staple foods worldwide. Green beans and kidney beans are particularly popular in this country. Beans are served mainly in stews or as an accompaniment to meat or fish. They have the twin advantages of being sold absolutely everywhere and making great storecupboard essentials.
Beans: a superfood
Yes, you heard that right. Beans cover a lot of bases when it comes to healthy eating. They’re packed with fibre, which aids digestion and promotes gut health. What’s more, they contain plenty of vitamins, including B1, B2 and B6. Vital metabolism-boosting substances such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron are all present, too. Beans also contain carbohydrates, but these are absorbed very gradually by the small intestine, keeping blood sugar levels constant while lowering cholesterol at the same time. This makes beans a perfect source of nutrition for diabetics.
- ... They’re packed with healthy fibre, minerals and vitamins
- ... They're bursting with plant protein
- ... You can buy large quantities of them very cheaply
- ... They're available dried or tinned all year round
- ... They can be cooked in all sorts of ways
Know your beans
There are a few things to bear in mind with beans, as you’ll want to make absolutely sure that they’re digestible. The crucial point is never to eat beans raw. This is due to a protein compound from the group of lectins, known as phasin. It can stick red blood cells together and prevent blood from transporting oxygen around the body. When heated to high temperatures, such as boiling, the structure of the phasin changes, making the beans perfectly safe to eat. One super tip for making beans more digestible is to soak them first. To do this, simply steep dried beans in cold water and leave them to soak overnight. Most of the substances that cause bloating are washed out of the beans in this process. As a result, you should discard the water in which the beans were soaked; don’t use it for anything else. Ideally, you should then rinse the beans thoroughly with plenty of water. If you're using beans from a tin, rinse them in a sieve under running water until you can no longer see any foam. Herbs and spices are also worth considering. Caraway seeds, coriander, fennel and aniseed all make bean dishes more digestible, besides giving them a flavoursome, oriental taste.
Bounteous beans: a mini dictionary
- French beans: Also known as green beans, these may well be the most popular variety in our society. They can be cooked in just 10 minutes and are usually served alongside meat or fish. They're particularly tasty when young and tender. What’s more, French beans are easy to grow in your own garden. They come into season in summer.
- Kidney beans: This bean owes its name to its shape, which resembles a human kidney. Most of us cook these beans in one-pot stewed dishes like chilli con carne and the like. However, they’re also superb in patties, salads or spreads. In other words, they're incredibly versatile. Kidney beans are essentially bean kernels; unlike green beans, for instance, they're not eaten together with their pods. These reddish-purple legumes originally came from Peru.
- White beans: There are various kinds of white beans, including the ever-popular haricot and cannellini varieties. White beans have been around for so long that we're no longer entirely sure exactly where they first originated. They're such a fixture that sometimes they fly a bit under the radar. In terms of protein, they're head and shoulders above almost any other type of vegetable, with 100 g beans containing up to 30 g protein.
- Black beans: This delicious legume is one of the longest-established foods in the world; the Native Americans were eating them some 7,000 years ago. It is probably native to Mexico. Their matt, deep black hue creates a glorious colour contrast on the plate. Black beans are smaller than most other varieties and have a sweet taste, offset by a subtle acerbity.
- Edamame/soya beans: Many of you will be familiar with these tender green soya beans from Asian restaurants. Edamame are often served as an appetiser or appear in soups or bow-based dishes. In Japan, edamame are traditionally eaten as a snack to go with beer in izakaya (bars). Over here, we can now buy this healthy and versatile bean in supermarkets, often from the freezer section.
As you can see, beans have plenty going for them and deserve to be a regular feature of any diet. Bean-based dishes are quick and easy to make with your Monsieur Cuisine. We’ve put together a selection of healthy bean recipes for you.