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Health Benefits of Dried Beans, Nuts, and Seeds


You need to consume a variety of plant foods to obtain all the amino acids necessary for your body to form complete proteins. In this article, we will discuss ways to maximize your intake of legumes (dried beans and peas) as part of a healthier lifestyle and to make your body stronger. Eating healthy can be part of an alternative treatment against illnesses.

Legumes are a staple food all over the world and are one of the best sources of soluble fiber. Plus, they're low in fat and high in good quality protein -- a great health-saving combination. Beans can be gassy, of course, but there are ways around that. So don't let their "explosive" nature scare you away from some of the best nutrition around.

The soluble fiber in beans helps lower levels of damaging LDL cholesterol in the blood, thus lowering heart-disease risk. And by slowing down carbohydrate absorption, soluble bean fiber fends off unwanted peaks and valleys in blood glucose levels -- especially valuable to people with diabetes.

Beans also provide substantial insoluble fiber, which can keep constipation and other digestive woes away.

Legumes are also rich in folic acid, copper, iron, and magnesium -- four nutrients many of us could use more of in our diets. In addition, dried beans and peas are generally good sources of iron, which is especially helpful for people who don't eat meat.

Selection and Storage

Dried beans are available year-round, are inexpensive, and can be found in any well-stocked grocery. You may need to visit a health-food store for more exotic varieties, such as Oriental azuki (or adzuki) beans, flageolets, cranberry beans, or yellow split peas.

If stored properly, dried beans and peas will last for a year or more. Keep them in their unopened bag. After opening, store the beans in a dry, tightly closed glass jar in a cool, dark spot.

Note, too, that many varieties of beans are available already cooked and canned.

Preparation and Storage Tips

When cooking with dried varieties of legumes, it's best to plan ahead. Before soaking or cooking, sort through the beans, discarding bad beans, pebbles, and debris. Then rinse the beans in cold water. It's best to soak your beans overnight, for six to eight hours; they'll cook faster and you'll get rid of gas-producing carbohydrates. But if you haven't planned far enough ahead, you can quick-soak for one hour. Quick-soak by putting the beans in water and boiling for one minute; then turn off the heat and let the beans stand in the same water for one hour. You may end up with a less-firm bean, however.

After soaking, discard any beans that float to the top, then throw out the soaking water and add fresh water to cook in. Add enough water to cover the beans plus two inches. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until tender -- about one to three hours, depending on the bean variety. They're done when you can easily stick them with a fork. Remember, cooked beans double or triple in volume.

Beans are notoriously bland-tasting, but that's what makes them versatile. They can take on the spices of any flavorful dish. Add them to soups, stews, salads, casseroles, and dips.

Nuts are also a good source of protein. In the next section we will review how to select the right nut for maximum nutrition and for the best disease-fighting potential.