Cooking Tips for Beans and Legumes

Cooking Tips for Beans and Legumes

Legumes include peas, a wide variety of beans, and peanuts. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein, are low in fat, and are a good source of calcium, iron and B vitamins. They are also surprisingly low in calories: lentils and kidney beans have only about 100 calories per 1/2 cup serving and less than 1 gram of fat. And legumes contain none of the saturated fat or cholesterol found in animal foods. When sprouted, beans and legumes add valuable enzymes to the daily diet.

Because beans can be difficult to digest, there are some specific cooking and preparation techniques that should be followed to maximize nutritional value and digestibility. Beans contain certain carbohydrates that pass undigested into the lower intestine and are fermented by bacteria, thus producing gas. Before cooking, wash them thoroughly and soak them overnight to speed cooking time and make them more digestible. Discard the soaking water before cooking, since the water will contain the indigestible sugars. And if you are not used to eating lots of beans, make sure you start slowly, giving your body time to adjust.

To cook beans, after discarding the soaking water, rinse them thoroughly and add about 1 cup of beans to 4 cups of water in a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring the beans to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low, and cook until tender. The length of cooking time varies widely depending on the type of bean used - lentils, for example, are ready in about half an hour, while garbanzos and soybeans need to simmer as long as four hours. When beans are nearly done, add a teaspoon of unrefined sea salt and serve. Don't add salt to the cooking water - it makes the beans tough.

If you are in a big hurry, canned beans may be used - but make sure you buy the highest quality varieties from health food stores. Better yet, rather than resorting to canned beans, make more than you need whenever you cook beans, and refrigerate or freeze them for later use.

Cooking Times for Beans

Azuki (adzuki) - 60-90 minutes

Anasaki - 60 minutes

Black (turtle) - 90 minutes

Black-eyed peas - 45 minutes (soaking not required)

Fava - 3 hours

Garbanzo (chickpea) - 3-4 hours

Great Northern - 60 minutes

Kidney - 60-90 minutes

Lentils - 30-45 minutes (soaking not required)

Lima - 60-90 minutes

Mung - 45-60 minutes (soaking not required)

Navy - 1.5-2 hours

Peas (dried, split) - 45 minutes (soaking not required)

Pinto - 90 minutes

Red - 90 minutes

Soybean - 3-4 hours

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