Beans are a very important and incredibly healthy source of protein. Protein is important for everyone and especially for vegetarians. All beans are loaded with fiber, which aids in reducing cholesterol, they’re extremely versatile, and they’re also economical to use.
Historically one of the oldest and most widespread pantry staple, beans are now often overlooked as a healthy and colorful addition to many dishes. So many people I talk to are certain that beans cause digestive disorders, which is unfortunate, often untrue, and easily avoidable. One of the main reasons many high fiber foods like beans may be a digestive challenge is that they are often served undercooked. Though they may look nicer on your plate, they are difficult to digest if they are not thoroughly cooked. One of the most striking things I first noticed about how vegetables are served in Italy is that they all look overcooked. But improperly cooked vegetables – such as broccoli – and undercooked beans compromise digestibility.
When beans are cooked to perfection, they will be creamy inside and out, with absolutely no bite to the skins. In other words, don’t go for al dente when it comes to beans. When cooking beans, I use the quick soak method. You simply bring your beans plus four times their measure of water to a boil for one minute, then turn off the heat, and let them stand for at least an hour. After that, you should cook them thoroughly. Note that not all beans take as long to cook as others. My favorite, creamy cannellini beans, cook much more quickly than, say, pinto beans.
Add salt, vinegar, or win to beans after they’re finished cooking. Adding these beforehand prolongs cooking time and can create a tougher bean “skin.”
Canned beans are quick and can be wonderfully convenient. I try always to use organic, but regardless, unless a recipe specifies otherwise, I drain and rinse canned beans thoroughly before using them.
So for a positive dietary change, try eating more legumes by adding beans to pasta dishes, soups, and salads for that extra protein and fiber punch.