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Plant-based eating – try dry beans

Currently, plant-based eating is one of the hottest nutrition trends. When people think of plant-based eating, they mainly think of eating more fruits and vegetables, but what they might not realize is that dry beans, peas and lentils will help to add variety and nutrition to the menu.

Legumes, as dry beans, peas and lentils are collectively called, are excellent sources of protein, soluble and insoluble fiber, iron, zinc and folate. They are naturally low in fat and sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming 1 1/2 cups per week of legumes. Both the Mediterranean and DASH eating patterns include legumes as part of their healthy eating plan.

Unfortunately, if you are like me, you shy away from eating dry beans for two main reasons — preparation and gas production. If these are keeping you from including dry beans in your meal planning here are some tips that will help reduce preparation time and flatulence.

When it comes to preparation, dry beans do have to be rehydrated before cooking. While there is no short cut for this procedure there are different methods that can help lessen the time involved. As far as cooking, with the popular multicookers/pressure cookers cooking times after rehydration can be halved.

Multicooker/pressure cooker

Start by reviewing instructions for your appliance as brands vary in their functions. As with any food preparation start with clean equipment and work surfaces and properly washed hands.

Sort 1 pound (2 cups) of dry beans to remove any split beans or small stones. Rinse.

Use one of the following soaking methods. If you have hard water, consider using filtered water to more easily soften the beans. If desired add salt to the soaking water to form a brine solution.

Hot soak: For every 2 cups of dry beans, add 10 cups of hot water in a stockpot. Boil for 2-3 minutes and allow to soak for up to 4 hours (to soak longer than 4 hours place the stockpot in the refrigerator).

Quick soak: For every 2 cups of dry beans, add 6 cups of water to the stockpot. Boil for 2-3 minutes and allow to soak for at least 1 hour.

Traditional soak: For every 2 cups of dry beans, add 10 cups of water and let soak overnight or for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.

Drain water and rinse beans thoroughly. One pound of dry beans makes about 6 cups of cooked beans (a 15-ounce can is about 1 3/4 cup of beans, drained).

Place beans in multicooker/pressure cooker and cover with about 4 cups of fresh water. Water should be about 2 inches above the beans, but never fill to more than the half full line (includes, beans, ingredients and water). As an option you may add 1-4 Tbsp. of vegetable oil and/or up to 1 Tbsp. of salt to 1 pound of beans during soaking or cooking. Tests have shown that the addition of oil and salt help beans retain their shape and keep exterior skin intact, and froth and foam are lessened during pressure cooking.

Seal pressure cooker according to directions and follow instructions to begin the cooking process. Cooking times will vary from 15 to 30 minutes depending on the type of bean so follow manual directions.

Allow 20 minutes for natural pressure release after cooking. Beans will continue to cook during this time which is important for a completely cooked product. If beans are not quite tender, cook again on high pressure for 10 minutes and then quick release the pressure. Drain immediately.

At this point you can prepare your recipe with the cooked beans. If you have extra beans they can be frozen for later use.

One important thing to note is that you should never cook dry beans in a slow cooker. Once they have been completely cooked on the stove or in a pressure cooker, they can be added to food you are slow cooking. This is especially true for red kidney beans.

Beans contain a compound called “phytohaemagglutinin” (PHA) or kidney bean lectin. This particular type of lectin is toxic if raw or under cooked beans are consumed. It is however destroyed by thorough cooking of the bean at 212 degrees for a minimum of 10 minutes, but 30 minutes is recommended for safety. Slow cookers may not reach a high enough temperature and maintain it long enough to destroy the toxin. Other beans (cannellini, broad, fava) also contain PHA but not in as high a concentration as kidney beans. Whatever type of bean you use it is important to cook the beans after soaking using traditional methods.

Gas reducing tips

Only partial digestion of the carbohydrates in the bean occurs in the small intestine. As these move to the large intestine bacteria will begin to further break down the carbohydrate which creates gas. The non-digestible carbohydrates in beans or oligosaccharides are responsible for the flatulence many people experience.

Start slowly when introducing beans into your diet. Maybe even as slow as a couple of tablespoons per day.

Drink more water each day as you eat more beans.

Use the hot soak method. The longer beans soak, the more the gas producing compounds are reduced.

Change the water several times when soaking the dry beans and discard the water. The gas forming carbohydrates are released into the water.

Consider using a gas-reducing enzyme tablet available over the counter at the local pharmacy.

If you are ready to try more dry beans The Bean Institute has recipes and menu ideas to help you increase “plants” in your diet. I would recommend the White Bean Turkey Chili, that was my first attempt and it was delicious!

Resources:

Alloway, F. & Routch, N. (2019). Creating Health: Legumes. Penn State Extension.

Blakeslee, K. (October 2017). Cooking Dry Beans Safely. Kansas State University Rapid Response Center.

Garden-Robinson, J. (Sept. 2019). Field to Fork Pressure Cook Dry Beans to Save Money and Time. North Dakota State University Extension.

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Submitted by Sharon McDonald, senior extension educator/food safety specialist

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