Black beans are a common food staple that are widely used in many classic South American dishes. These versatile beans have also found favor in American cooking. The United States is now one of the top growers of this bean that has a subtle flavor and enhances dishes like soups, stews, casseroles and our much loved burritos.
Black beans are a great source of protein, fiber, phytonutrients and minerals for vegetarians and omnivores alike. Let's take a closer look at what each of these bean's components has to offer us...
Black beans are an extraordinary source of dietary fiber, packing 15 grams per serving. Diets that are high in dietary fiber are associated with a decreased incidence of hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. Fiber helps maintain the integrity of the digestive system by preventing inflammation and keeping it clear of any toxic buildup.
Fiber helps to give one the feeling of satiety after eating, as it combines with water and expands in the digestive tract. It also helps to regulate blood sugar to help you maintain a healthy weight.
The soluble fiber in black beans helps to balance cholesterol, decrease inflammation and keep the arteries clear of plaque build-up. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and other cardiac malfunctions.
Phytonutrients are a class of nutrients found in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables. Black beans are a rich source of these nutrients. The black coloring on the outer hull of the bean is full of flavonoids, natural antioxidants that protect your body from inflammation, viruses and some types of tumors. Antioxidants also help to rid your body of the byproducts of metabolism known as free radicals. Left to course through your bloodstream, free radicals can damage the walls of your cells and promote disease.
Protein is the building block for nearly every part of your body but some individuals have reduced or eliminated rich sources of protein like red meat and dairy products. Fortunately black beans pack 15 grams of protein per single cup serving! Adding in a whole grain rice to the beans gives your body all of the amino acids it needs, making it a "complete protein" meal.
Black beans are rich in minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium and manganese which all help maintain the structure of our bones and prevent loss. These beans are especially rich in both iron and magnesium. Iron helps to provide oxygen to all of our cells, giving us energy and an immune boost. Magnesium supports our nervous system, regulates blood pressure and fluid balance, and also helps to decrease anxiety.
Don't worry, we're not too shy here to talk about that dreaded bean gas! If you're one who gets hit hard by this side effect of black beans, keep in mind that soaking the beans in water overnight can significantly reduce the concentration of gas-producing substances. These chemical compounds, called phytates and tannins, can also tend to block our bodies' absorption of minerals. Therefore, soaking has a double benefit, since it also helps us to retain more nutrition.
In addition, if you aren't used to eating beans, consuming smaller amounts of them initially and increasing over time can also allow your digestive system to become acclimated.
Cooking With Black Beans
Black beans are a very affordable food and can be purchased dried, to be soaked overnight if you have the time, or canned, for when you are in a pinch. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse the beans if you use the canned version.
Black beans can be refried, and eaten as is, or with the works— rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream and cilantro (definitely my choice!). They can be used in a number of cold salads, or even warm autumn dishes. This Wild Rice Stuffed Pumpkin with Black Beans, Cashew and Corn is absolutely delicious. These versatile beans can also be used to make veggie burgers, and even brownies!
How do you include black beans in your diet?