Black beans were first domesticated thousands of years ago in Peru, and quickly became a staple of the South American diet. They first came to Europe when explorers came home with them in the 1500s.
They are very high in fiber, folate, protein, and antioxidants, along with numerous other vitamins and minerals. Black beans make a complete protein when paired with brown rice, which is often why they are so commonly included in a vegetarian diet.
Blood Sugar Regulation – With a low glycemic index, beans contain a beautiful blend of complex carbohydrates and protein. Because of this, beans are digested slowly, which helps keep blood glucose stable, and may curtail fatigue and irritability.
Cancer Prevention – Considering that black beans contain at least 8 different flavonoids with enormous antioxidant potential, and their high content of phytochemicals, it’s hardly surprising that studies have connected black bean consumption with reduced risk of certain cancers. Recent studies have suggested considerable effectiveness against colon adenoma, a non-cancerous tumor that can progress into colon cancer.
Cardiovascular Health – Black beans are abundant in soluble fiber, which is specifically the type of fiber that has been found very helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels. Lowered risks of coronary heart disease and heart attack have both been associated with increased consumption of soluble fiber, particularly from legumes.
Black beans also contain a wide variety of both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which combat cardiovascular disease. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection is particularly important for the cardiovascular system. When blood vessels are exposed to excessive oxidative stress or inflammation, risk for disease development is considerably higher. The prevention of oxidative stress and inflammation lowers risk of acquiring most cardiovascular diseases. They are also high in folate and magnesium, both nutrients highly associated with preservation of cardiovascular health, and the antioxidant minerals zinc and manganese.
Digestive Tract Benefits – The high quantity of both protein and fiber in black beans help to move food through the stomach to the large intestine at a healthier pace. This keeps any one part of the digestive tract from having to work too hard and supports the ideal balance of chemicals and populations of microorganisms required for a healthy digestive system.
Low In Fat – Most beans are about 2 to 3 percent fat, and contain no cholesterol, unless they’re processed or prepared with other ingredients, such as lard. (Check labels to see what else may be in the package or can.)
Nervous System Health – Folate, or vitamin B6, is particularly abundant in black beans. The nervous system relies on folate to produce the amino acids it needs to function. For pregnant women a deficiency in folate can cause the improper development of the fetus’s brain and spinal cord. The high iron content of black beans is also particularly beneficial to pregnant women.
Other benefits – They are convenient. Canned, frozen or dry, beans are a breeze to purchase, prepare, and store. Beans are also the least expensive source of protein.
Protein – The Dietary Guidelines for Americans say we should be eating more plant proteins. About 1/2 cup of beans provides 7 grams of protein, the same amount as in 1 ounce of chicken, meat or fish. Vegetarians, vegans and individuals who seldom eat meat, poultry, or fish could count on beans as an alternative choice.
Rich in Molybdenum -Black beans are an extremely rich source of the trace mineral molybdenum. Molybdenum serves the useful purpose of breaking down and detoxifying sulfites found in foods like salads and wines. Many people are sensitive to sulfites, and may they cause rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation when consumed. Studies also suggest that molybdenum deficiencies can result in impotence in older men.
Weight loss – Because beans are metabolized more slowly than other complex carbohydrates, they may aid in weight loss by keeping us feeling full without being excessively high in calories.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE
Both dried and canned black beans are available throughout the year. Dried beans are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as in bulk bins. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the black beans are covered and that the store has a good product turnover to ensure the beans’ maximal freshness. Whether purchasing black beans in bulk or in packaged containers, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage and that they are whole and not cracked.
Canned black beans can be found in most markets. Unlike canned vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritional value, there is little difference in the nutritional value of canned black beans and those you cook yourself. Canning lowers vegetables’ nutritional value since they are best lightly cooked for a short period of time, while their canning process requires a long cooking time at high temperatures. On the other hand, beans require a long time to cook whether they are canned or you cook them yourself. Therefore, if enjoying canned beans is more convenient for you, by all means go ahead and enjoy them. We would suggest looking for those that do not contain extra salt or additives. (One concern about canned foods is the potential for cans to be lined with a resin-based material that includes bisphenol-A (BPA).
Store dried black beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep up to 12 months. If you purchase black beans at different times, store them separately since they may feature varying stages of dryness and therefore will require different cooking times. Cooked black beans will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days if placed in a covered container.
TIPS FOR PREPARING AND COOKING
Check out this link for complete details on how to prepare and cook beans. And remember regardless of cooking method, do not add any seasonings that are salty or acidic until after the beans have been cooked since adding them earlier will make the beans tough and greatly increase the cooking time.
If you are running short on time, you can always use canned beans in your recipes. If the black beans have been packaged with salt or other additives, simply rinse them after opening the can to remove these unnecessary additions. Canned beans need to only be heated briefly for hot recipes while they can be used as is for salads or prepared cold dishes like black bean salad.
HOW TO ENJOY
- Black bean soup or chili is certain to warm you up on cold winter days or anytime of the year you want to enjoy its nurturing essence.
- Blend cooked black beans with tomatoes, onions and your favorite spices to create a delicious meal.
- For a simple yet delicious lunch or dinner entrée, serve a Latin American meal of black beans and rice.
- Include black beans with your other favorite toppings next time you make a stuffed baked potato.
- Make a layered dip in a serving bowl, by adding a layer of black beans, guacamole, chopped tomatoes, diced onions and cilantro.
- Next time you make burritos, use black beans in place of refried pinto beans.
Black beans contain purines. Purines are naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and humans. In some individuals who are susceptible to purine-related problems, excessive intake of these substances can cause health problems. Since purines can be broken down to form uric acid, excess accumulation of purines in the body can lead to excess accumulation of uric acid. The health condition called “gout” and the formation of kidney stones from uric acid are two examples of uric acid-related problems that can be related to excessive intake of purine-containing foods. Yet, recent research has suggested that purines from meat and fish increase risk of gout, while purines from plant foods fail to do that.