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Use beans for a plant-based diet

Practical Plates

By LAURIE WELCH

Special to the Sun-Gazette

Currently plant-based eating is one of the hottest nutrition trends. When people think of plant-based eating, they 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.

Some folks shy away from eating dry beans for two main reasons — preparation and gas production. When it comes to preparation, dry beans do have to be rehydrated before cooking.

Cooking beans in a multi-cooker/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, about 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 to 3 minutes and allow to soak for up to 4 hours. If soaking 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 to 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 a multi-cooker/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 to 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil and/or up to 1 tablespoon 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.

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 undercooked beans are consumed. It is however destroyed by thorough cooking of the bean at 212 F 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.

Breakfast bean burrito

1 10-inch flour tortilla, plain or whole wheat

3/4 cup canned, drained, and rinsed reduced sodium black or pinto beans

1 scrambled egg

1/4 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

1 tablespoons of your favorite salsa

Lay the tortilla on a dinner plate. Place the beans in the center, top with the scrambled egg, cheese and salsa. Fold in the ends, and then roll up to form a burrito. Microwave for 45 to 60 seconds.

Add additional salsa and/or plain, low-fat Greek yogurt for extra flavor and protein!

— Recipe from the beaninstitute.com. Practical Plates is a monthly column by Welch, Food, Families and Health educator for Lycoming and Clinton counties Penn State Extension. Watch for Welch’s recipes and advice in the The Taste. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov for tips and information about nutrition and adding fruits and veggies daily.

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