Top 5 Beans
Beans are the cheapest and most accessible source of protein, but also provide many other health benefits, too. They are a staple in diets around the world, thanks to their simplicity, versatility and tendancy to absorb other flavours from sauces and spices, making them easy to incorporate into your daily meals. Whether it be a summery three-bean salad, a comforting chilli con carne, or a hearty slow-cooked casserole, beans are the perfect addition to any meal, all year round.
Some types of beans can be found dried, and these will require a little more preparation before you cook them. Soaking dried beans removes potentially harmful toxins, but also reduces the cooking time, too. Phytic acid, lectins and enzyme inhibitors are removed in the soaking process, making the beans more digestible and gut-friendly.
1. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans contain the widest range of vitamins and minerals, with a particularly generous amount of soluble fibre. The high levels of fibre in the beans make them a great food to include in the diet, especially for diabetics, as the fibre helps maintain blood sugar levels and stops it spiking after eating a meal. If you opt for dried kidney beans, make sure you soak them as per packet instructions and thoroughly cook them before serving, to rid the beans of the toxins found on the skin.
2. Black Beans
Black beans are a staple food in Central and South America, and are a great source of folate, fibre, and, of course, protein. Just one cup of black beans contains 64 per cent of the recommended daily amount of folate, making them ideal for any expectant mothers to include in their diets, as folate is very important during pregnancy. The high fibre content also helps to reduce LDL cholesterol, contributing to a reduced risk of heart disease.
3. Broad Beans
Broad beans – which are named after their wide shape – are also known as fava beans (the word fava relates to the Latin work ‘faba’, which means bean). Fresh broad beans are available in the summer, when they are in season, but can be bought tinned, dried or frozen all year round. Broad beans boast high levels of vitamin A, folate, magnesium, potassium and calcium, making them a great addition to the diet. They are also delicious as a snack, once dried and salted, offering an alternative to nuts, which often have a high fat content.
4. Cocoa Beans
Whilst cocoa beans might be our only sweet bean in this top five, they’re one of the most popular beans around the world. As well as making chocolate, they’re also used for a wide range of other cocoa-based products, such as cocoa butter, cocoa powder and cocoa liqueur. The cocoa, or cacao bean, as it’s otherwise known, can be eaten raw and is packed full of antioxidants. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to access fresh cocoa beans as they grow on the equator, but dried cacao beans are readily available to buy in the UK.
5. Green Beans
Otherwise known as French beans, green beans are low in calories but rich in vital nutrients. Manganese, potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium are all found in these delicious little beans, making them a must-have in your diet. The fresher the beans, the better, as the skin can get tough and, over time, ruin the beans. Green beans are delicious when served on their own, with a sprinkle of salt to enhance the flavour, or they can also be added to stir-fries, curries, and much more.