The health benefits of beans are numerous: they are an excellent source of protein and fiber, are high in folic acid, and are a low-glycemic-index food. Buts some beans - both the varieties and the way they are cooked - are actually healthier than others. When choosing beans, consider the following:
- The most nutritious varieties of beans are black, red, kidney and pinto beans. Black beans have the most antioxidant activity of any bean choice.
- To get the most soluble fiber from your beans, choose navy beans: one cup of cooked navy beans provides 19 grams of fiber!
- When using dried beans, don't simmer them in water until done and discard the liquid - up to 70 percent of the antioxidants that beans provide end up in the simmering liquid. Instead, simmer the beans until they are done and then let them soak the nutrients back in by leaving them in the liquid for an hour.
- Consider pressure cooking - dried beans that were soaked and then cooked in a pressure cooker were shown to retain the most antioxidant value.
- The easiest (and healthiest) route? Buy canned beans. Canned kidney and pinto beans are two of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can eat, as the heat of the canning process enhances the availability of nutrients in the beans. Choose low- or no-sodium versions of canned beans when possible.
I recommend one to two servings of beans and legumes per day - easy to do if you swap out meat for beans in salads and sandwiches, and make hummus or bean dip part of an afternoon snack.
Learn more about healthy eating from Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging.