Besides the fact that they taste good, beans are promoted for two main reasons: cost and health.
Beans are one of the cheapest sources of protein. “Eat more beans” makes it onto many lists of money-saving tactics. If the point is to save, it makes sense to save as much as possible, right? Canned beans easily cost double the amount of dried.
There’s another reason I find more compelling: health. Beans are a wonderful source of protein and fiber and all that. But as we all know, beans can be difficult to digest.
They are difficult to digest because they contain a significant amount of phytic acid. Phytic acid is a good thing for the plant. It protects the kernel and prevents it from loosing nutrients like zinc, calcium and iron until planting time. However, our bodies need those nutrients, and in order to use them we have to break down the phytic acid.
Cooking breaks phytic acid down a little, but to get the most nutrition (and have it be as easy on the digestive tract as possible) you need to soak your beans.
photo by marina nisi
Save yourself some time and cook up a big pot and freeze in smaller amounts. We love homemade bean dip and chili and Mexican foods, so try to always have soaked, cooked beans in the freezer to pull out.
How to soak your beans:
What you’ll need:
- A big pot
- Lemon juice or vinegar (one of many uses for vinegar!)
- Time for them to soak
- The night before you need them, rinse your beans really well. Even “triple washed” beans occasionally have a clump of dirt.
- Add beans to pot or crock pot and cover with lots of water. Add a couple tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice.
- Let soak 12-24 hours.
- Drain, rinse and add more water.
- Bring to a boil and simmer until almost tender (anywhere from 1-8 hours, depending on the bean type and whether you’re using a crockpot)
- When nearly tender, add salt. (Why wait? Adding salt at the beginning makes the skins tough. Waiting ’til they’re completely cooked doesn’t let the flavor penetrate.) and finish cooking.
I usually use some for dinner and freeze the rest in glass jars or Tupperware. It doesn’t take much effort, but soaking and cooking beans saves time and adds nutrition (or at least makes what is already there more usable!)
Linked up at Frugal Friday