5 Reasons Beans Are a Perfect Gluten-Free Staple
Published February 1, 2021
If you’re looking for a versatile, naturally gluten-free, protein-rich and heart-healthy food to have on hand in your pantry, beans are a great option.
What are beans, anyway? Beans are classified as legumes – plants that bear fruit in pods. All beans are legumes, but all legumes aren’t beans. Two popular legumes that aren’t actually beans are peas and lentils, although lentils are often included when talking about beans.
The most common beans in the U.S. are pinto, navy, Great Northern, red kidney, and black beans (U.S. Dry Bean Council). Other beans that are usually readily available at a standard grocery store are chickpeas (garbanzo), lima, cannellini, and fava, just to name a few.
Here are five reasons why you should consider stocking up on beans.
Beans are delicious, and it’s easy to modify their flavors by adding different herbs and spices. Beans are used in a wide variety of different dishes including many different international cuisines. A few simple, tasty dishes include minestrone soup with beans; chili with beans and ground beef served over gluten-free pasta; and Mexican rice and pinto beans. Cooking your own beans generally results in better flavor and texture.
Beans are full of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, plus they are virtually fat-free. One half-cup serving of beans provides about one-quarter to one-third of the recommended daily amount of fiber intake and six to seven grams of protein. In fact, these nutrition superstars can count as either a vegetable or a protein sources in terms of food groups and nutrition. According to the American Heart Association, including beans in your diet may lower your risk of heart disease and can help keep you feeling full longer, too.
Looking for convenience and cost-saving benefits when cooking with dried beans? Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: In the morning, put your dried beans of choice in a big pot and cover with plenty of water. Let them soak all day.
Step 2: In the afternoon, before you start cooking dinner, drain and rinse.
Step 3: Return the beans to the pot and add enough water to cover them by a couple of inches, and cook on medium-high heat for an hour or two or until tender.
Another convenience? Beans freeze well. Cook a big batch over the weekend, or whenever you have time, and freeze the beans in smaller portions. Frozen cooked beans are always at-the-ready to be used in a soup, chili, or salad, whenever you need them.
Canned beans are a great option when you’re in a time crunch. Salt is typically added to canned beans during the canning process. Rinse canned beans with water before using them to reduce the sodium content.
Beans come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Common colors for beans are white or off-white (Great Northern, cannellini, garbanzo), red (adzuki, kidney) and black as well as mottled or spotted like pinto beans, or in the case of black-eyed peas (which are actually legumes, not peas), spotted with a single purplish spot that looks like an “eye.” Beans add visual interest and texture to a dish with their various sizes and shapes. Beans are typically mild in flavor, with some varieties described as “earthy” or “nutty.” White beans are considered the most versatile because of their mild flavor, smooth texture, and by how easily they absorb the flavors of spices and herbs.
Beans are very economical, especially as a protein source. According to the Northarvest Bean Growers Association, dry beans cost about half the price per serving of store-brand canned beans and about one-third the price of canned national bean brands. Whichever form you choose, making beans a regular protein source in your diet can lower your grocery costs, particularly when compared to meat or fish.
Whether dry or canned, beans can be stored easily, last a long time on the shelf, and can be included in almost any recipe. Venture forth and try some beans today!
IMPORTANT: GIG does not endorse any particular diet. We provide educational information to people living gluten-free. With any change in diet, consult your healthcare provider. The information on the GIG website is for educational purposes only.