Beans are thought to have originated in Central America. Individual countries tend to favor particular varieties including black, borlotti, cannellini, kidney, navy and pinto beans. The adzuki bean is native to tropical Asia while the Lima bean originated in South America. The high nutrient content of these beans has elevated the to the status of staple foods in the diets of many people around the world. Nutrition research focuses on chronic disease and diet and suggests beans play a role in protecting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The protein content of beans that’s meant the difference between life and death for millions of people throughout history. When other protein sources were scarce, like animal products, beans have been there to substitute for them.

The protein in beans is of lower quality based on its ability to support growth than found in foods like meat and dairy products because it lacks the full complement of essential amino acids. In a mixed diet, other foods can make up for the deficiency.

Beans can be stored for long periods of time without it affecting quality or nutrient content. The typical preparation involves soaking the beans overnight or for at least 5 hours. Cooking time varies depending on the soaking but generally requires one or more hours. Beans can also be purchased in canned form. Canned beans retain their nutrients, but manufacturers tent to add sodium or salt which can be a problem for those on a restricted sodium diet.

Common beans are an excellent source of folate, fiber, protein, thiamine, magnesium, manganese, iron, potassium, copper and zinc. They are also a good source of riboflavin, calcium, and omega 3 fatty acids. The fiber that is in beans is partly soluble fiber which helps control blood glucose.

Adzuki beans have a nutty, sweet flavor. In Eastern cuisines they are boiled with sugar to make red bean paste which is used in cakes and sweets. Black beans are particularly popular in Latin American cuisine. They are popular in stews, soups, and sauces especially in Central and South America and the United States. Borlotti bean is a variety of the cranberry bean which originated in Colombia. The borlotti was cultivated in Italy where it is very popular and an ingredient in several traditional dishes. The cannellini bean is popular in Italy especially used in soups and pasta dishes. The kidney bean is used in the United States in chili with corn dish and also red beans and rice. Kidney beans are also an important part of cuisine in northern India. The lima bean is also known as the butter bean. A favorite way to serve lima beans is boiled and dabbed with butter. Lupin beans remain popular in the Mediterranean, especially in Italy. Pale yellow in color and large and flat, lupins are often pickled in salty brine and eaten as a condiment like pickles and olives. Pinto beans is the usual choice for the dish known as refried beans.

In one cup of black beans there are 227 calories, 15.2 grams of protein, 40.8 grams of carbohydrates and 15 grams of fiber!


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