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Dietitians Dish: Dry beans more than just a side dish

By By Linda Crisp
April 10, 2012 at midnight
Updated April 9, 2012 at 11:10 p.m.

Linda Crisp

The Dry Bean Quarterly, a printed publication of the Bean Institute, arrived in my mail this week and reminded me of the many amazing benefits of beans.

Here in Texas, we enjoy pinto beans, especially as a side dish for Mexican foods, such as enchiladas or tacos, but lots of times dry beans fail to get the nutritional respect they truly deserve.• Beans are rich in protein and when used as a main dish to replace meat protein, will reduce the total amount of saturated fat in the diet from meat.

•  The high fiber content of beans adds to the total daily fiber intake and may be beneficial in decreasing absorption of dietary cholesterol, and contribute to reduction in postprandial, after meal, blood sugar in diabetes.

• Phenolic compounds, the antioxidants found in beans are responsible for the color of the beans, and are thought to contribute to a reduction of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancers and diabetes.

If you are reluctant to enjoy the health benefits of dry beans because of concerns about flatulence, your fears may be unfounded, according to research by Andrea Hutchins, PhD, RD, associate professor of Nutrition at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Her study showed less than one half of the people eating one half cup of dry beans daily for 8 to 12 weeks experienced increased flatulence in the first week. By the second or third week, 70 percent of the participants reported that any increased flatulence had dissipated.

Remember these tips as you think about the health benefits of beans and begin to make them a more frequent part of your weekly meals.•  Eat smaller portions of beans as you increase your intake and soak and rinse dry beans before cooking, or rinse canned beans, to help reduce the likelihood that flatulence will bother you.

•  Season dry beans with ingredients other than salt and bacon to reduce salt and saturated fat intake. Onions, garlic, cilantro and peppers are just a few of the seasonings that compliment beans. If unsalted canned beans are not available, rinse the canned beans in a colander.

• Add black beans, red beans, or garbanzo beans to salads and serve as a side dish, or as a filling for a wrap.

Visit the website beaninstitute.com for great dry bean facts and recipes, and learn more about why beans are a "Smart Choice for a Healthy Life."Linda Crisp is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian who is a board certified specialist in oncology nutrition. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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