The Almighty Bean. Part 2

The great thing about beans is that they are not full of fat or calories! Beans are an incomplete protein, which simply means that you must combine the beans with another incomplete protein in order to make one complete protein. You do not have to do this at the same time, or at the same meal, as your body stores the protein. You could have a serving of beans over toast, in a salad, and then later in the day, add a second incomplete protein, such as rice, peas or potatoes, and you’ve got your daily protein.

Beans are part of the legume group, the same as pasta and grains. So be careful that you are not taking in too much protein by mixing beans with pasta, and rice two to three times a day. That is too much protein for one person in one day. Instead, experiment with beans mixed in with fresh veggies and chilies. Add some fresh basil, cilantro and onion and you have a hearty meal!

Beans also contain sufficient amounts of iron, which is helpful to many women who tend to be low in iron during their menstrual cycles. Eat enough beans, and you won’t have to take any iron supplements. Beans also are a great source of potassium, which is great for your heart! So, in the dead of winter, when bananas are scarce, look to beans as your source of potassium.

The best way to ensure a balanced diet of fiber, iron and all of the essentials is to eat a variety of foods. This includes fresh vegetables, not cooked vegetables. Once a vegetable is cooked (especially when boiled) it loses much of its nutrients. On the other hand, lightly blanching some veggies, such as carrots can bring out some of the minerals that would not be gotten by eating the carrot raw. Raw carrots are nutritional, but a quick blanching makes them even more nutritious.

Eating raw veggies, such as peppers, can take some getting used to, but it is the best source of nutrients for your body. Your body expects foods to be given in the raw form, and it is prepared to break down the foods. So don’t worry about your stomach not being able to break down raw foods. Think in terms of the needed roughage; it’s what your body both needs and wants!

Try the following recipe and let us know what you think!

Mexican Style Black Bean Salad

1 16 oz. can of black beans (or 1/2 pound dried, and prepared or 1 16 oz. bag of frozen beans)
1 large green pepper cubed
1 large red pepper cubed
1 Bermuda onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, smashed with the blunt end of a knife, and cut into small pieces
2-3 large tomatoes, cubed
Optional: 2-3 of any chili pepper. Mild: yellow peppers, Hot: Jalapeno, VERY hot: Habanero
Optional: 1/3 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you can mix this in with the rice as it is boiling, if you choose not to steam the rice)
1 handful of scallions, sliced
1 handful of cilantro, sliced (or you can buy the powdered form in the spice section if it is out of season)

Steamed rice or old-fashioned boiled rice will do. (approx. enough for four servings). You may add the garlic to the rice as it is steaming, but it is healthier to put the keep the raw garlic separate and mix it with the other veggies.

Place all ingredients except for the black beans and rice into a large bowl. You may also add the fresh garlic to bowl if you have chosen not to cook it with the rice. Cover and refrigerate the mixture for an hour or so. When it is serving time, you may mix the black beans into the large bowl and serve over the rice. This is an excellent meal, and you get all of your daily-recommended protein and iron.

You may also substitute, mix and match different vegetables and fruits. Squash, broccoli, carrots and avocado work well, and you may want to experiment with a Santa Fe Mexican style by adding fresh mango! In either case, this recipe is a real treat, and takes less than 20 minutes to prepare.

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