Beans are one the oldest food plant foods know to man, and have been in held in high esteem in history. They were eaten often by the ancient Greeks, who would hold a “bean feast” to honor the King of Gods, Apollo. And both the Greeks and Romans used beans for voting – black beans to signify opposition and white beans for approval.
Beyond voting and worship, beans more modern reference is as “poor man’s meat”. Inexpensive and a high source of protein, it is easy to understand how this reputation developed. There are many different types of beans, this issues explores the many benefits and uses of white beans. There are several varieties of white beans, including Great Northern, White Pea, White Kidney (Canellini), and Navy Beans. These varieties offer similar nutrition profiles and are interchangeable in cooking recipes.
In addition to being a great source of protein, white beans are one of the highest fiber, lowest fat foods available. Studies show that a high-fiber, low-fat diet can reduce chances of cancer, heart disease and stroke. As a food rich in complex carbohydrates, beans are an excellent source of energy. Their profile also includes impressive amounts of B-vitamins, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorous, Potassium and Zinc.
Interestingly, beans act as an appetite suppressant. Because they digest slowly and cause a low, sustained increase in blood sugar, researchers have found that beans can delay the reappearance of hunger for several hours, enhancing weight-loss programs.
With all of these tremendous health benefits, beans are a welcome addition to a balanced diet.
Age to introduce: 8-10 months (cooked and pureed).
Toddler Treat: Bean Burritos
White beans have a great mild flavor that most children find appealing. This recipe is from Emilya, mom of Ian and the designer of our cookbook. Enjoy the recipe, and be sure to check out this week’s tray tip from Emilya for making these burritos in quantity. Using this tip, means a great burrito for Ian, is only minutes away.
Ingredients for each burrito:
- 4 Tbsp. canned, white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp, cheddar or jack cheese
- 1/2 tsp. chopped cilantro
- 1 Tbsp mashed avocado
- 1 small flour tortilla
Place beans and lemon juice in a bowl and mash with a fork. Mix in cheese and cilantro. Heat the mixture in microwave for 30 seconds, until cheese is melted. Spoon the bean mixture and mashed avocado on the flour tortilla crosswise, fold the tortilla in on 2 opposite sides, and roll it up lengthwise. Let it cool before serving.
Tip: If the flour tortilla seems a bit stiff, you can soften the tortilla by placing it between 2 damp paper towels and microwave 10-15 seconds.
White Beans For The Family
At the market: Beans are available dried or canned. We like canned beans becuase they are easy to use. Both organic and low-sodium varieties are available. Canned beans are already cooked.
Storage: Use canned beans within a year of their purchase.
Preparation: Drain and rinse canned beans under cold water for at least one full minute.
- Soups and Stews: Add a cup of nutrition to your favorite soups or stews by adding 1 can (15 oz.) of white beans, drained and rinsed, to your recipe.
- Sloppy Joes and Chili: Next time you’re making sloppy joes or chili, try a new twist, instead of using all meat, go half and half – ½ meat and ½ white beans. It will enhance the flavor and the nutrition too.
- Greek bean salad: Combine 1 can (15 oz) of white beans, drained and rinsed, with 1 cup of diced cucumber, 1 cup of chopped seeded tomatoes, 1/3 cup dice red onion, ¼ cup diced black olives, and ½ cup crumbled feta cheese. In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup olive oil and 2 Tbsp red wind vinegar, pour over salad and toss gently.
- Sour cream dip is tired and old, and hummus is a bit boring, why not try making your dips from white beans? Here a two terrific “throw it all in the blender” recipes.
Bean, Beer, & Cheddar Dip
- 1 can (15 oz) white beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup beer
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 chopped green onions (garnish)
Directions: Combine the beans, beer, garlic, cumin and salt in a food processor/blender. Process until smooth. Add 3/4 cup of the grated cheese and process until combined. Place the mixture in an oven-safe serving dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cheese over the top. Bake in a preheated 375o F (190o C) oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions and serve with pita chips, tortilla chips, or bagel chips.
Better than Hummus Dip
- 1 can (15 oz)white beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp capers
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 1 Tbsp chopped green onions
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a food processor/blender and process until smooth. Serve in bowl with veggie crudités (carrots, green beans, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, cauliflower).
FYI – For those allergic to wheat, navy bean flour is a good substitute for wheat flour in many baked recipes.