Michigan’s super eight beans

Learn of the eight beans grown and harvested in Michigan and their nutritious and economical value.

If you’re thinking of reducing fat or debt in the New Year, eating beans could help. It may seem like a stretch, but being a “bean counter” is not a bad idea. Beans are naturally low in fat and cost less than other proteins. Eating beans also helps Michigan farmers. The state of Michigan has over 2,300 growers and related agri-business associates registered with the Michigan Bean Commission.

There are eight different varieties of beans grown within Michigan that are sold throughout the United States and abroad.

  • Cranberry beans
  • Dark red kidney beans
  • Black beans
  • Adzuki beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Navy beans
  • Light red kidney beans
  • Small red kidney beans

Beans can help reduce fat in your diet, as all eight of these bean varieties have less than two grams of fat and have on average eight grams of protein per half-cup serving. The average cost of a can of beans is under $2 and bags of beans cost even less. Therefore, eating meatless meals twice per week can help reduce or stretch food budgets.

Besides being low in fat and costing less, Michigan State University Extension says that beans are also low in cholesterol. The best part about beans is that they are tasty! If you haven’t cooked much with beans try experimenting with a few recipes or research their origins and choose an ethnic recipe. The cranberry bean is popular in various Italian dishes. The black bean origin is from Central America. Pinto beans came from Mexico, and the adzuki bean most likely came from Japan and China.

Besides beans, lentils are another low fat protein source. Beans and lentils are called legumes, which are a class of vegetables that include beans, peas and lentils. If you buy dried beans in bags, there is some preparation that needs to be done.

Dried beans and legumes, with the exceptions of black eyed peas and lentils, require soaking in room temperature water – a step that rehydrates them for more balanced cooking. Before soaking, pick through the beans, discarding any discolored or shriveled ones, or any foreign matter.

After soaking, rinse beans and add to a stockpot. Cover the beans with three times their volume of water. Add herbs or spices as desired. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally until tender. The cooking time depends on the type of bean, but start checking after 45 minutes. Add more water if the beans become uncovered. Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork. Beans also preserve well by freezing, just be sure to drain them before putting in the freezer. One pound of dried beans yields about five or six cups cooked beans. A 15 ounce can of beans equals about 1.5 cups cooked beans, drained.

Try adding a bean meal to your menu once a week for one month or two and see if you notice any difference in your wallet or waistline. Beans are quick and easy to make when strapped for time. Look for bean dips and other appetizers when looking for bean recipes.

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