Taming the Nutritious Bean

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“Taming the Nutritious Bean,” Ensign, Jan. 1996, 72–73

Taming the Nutritious Bean

Good nutrition is important. Many people are finding healthful benefits from cutting down on meats, reducing the fat content of their meals, and including more high-fiber legumes and grains in their diets. The health benefits of high-fiber, low-fat foods are becoming better known.

High-fiber, high complex carbohydrate foods such as dried beans and lentils (high in protein, B vitamins, and iron) are known to discourage various diseases as well as to reduce blood cholesterol and blood sugar. Unfortunately, beans are also known to discourage second- and third-time eaters because of the intestinal upsets they can also cause.

There are some solutions. Sprouting beans decreases the amount of complex sugars that cause gas production. Also, sprouting increases the nutrient content of the beans, mainly vitamin C, as well as adds enzymes that also aid in digestion.

But sprouting will not eliminate gas completely. Another solution is to incorporate beans into the diet slowly. According to Dr. Albert Purcell in the Food Science and Nutrition Department at Brigham Young University, using beans on a regular basis can help promote a supply of the intestinal bacteria necessary to digest beans properly. Regularly eating small quantities of beans can quickly raise the body’s tolerance level.

There are many ways to use beans in cooking. One of our family’s favorites is to make bean flour. Dry beans ground to a flour in an ordinary wheat mill or grinder will cook in only three minutes. This flour can be used to make nutritious, almost instant cream soups, made without fat or dairy products. Bean flour can be added to many recipes calling for wheat flour by replacing up to one-fourth of the total amount of wheat flour with bean flour. I even use bean flour to increase the nutrition of commercial cake, muffin, cookie, and bread mixes. I stir in a few tablespoons of bean flour and add extra liquid as necessary. Combining bean and wheat flours also helps form a complete protein.

For a nutritious and tasty bean flour, I grind a variety of beans together. I most often use small white beans or navy, pinto, small red, black, or garbanzo beans. Dried peas and lentils can also be ground to a flour. From these legume flours I make soups, sauces, gravies, casseroles, breads, dips, and desserts.

The following recipe for three-minute creamy chicken soup can be made with any type of white bean flour. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk one cup of bean flour into six cups of hot water and two tablespoons of chicken bouillon. Cook for one minute; then reduce heat to medium low and cook an additional two minutes. For a super-creamy texture, remove from heat and blend for thirty seconds. If desired, add one cup of cooked, diced chicken pieces or two to three cups of cooked potatoes, carrots, or other vegetables. Serves three to four. This soup can also be used as a gravy.—Rita Bingham, Gresham, Oregon

Photo by Maren Mecham