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Archive for the ‘beans’ Category

Q&A Roundup #4

Time to answer some questions I’ve received via Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail over the past few weeks.

Enjoy — and keep the queries coming!

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Quick & Healthy Recipe: Spicy Mushroom & Black Bean Burger

Onto the second vegan burger recipe!

While this one requires a bit longer prep time than the firstblack-beans, it shouldn’t take more than twenty minutes.  This burger freezes very well, so you could make a huge batch and save most of it in the freezer for hurried nights.

YIELDS: 4 patties

INGREDIENTS:

2 14-ounce cans low-sodium or sodium-free black beans, drained and rinsed for about 30 seconds
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup white mushrooms
1/2 cup onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork or wooden spoon (or, if you really want to get into it, use your hands!). The idea is not to make bean puree, but to achieve a chunky mashed texture. You definitely want solid bits of bean here and there. Once done, set bowl aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil. Once hot, add mushrooms. Cook and stir frequently for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onions. Stir frequently for 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic, and continue to cook until garlic is golden brown.

Increase heat and add all spices (except salt). Stir frequently for 2 minutes.

Transfer vegetable mixture into food processor. Add salt. Process for approximately 10 seconds.

Add vegetable mixture to “bean mush” bowl.  Mix with hands, compressing all ingredients together, making “burger dough”.  Form “burger dough” into four individual patties and cook to your liking (either pan-fry for a few minutes on each side or bake on a lighty oiled baking sheet at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 7  minutes on each side).

NOTE: I have been able to get a solid dough without needing to use binders (that said, I don’t mind eating crumbly vegan burgers).  If you want your burgers more solid, feel free to add a half cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs or quick-cooking oats.  Or, if you don’t require a fully vegan recipe, two egg whites will work, too.  Even then, don’t expect these to be as solid as the frozen type you can buy at the grocery store.

NUTRITION FACTS (for one patty):

249 calories
0.5 grams saturated fat
375 milligrams sodium
14 grams fiber
15 grams protein

Excellent Source of: Folate, iron, magnesium, thiamin

Good Source of: Manganese, phosphorus, zinc

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You Ask, I Answer: Nutrient Losses in Beans

Kidney-BeansHTMy boyfriend recently bought some dry beans.

After watching him soak and cook the beans, I couldn’t believe that beans are considered good sources of anything – copper, manganese, iron, and whatever else, because they get soaked for so long, and then they’re boiled for soooo long!

I would expect for a lot of the “good stuff” to have leeched out through all of the preparation.

Can you explain why this is not the case?

– Christine Ho
(Location unknown)

Great question, Christine!

I find it a little odd that your boyfriend boiled the beans for a very long time after soaking them, since part of the reason for soaking beans is to significantly cut down on cooking time.

Another benefit to soaking (and this also applies to grains and nuts) — making nutrients more bioavailable!

Whole grains and beans contain phytates, which interfere with absorption of certain nutrients, like zinc.  Soaking significantly reduces phytate content.

FYI — that is why why sprouted whole grain breads offer more nutrition than regular whole grain breads.

While phytates are only a concern in mono-diets (diets that mainly consist of one food, as is the case in some under-developed third world communities), there certainly is no harm in soaking these foods if one has the time and desire to do so.

Soaking does not, however, reduce beans’ mineral content.

While cooking beans in boiling water does leach out some minerals, the amount is insignificant — roughly two to four percent.  Even after boiling, beans are an excellent source of many minerals.

Remember — the nutrients most affected by boiling are vitamin C as well as all B vitamins.

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You Ask, I Answer: Genetically Modified Beans

beansI’ve been trying to eat more organic and “real”  food (as well as staying away from soybeans) since seeing the movie “Food Inc.”

Are beans like pinto  beans, black beans, and kidney beans genetically modified?

Should I buy organic?

Susan (last name withheld)
Grand Rapids, MI

While I understand your concern about soybeans, there is no need to completely shun it from your diet.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of genetically-modified soybeans are used to make processed food.

Since soy is a subsidized crop, the production of soybean oil, soy flour, and soy protein isolate is extremely cheap.

Next time you are at the store, take a look at processed “junk” food and you are bound to see some, if not all, of these ingredients.

If you see the words “non-GMO” or “not genetically modified” on a package of tofu or tempeh, you can trust those soybeans have not been tampered with.

While it is absolutely possible to have a healthy diet without a single soybean, tempeh (fermented soy) is chock-full of nutrition and healthy compounds.

Companies like Lightlife and Turtle Island offer non-genetically-modified varieties.  If you like how it tastes, certainly continue to consume it!

While genetically modified kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans certainly exist, they are not as rampant as genetically modified soybeans.

Buying organic is a fairly good precaution — organic food can not, by definition, be bioengineered.  I say “fairly good” because there are some loopholes.

I do want to point out that many conventional (meaning “not organic”) beans are NOT genetically modified.

However, since there are currently no mandatory labeling guidelines for genetically modified food, consumers are kept in the dark.

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You Ask, I Answer: Rinsing Canned Beans

6a00d83451fa5069e200e54f789e368834-800wiI try to buy no-salt-added canned beans as much as possible, but sometimes they are hard to find.

In your recipes you always recommend that canned beans be rinsed off [to lower their sodium content].

How long do I need to rinse them for?  How much sodium does that help get rid of?

– Leonard (Last name withheld)
Laredo, TX

Rinsing beans is definitely effective.

A 30 to 45-second rinse under cold, running tap water gets rid of anywhere from 35 to 40 percent of total sodium.

The sodium that is removed, by the way, is from the canning liquid.

Unless labeled as “no salt added”, all canned beans absorb some sodium from that liquid, which can not be removed no matter how long they are rinsed for.

Another advantage to rinsing canned beans?  It’s a great way to significantly lower their raffinose content.

Raffinose is the complex sugar responsible for the gassiness many people get after consuming beans.

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You Ask, I Answer: Adzuki Beans

imageI’ve been vegetarian for almost four years, but moved to New York City last Fall.  I’ve suddenly come across new foods I had never heard of before.

One of my favorite restaurants here serves a dish with adzuki beans.

They taste great, but I know nothing about them.  I hadn’t heard of them before until I saw them on this menu.

Are they nutritionally equivalent to all other beans?

– Claire Klein
New York, NY

Despite their Chinese origins, adzuki beans are super popular in Japan, where they are most commonly made into red bean paste after having generous amounts of sugar added on!

That’s right — if you’ve ever had red bean ice cream at a Japanese restaurant or a red bean bun at a Chinese restaurant, you’ve tasted adzuki beans.

The healthiest way to eat them, of course, is “as is”.  I personally love to add them to a side dish of brown basmati or brown jasmine rice.

Not only do adzuki beans deliver high amounts of folate, potassium, magnesium and zinc — they are also a wonderful source of lean protein.

Another bonus?  Their fiber content is mainly made up of soluble fiber — the kind of fiber that helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and helps us feel fuller faster.

Their bright red color holds another powerful secret — polyphenols!  Clinical studies have shown that adzuki’s polyphenols have powerful antioxidant properties and that adzuki beans offer more polyphenols than kidney beans, and soybeans!

Most conventional supermarkets do not carry adzuki beans.  However, if you have any health food stores or Asian food markets in your area, you will surely find them.

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You Ask, I Answer: Lack of Red Meat & Thyroid Problems?

benefits-of-red-meat-295x300What is your take on doctors who tell women their thyroid issues are due to not getting protein from red meat?

I have  heard some doctors say you can not get protein from beans, nuts and seeds?

– Dennise O’Grady
Via Facebook

Yikes! Are some doctors really saying that?  I am absolutely mortified.

I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised since the majority of doctors in this country don’t get a single MINUTE of nutrition education in medical school!

In any case, any doctor that doles out this advice is so off the mark it’s not even funny.  Shame on them for being so misinformed.

What do they even mean when they say you can’t “get protein” from beans, nuts, and seeds?  That doesn’t make any sense.  Beans, nuts, and seeds are great sources of protein, which is easily absorbable by the human body.

If they are referring to the fact that beans, nuts, and seeds are incomplete proteins (meaning they do not contain all essential amino acids), that is irrelevant — as long as a vegetarian or vegan includes other protein sources (ie: grains and vegetables), their diet provides complete proteins.

Remember — the essential amino acids that are low in beans, nuts, and seeds are very much available in grains (and vice versa).

If you ever come across a doctor who tries to make a connection between red meat intake and a healthy thyroid, thank them for their time, walk out of their office, and never look back.

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You Ask, I Answer: The Paleolithic Diet (Part 1)

ancient_manI’d really love to hear your thoughts about The Paleolithic Diet/The Caveman Diet.

What do you think about [its main] claim that we simply haven’t adapted to relatively new modern foods that became available about 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture (like grains and beans), and that ones we have evolved to eat [-- the ones eaten by hunter/gatherers tens of thousands of years ago, mainly meats --] are much easier on digestion and better for health?

– Sean Murphy
(Location unknown)

Let’s start on a positive note.  The one thing I like about the “Paleo diet” is that it advocates one very important point that I agree with — eat foods that are as close to nature as possible (ie: instead of drinking apple juice, eat an apple; instead of munching on onion rings, have onion slices in a salad, etc.).

The “eat closer to nature” ideology makes perfect sense — heavily processed foods tend to be high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.  They are also low in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Now let’s get to the fun part — the barrage of issues I have with this style of eating.

Number one: the connection between “prehistoric” eating patterns and health is a stretch.  Our “Paleo” ancestors lived approximately half as long as the average adult in today’s first-world countries.  Would they have developed cancers and other diseases if they lived to be, say, 80?  We don’t really know.

Similarly, we have no way of knowing what was happening with hunter-gatherers from a biochemical perspective.  Were they, for instance, deficient in any nutrients?

One also has to wonder how nutritious their diets were, seeing as how they were 100% local and seasonal.  Depending on where these groups of people lived, they may not have had access to a diverse enough supply of food to cover all nutrients.

Also keep in mind that certain foods, like bananas, were not eaten on a global scale until they could be transported thousands of miles from their original locations.  So, then, one could “make the case” that, from an evolutionary perspective, people in Norway — where bananas do not grow — are not “designed” to eat them.  Clearly, though, the introduction of bananas to the Norwegian population did not have any negative health effects, nor did their bodies not know how to digest them.

The same could be said for other foods.  Olive oil is now customarily eaten around the world, but it was originally only available to a very small part of the population.  Same thing with avocados, blueberries, and raspberries.  If someone were to truly argue a Paleo diet, they would also have to make the case that people who currently live in parts of the world where blueberries don’t grow shouldn’t eat them since hunter-gatherers in that area weren’t eating them.  It’s a silly argument full of holes.

Keep in mind that our bodies are perfectly equipped to digest the three macronutrients — fat, protein, and carbohydrates — thanks to specific enzymes produced by the pancreas.

There are, of course, situations like lactose intolerance, where some people can’t produce enough of one enzyme (with lactose intolerance, we are talking about the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, the naturally-occurring sugar in milk).

However, it makes absolutely no sense to claim that the body can break down animal protein just fine but “isn’t equipped” to digest the protein in chickpeas.  That has absolutely no scientific basis and is easily refuted.

The Paleolithic Diet fails to acknowledge a very important factor — that these diets were healthier than today’s “Standard American Diet” because of what was NOT consumed.

Trust me, beans and whole grains are not behind rising obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates.  Today’s health problems can be easily traced back to excesses in calories, added sugars (which do not contribute to a feeling of fullness, thereby making it easy to overconsume them), omega-6 fatty acids, saturated fats in animal products, trans fat, and sodium.

Another VERY important factor that gets left out of this conversation?  Physical activity!  Hunter-gatherers were not sitting in office chairs for 8 hours, driving in their cars while sipping a 42-ounce Big Gulp, or laying in front of the TV for hours.  When you talk about health, you can not ignore the huge role physical activity plays.

You can never go wrong eating a less processed diet.  However, there is no reason to shun whole grains, beans, or legumes under the guise of eating healthier.

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Survey Results: Economical Eating

The most recent Small Bites survey asked visitors to classify eating healthy on a budget as:

“Possible and easy” (27%)
“Challenging, but doable” (58%)

“Very hard” (13%)

“Impossible” (1%)

I am very happy to see that a solid 85% of voters consider it to at least be “doable.”

The truth is, healthy eating (which I defined as “balanced, nutritious, and meeting most nutrient daily values”) does not need to be a wallet-buster.

Let’s clarify a few issues.

1. Healthy eating does not need to be organic.

If you can afford organic, go for it. If your budget doesn’t allow for it, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a perfectly healthy and balanced diet.

Whole wheat pasta will always contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving, organic or not, and both organic and conventional peanuts are a wonderful source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Besides, as far as our bodies are concerned, there is no difference between an organic and conventional 400-calorie chocolate chip cookie.

2. Healthy eating does not need to be exotic.

Every few months some new “miracle” fruit comes along.

I am sure you are familiar with the process by now.

It is usually from another continent and, after being profiled in the mass media, is quickly turned into a juice drink packed in a beautifully shaped glass bottle (displaying a brand name with an accented vowel) that retails for a ridiculous price.

Here’s the thing: ALL fruits are healthy.

Yes, some offer more nutrients than others, but there is no such thing as a fruit that is unhealthy or should be avoided.

Similarly, I don’t like to label any food as a “miracle” or “superior” one.

Besides, acai berries are exotic in the United States, but as run of the mill as apples are to us in their native Brazil.

3. Nature is cheaper than major food companies.

Instead of tortilla chips with flaxseeds (which aren’t even grounded up, meaning you aren’t absorbing any lignans,) buy ground flaxseed and sprinkle it onto different foods.

A standard bag of ground flaxseed retails for $5 (almost as much as gourmet tortilla chips) and lasts for months if you only use up a tablespoon each day — which is plenty.

Remember, what drives up food costs isn’t so much nutrition as it is convenience.

A six-pack of single-serving applesauce containers may be convenient, but for that same amount of money you can buy enough apples to make five times that much applesauce.

I specifically mention apples because they can sit in a fruit bowl for days before they start to rot.

They are portable, delicious, and you don’t need any utensils to eat them. Talk about convenient!

A Luna bar may be convenient, but so is packing a small Ziploc bag of peanuts and raisins to snack on later in the day (the latter is also significantly cheaper.)

4. Sometimes a big name isn’t a good deal.

Many foods (canned beans, plain oatmeal, raisins, and frozen vegetables) are equally nutritious whether they are made by a generic or well-known brand.

5. Speaking of beans…

… they are a wonderful and inexpensive way to get protein and fiber.

Use them for vegetarian chilis, bean salads, or even to make your own hummus at home (it’s simple – just blend together chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt!).

In conclusion…

Junk food is very financially accessible, but so are many nutritious foods.

PS: I’m interested in reading YOUR tips for eating healthy when money is tight. Post away!

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Five Must-Have Foods

The latest video on the Small Bites YouTube Channel singles out five must-have foods.

Having these in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer will make healthy eating simple, quick, and convenient.

This is not an end-all-be-all “five healthiest foods on the planet” or “five superfoods that reverse aging” list, but rather just one of many practical ways in which nutrition can have a place in your kitchen.

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You Ask, I Answer: Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

I’ve become aware now (with your help) on how to find fiber and foods that are high in fiber but I’m wondering about the amount of soluble fiber and insoluble fiber in a lot of common “high fiber” foods.

I would love for you to explain a little bit the different things each does and if you really need to try to balance between the two for the best health benefits or if, as long as you get enough fiber, you don’t really have to worry about the two different types.

I ask this because I notice a lot of foods just state how much fiber they have but some bars (especially Gnu) go the extra mile to break down and show how much of each type they contain.

– Andrew Carney
Richmond, VA

Great question.

Remember that fiber is solely found in plant foods — meats and dairy do not provide it.

With that in mind, let’s break it down.

Soluble fiber is helpful with cholesterol reduction, providing a feeling of fullness for a significant amount of time, and stabilizing blood glucose levels.

Insoluble fiber, meanwhile, keeps things moving through the digestive tract, making it an important factor in reducing the risk of colon cancer.

Both are important and necessary.

Oat bran is the best source of soluble fiber, while wheat bran is composed of solely insoluble fiber.

Legumes, beans, and nuts are a mix of insoluble and soluble, as are fruits and vegetables (in the case of fruits, skins contain insoluble fiber and the actual fruit contains soluble).

So, as long as you have a varied diet, you are getting sufficient amounts of both.

The important goal to keep in mind is to have 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day from your diet.

If you want to get a bit more technical, it is recommended you get at least 5 grams of soluble fiber a day for maximum cholesterol-lowering benefits.

This isn’t all that much — a quarter cup of oat bran does the trick.

Similarly, a medium pear provides 1.7 grams of soluble fiber, a peach 0.8, a mango 0.76, and a banana 0.6.

Later today I will post a yogurt bowl recipe that meets the daily soluble fiber recommendation.

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You Ask, I Answer: Fiber

I’ve recently been drinking Naked Juice because I love the taste of it.

I know full well (from my last question) that it isn’t a replacement for healthy eating, so I still try to round out my diet.

However, fiber seems like something I still probably am not getting enough of, and I would love to add, like, 10 grams a day mixed into my juice.

Do you know if any of those pure “green” juices include fiber?

If not, do you know of any powdered fiber supplement that isn’t marketed as a laxative?

I know it shouldn’t stop me, but as a healthy 21 year-old, I can’t bring myself to go buy Metamucil.

Until I can afford to drop $500 on a crazy blender that blends whole fruits, I’m hoping adding some powdered fiber to a juice will help.

– Andrew Carney
Richland, WA

If your goal is to increase fiber consumption, skip the powders and liquids and go for a much tastier and plentiful source — food.

I personally don’t understand the decision behind taking Metamucil as a fiber supplement.

It has an unpleasant taste and texture, doesn’t offer more fiber than food (one serving offers 3 grams — as much as six Triscuit crackers,) and doesn’t provide the naturally-occurring nutrients and phytochemicals in fiber-rich foods.

So, if 10 grams is what you seek, enjoy your juices as they are and consider the following instead:

Snack on one Gnu Flavor & Fiber, Lara, Pure, or Clif Nectar bar every day.

Add a half cup of legumes (chickepas, kidney beans, lentils) to a meal. Some easy options? Heat up some lentil soup or add legumes to a salad, wrap, or burrito.

Complement your breakfast with a cup of whole grain cereal or two slices of whole (or sprouted) grain toast. For an extra fiber boost, start off your morning with fruit as well (a medium banana provides 3 grams of fiber).

If you’re making smoothies at home, add two tablespoons of ground flaxseed. You’ll get Omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and 4 grams of fiber in a 70 calorie package.  Another great option?  One tablespoon of psyllium husks is a wonderful way to add soluble fiber to your day.

Like pasta? Next time you make some, mix a regular variety with a whole wheat one.
A cup of cooked whole wheat pasta packs in 5 grams.

By all means, try to get your fiber from food first.

There’s no reason why anyone — young or old — should be spending money on fiber supplements.

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Quick and Healthy Recipe: Black Bean Dip

This is one of my favorite dips to bring to a party — or make when I host a soiree of my own!

It’s not only delicious, but also a great source of fiber, protein, iron, folate, magnesium, and monounsaturated fats.

The recipe below makes enough for five people, although you might be tempted to polish it off before your first guest arrives!

YIELDS: 5 – 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 small (15.5 oz) can of black beans (low-sodium or no salt added highly recommended!)
2 TBSP olive, flax, or hemp oil
2 small cloves of garlic
1/2 large red onion, chopped
3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup + 1 TBSP cilantro leaves
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 TBSP chili powder (or more, if you want a kick)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

1) Rinse and drain black beans
2) Insert beans and remaining ingredients into blender or food processor
4) Pureé until smooth

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving):

121 calories
0.8 grams saturated fat
322 mg sodium
4.5 g fiber
5.5 g protein

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