Black beans' small size isn't indicative of their nutritional content. In fact, black beans are rich in many vitamins and minerals. And gram for gram, black beans have more antioxidant activity than any other bean rivalling many fruits and vegetables.
Black beans are an exceptional source of folate, a nutrient that helps prevent spinal cord defects in newborns and may guard against heart disease and certain cancers. Black beans are also rich in magnesium, a mineral that helps keep blood pressure and blood sugar levels in check.
Black beans are also high in fibre and vegetarian protein and contain virtually no artery-clogging saturated fat. A 3/4 cup serving delivers 11 grams of fibre, not bad considering women need 25 grams of fibre per day and men need 38 grams. About half of the fibre in black beans is soluble fibre, the type that helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
One food guide serving of black beans is 3/4 cup (175 ml). Here's the nutrient breakdown for one serving:
|Sat Fat||0.2 grams|
|Soluble Fibre||6 grams|
(Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b)
Black beans are part of the legume family, which includes beans, peas, lentils and peanuts. The black bean is part of the species Phaseolus vulgaris. There are a number of different varieties of black beans including Domino, Black Magic, Blackhawk and Raven - all of which are about the size of a pea and have a dark black colour.
Black beans are available dried in packages or bulk food bins or already cooked in cans. Dried black beans will need to be washed and soaked prior to cooking.
Canned black beans, on the other hand, are more convenient since they are already cooked - they can be eaten without soaking or cooking. Canned beans should always be rinsed before you eat them to remove excess sodium.
When buying dried black beans in bulk, purchase them from a store that has a high turnover of products. Make sure the bins that hold the dried beans are covered and that there isn't any sign of moisture, insects or other spoilage.
Choose beans that have an intact shell. When buying canned black beans, be sure that the cans are intact and not rusting or bulging.
Dried black beans should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Stored properly, dried black beans will keep for up to one year.
Canned black beans should be stored in a dry place where they won't get knocked or damaged. Once cooked, dried beans will keep for three to four days in the fridge if stored at 4°C or less.
To prepare dried black beans, rinse the beans under running water and pick out any bits of debris. To soften their hard shell and reduce cooking time, dried black beans need to be soaked prior to cooking. As a general rule of thumb, soak beans in three times their volume of water for 2 to 4 hours prior to cooking.
Alternatively you can use the quick soak method - place cleaned beans in a large pot with three times their volume of cold water. Bring the beans and water to a boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat and let the covered pot stand for one hour. Drain and rinse the beans in a colander before cooking with them.
To cook soaked beans, rinse them well under running water and then combine three parts water to one part beans in a cooking pot (i.e. 3 cups of water to 1 cup of soaked beans). Bring the beans to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about one and a half hours, or until the beans are tender when pierced with a fork. Dried beans will triple in size when they cook (i.e. 1/3 cup dried beans will yield 1 cup cooked, 1/2 cup dried will yield 11/2 cups cooked etc.).
Black beans are a staple ingredient in Central and South America, including Mexico, Brazil, Cuba and Guatemala. Some popular dishes that use black beans include feijoada, a Brazilian national dish that resembles a meaty stew and moros y cristianos, a Cuban dish containing black beans and white rice that is traditionally served on New Year's Day.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy
- Make a hearty breakfast burrito by wrapping scrambled eggs, black beans, sautéed onions and salsa in a tortilla shell.
- Add a handful of rinsed black beans to an omelet or frittata for a boost of fibre and protein.
- Make a quick bean salad by combining equal parts black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans. Drizzle with a light dressing made from rice wine vinegar, olive oil and a couple cloves of chopped garlic.
- Add black beans to a vegetable stir fry toward the end of cooking to add a source of vegetarian protein.
- Add black beans in place of, or in addition to, kidney beans to your favourite chili recipe.
- Make an easy black bean soup by sautéing onions, adding reduced sodium broth, black beans, cumin, coriander, chili powder, lime juice and top with fresh cilantro. It's a meal in a bowl that's sure to warm you up and stick to your ribs.
- Add a handful of black beans to your favourite stew for a boost of fibre.
- Add mashed black beans to a homemade burger recipe. Serve them with tomatoes, red onions and baby spinach leaves.
- Add mashed black beans to a low fat brownie recipe - they're the perfect secret ingredient since they add a boost of fibre, and even the most picky taste tester won't detect them!
- Whip up a tasty black bean spread made with beans, cilantro and lime to serve with whole grain crackers or raw vegetables.
Did you know?
Beans, including black beans are thought to have originated in southern Mexico over 7000 years ago.
- Black beans were introduced into Europe in the 15th century by Spanish explorers.
- Today the largest commercial producers of dried beans are China, Indonesia, Brazil and the U.S.