What to do with Beans (plus recipe!)

Beans are a fantastic, nutrient-dense, protein-packed plant food that offer tons of fiber, B vitamins,iron, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. They are low in calories and have been found to lower the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

I think a lot of people are intimidated by cooking beans, possibly because they don’t know how.  Up until recently, actually, I had been using canned beans.  It wasn’t until I started soaking (non-canned) beans properly, which was quite simple to do, that I noticed my body could easily digest beans, where as normally I feel like crap after eating beans.

Cooking Beans

-Be sure to wash and clean the beans first.

-Soak dried beans for 8-12 hours before cooking (hint: cut a bean in half; if the center is still opaque, keep soaking).

-After soaking, rinse, fill pot with fresh water (about 4-6 cups), bring to a boil, then skim off the foam.  To aid digestion, add kombu, bay leaf, cumin, anise, or fennel to the water.

-Cover and simmer for the suggested time.

-Remember: Only add salt at the end of cooking (about 10 minutes before the beans are done) or it will interfere with the cooking process.

Quick tips: For speedier prep, boil dried beans for 5 minutes, then soak for 2-4 hours. Or use canned beans instead (some people find them even easier to digest!).  Be sure to avoid canned beans with added salt or preservatives and rinse thoroughly once removed from the can.

unnamed

Kombu is a type of dried seaweed. Add a small piece while cooking your beans to improve digestibility.

unnamed-1

Cooking with Beans

Need ideas of how to use beans?  Try any of the following:

-Toss beans and diced veggies (such as celery, shallots, red peppers) with vinaigrette for a quick bean salad.

-Blend cooked beans with tomatoes, onions, and your favorite seasonings to create a yummy bean soup.

-Top a green salad with 1/3 cup of your favorite bean.

-Puree beans with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, salt, and your favorite seasonings. Voila! A fast dip or sandwich spread.

-Include 1/3 cup of beans with your other favorite toppings next time you make stuffed baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.

-Add 1/4 cup pureed beans to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, or cake recipe. You’ll be surprised at how moist and springy baked goods are when baked with beans.

Here’s what I made…

After soaking black beans overnight, I decided to use the beans for a Mexican shrimp bowl.  At least that’s what I’m calling it.  Feel free to pick and choose your favorite ingredients, but here’s what I used to cook for two people:

unnamed-2-queso fresco

-avocado (1/2)

-shrimp (about 12)

-4 garlic gloves, minced

-1/2 onion, diced

-fresh, dried chilies, minced (if you like your food spicy)

-salt, pepper

-2 tbsp olive oil, plus more if needed

-optional: rice or polenta cubes, red cabbage

unnamed-3To prepare this dish I soaked the black beans over night and then cooked them in 6 cups water with a strip of kombu for an hour.

-Heat large pan with olive oil.  When hot, add onions and garlic and cook for two minutes.  Lightly salt.

-Add shrimp, chilis, salt, and pepper.   If cooking pre-made polenta, toss in polenta cubes.  Cook for about five minutes or until shrimp are cooked.

-Layer red cabbage and beans on the bottom of a bowl.  Add the shrimp, onions, and polenta on top.  Slice up some avocado and serve!

The James Bond Shower

James Bond always ended his showers by turning the temperature down to freezing cold.  It may not sound super enticing at first, but cold showers have several health benefits.  Next time you’re showering try even turning the water to freezing cold for the last few seconds of your shower.  I know, you’re probably shivering just thinking about it (especially those of you on the East Coast right now), but cold showers actually have several health benefits.  Personally, I find the cold water to be extremely refreshing, even if it’s cold outside.  Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourselves!  Here are some reasons why you should try this:

1. Wake yourself up-   Cold showers increase alertness.  When that cold water hits us, we begin to increase our oxygen intake, which speeds up our heart rate and releases a rush of blood throughout our bodies.  As a result, we gain more energy to help get us through our days.

2.  Beautify your hair and skin- I love natural beauty secrets, so I’m going to share this one with you: Cold water is excellent for maintaining healthy skin and beautiful hair.  Hot water dries our skin out and strips our skin of its healthy natural oils.  Cold water will firm your cuticles and pores and will close up your pores so that dirt cannot get in.  Never shower with hot water.  Keep the water warm or preferably cold, which will keep hair looking smooth, shiny, and healthy.  The cold water will flatten follicles and increase their ability to grip the scalp.

3. Boost your immunity-  A cold shower is a remedy for problems of the skin and heart.  The cold water will improve circulation and help the arteries pump blood, which helps our heart health.  There are other reported health benefits, like lowering blood pressure, clearing up clogged arteries, and improving the immune system.

4.  Lose some weight- Cold showers burn fat, the bad kind.  There are two types of fat: white fat and brown fat. White fat is what I’m referring to as the “bad kind.”  It’s fat that so many of carry around on our waist, thighs, neck, and lower back and that’s usually a struggle to lose.  We accumulate white fat when we consume unnecessary calories that our bodies don’t need to function and don’t burn enough of these calories off for energy.  Brown fat is the “good fat” and generates heat to keep us warm.  When taking a cold shower, the brown fat will burn calories to keep us warm.  According to Scandinavian research, exposing our bodies to cold temperatures increases our metabolic rate of brown fat by fifteen fold, thus aiding us with weight loss.Image result for benefits of cold showers

5.  Boost your post-workout recovery time- Perhaps you’ve seen athletes taking ice water baths before.  It looks god awful, but there’s a reason these athletes are enduring the cold water.  There’s no need to be as extreme as to take an ice water bath, but the cold water will reduce soreness after a workout.

6.  Get happy-  Cold showers create an anti-depression effect when the impact of the cold receptors of the skin send electrical impulses from the nerve endings to the brain. The cold water not only improved mood, but also helps us relax and hardens us to stress.

Sources: Medical Daily, Life Hack

Is Gluten the New Fat?

For the past 40 years, Americans have been lead to believe that any form of fat and all types of cholesterol were bad for us.  New studies have proven that this idea is outdated, but today, the new “evil” is gluten.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are by now you’ve at least heard the word gluten.  There are entire sections at the grocery store devoted to gluten-free products and I don’t know about you all, but out of the blue everyone I know is suddenly gluten intolerant.

What is gluten?

Gluten, Latin for “glue,” is a name for proteins that act as an adhesive glue, keeping together foods like breads, pastas, flour, etc.  Gluten exists in wheat, barley, and rye and can be found in many products, whether it’s our food or personal care products, like toothpaste or shampoo.  The “sticky” nature of gluten makes it hard to breakdown and absorb nutrients.

t1larg.gluten.foods.gi

What are some symptoms of gluten sensitivity? 

Depression, inflammation, joint problems, gastrointestinal problems, or fatigue, ADHD, anxiety, hives/rashes, miscarriages, nausea/vomiting, sugar cravings, brain fog, malabsorption of food, dairy intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or infertility.

Inflammation can also cause “leaky gut,”which makes us more susceptible to future food sensitivities and puts us at risk for developing autoimmune diseases or neurological disorders in the future.  Some of these diseases linked to inflammation include: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroidtis, arthritis, or schizophrenia. People with Celiacs disease share these same symptoms but on a more extreme level.  It’s also possible that some people just don’t show symptoms, but are fighting the attack elsewhere in their body, like in the nervous system.

But didn’t we always eat gluten? 

Our diet has changed drastically from what our ancestors ate. We used to thrive off of high-fat diet, low-carb diets, but now our diet consists of mainly carbs and significantly less fat.

Ancestors                                  Modern Diet

-Fat 75% of diet                            -Carbs 60% of diet

-Protein 20% of diet                     -Fat 20%

-Carbs 5% of diet                          -Protein 20%

evolution_of_man

We have far more disease today and different types of diseases than we ever did before.  The majority of our great-grandparents and generations older than them died from old age, but today many of us are plagued by cancer, heart disease, brain disease, obesity, or diabetes.  The answer to this conundrum exists not just in genes, but in our food.

As you can see from the numbers above, most of us eat an unbalanced diet.  Our percentage of carbohydrate intake are at unnaturally high levels, which takes a toll on our bodies. The first sign of celiacs, however, traces all the back to the first century AD, when a Greek doctor named Aretaeus of Cappadocia wrote about the symptoms and used the word “celiac” to name the illness in a medical textbook.  Gluten has always been a part of our diets since our ancestors learned to farm and mill wheat.  The gluten we eat today, though, hardly resembles the gluten in our diet ten thousand years ago.  Today our food is far more processed and bio-engineering has us growing structurally-modified grains containing gluten that’s less tolerable.

So is a gluten-free diet for me?

Although I know people have healed themselves of ailments by removing gluten from the diet and although I’ve read the research on the links between gluten and neurodegenerative conditions, I full-heartedly believe in the idea of everything in moderation. I personally have not given up my bread products yet, but I eat much less of it and not every day, because a little bread every now and then probably won’t kill you.  The problem is, carbs, like sugar, can be addicting, so some people have a much harder time removing gluten from the diet.

One way to cut back on carbs, processed foods, or sugar is to fill up on proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats.  By adding in these other foods, it’s easier to naturally crowd out carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar.  I highly encourage everyone to do research for themselves, rather than hopping on the bandwagon without really knowing why.  There are probably way more products containing gluten than you know, some which may be surprising, and I’ve listed some of these products below.  I highly recommend the book Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD if you’re looking for more research and information.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), or diabetes, or if it runs in your family, then I would think it best to stay away from gluten.  If you’re eating gluten and finding yourself suffering from headaches, abdominal pains, or any of the other symptoms previously mentioned, then try at least one week of cutting out gluten and see if you can notice any improvements.

Which grains are gluten-free?

Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, millet, potato, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soy, tapioca, and tee.

gluten-free-grains

Which gains contain gluten?

Barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat, and wheat germ.

Random things that contain gluten:

Cosmetics, lipsticks/lip balm, medications, non-self-adhesive stamps and envelopes, play-doh, shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste, some vitamins and supplements.

There are lots of other foods and ingredients that contain gluten, so do some research if you’re planning on going gluten-free.

Sources:

Perlmutter, David, MD. Grain Brain. New York, NY.  Little, Brown and Company.