Diet Detective’s Investigation of Black Beans

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Detective’s Investigation of

Nutritional value (1 cup): 227 calories; 0.9 g fat; 40.78 g carbs; 15 g fiber; 15.24 g protein.

Health Perks: Beans in general are rich in protein, fiber, manganese, magnesium, thiamin, phosphorus, iron and phytochemicals. They have 10 percent or more of the daily values for magnesium, iron and potassium. Beans are also high in folate, which is important for brain development (essential for pregnant women) and red blood cell formation. In addition, there is a growing body of evidence that consuming beans reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition has reported that eating just a half-cup of beans daily dropped total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by more than 8 percent. Think about this: A half-cup of oatmeal eaten daily will reduce cholesterol 2 percent to 3 percent. The researchers also found that bean consumers had higher intakes of dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron and copper, and that adults who consume beans have a “reduced systolic blood pressure, lower body weight and a smaller waist circumference.”

Researchers Clifford W. Beninger and George L. Hosfield, reporting in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that black beans have more antioxidant action than any other bean and more than 10 times more than many popular fruits (e.g., oranges). Why? The researchers believe it might have to do with their color. Black beans are rich in the antioxidant anthocyanin (that’s what gives black beans their color). Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which analyzes and ranks antioxidant levels in foods, found that black beans are among the top 20. And researchers from Michigan State University, reporting in the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer, found that rats in a controlled study who were fed black beans had a 75 percent reduction in colon cancer compared with the control group.

Last of all, beans are very low on the glycemic index and in glycemic load, meaning they do not produce strong spikes in blood sugar — a good thing for those trying to manage blood sugar or their appetite.

Make sure the beans you eat are not prepared with lard (fat), as they often are in restaurants. Refried beans are typically used as a dip, accompanied by chips and guacamole. They are also often served with burritos and tacos. The term refried is actually misleading because the beans are fried only once, but with more than 240-280 calories per cup (for just the beans), they are not a very good choice. Also, according to researchers reporting in the Journal of Food Science, beans that were steamed, soaked or boiled had less antioxidant activity than raw beans, but steaming retained more antioxidants than boiling. And finally, have you ever heard the jingle, “Beans, beans the musical fruit. The more you eat …?” If so, you can take comfort in knowing that, according to researchers writing in Nutrition Today, the same bean mechanism that causes gas is also responsible for health benefits. And researchers have also reported that as you begin to eat more beans your body will adapt and you will have less gas over time.

Zesty Wheat Berry-Black Bean Chili

recipe courtesy of Eating Well Media Group. Copyright 2010.

Yield: 6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each

Cooking Time: 1 hour

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed
2 (14-ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1-2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced (see Tip)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 cups Cooked Wheat Berries (recipe follows)
Juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, chipotle to taste, broth and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.

Stir in cooked wheat berries and heat through, about 5 minutes more. (If using frozen wheat berries, cook until thoroughly heated.) Remove from the heat. Stir in lime juice. Garnish each bowl with avocado and cilantro.

Nutrition Information (per serving ) 386 calories; 11 g fat (1 g saturated); 61 g carbohydrates; 14 g protein; 15 g fiber; 703 mg sodium; 311 mg potassium.

Tip: Canned chipotle peppers (smoked jalapeños) in adobo sauce add heat and a smoky flavor. Look for the small cans with other Mexican foods in large supermarkets. Once opened, store in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator or six months in the freezer.

Cooked Wheat Berries

Cooking Time: 1 1/4 hours

2 cups hard red winter-wheat berries (see Note)
7 cups cold water
1 teaspoon salt

Sort through wheat berries carefully, discarding any stones. Rinse well under cool running water. Place in a large heavy saucepan. Add water and salt.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse. To serve hot, use immediately.

Makes about 4 1/2 cups.

Nutrition Information (per 1/2 cup): 151 calories; 1 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrates; 6 g protein; 4 g fiber; 265 mg sodium; 2 mg potassium.

Note: Wheat berries can be found in natural-foods markets and online at King Arthur Flour, 800-827-6836,, and Bob’s Red Mill, 800-349-2173,

Smoked Turkey, Black Bean, Bell Pepper and Corn Salad

Healthy Recipe courtesy of SELF magazine.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

3 cups (about 3/4 pound) diced, cooked smoked turkey breast
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup diced bell peppers (any color)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
3 cups arugula

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint (plus leaves for garnish)
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup tomato juice
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry (or balsamic) vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine turkey, beans, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers and onion in a bowl. Whisk all dressing ingredients in another bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add dressing to turkey mixture and toss to combine. Divide arugula among 4 plates and top with turkey salad. Garnish with the mint leaves.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 282 calories; 5.9 g fat (0.5 g saturated); 37.2 g carbs; 8.7 g fiber; 24.3 g protein (analysis provided by SELF).

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