Beans, also referred to as legumes or pulses, can be described as one of the most earthen whole foods around. Naturally unrefined, they help reduce blood cholesterol, lower blood pressure, regulate colon function and help prevent constipation. What makes them indispensible as a cancer-fighting food is that not only are they slowly digested and thus only cause a gradual rise in blood sugar, they are also a rich source of the phytochemicals diosgenin and isoflavones. They are low in fat, high in fiber and are a high source of protein, higher than eggs and most meats. Beans also sport calcium, potassium, iron, zinc and B vitamins.
The cream colored black-eyed pea with its distinctive little black spot originated in Africa about 5000 years ago, talk about a staple food! As I am always looking for ways to include a variety of legumes in my diet, I used this bean in place of the traditional chickpeas in my hummus recipe version.
Yes, I do sometimes grab canned beans if I am in a hurry, but I make sure I chose brands that clearly state that their cans are BPA-free, such as “Eden” brand. Bisphenol-A is a chemical compound often used in the lining of food cans, and studies have shown it can be carcinogenic. To get rid of the canned taste, pour boiling water over the beans and let them drain off before using.
I do have a colorful collection of glass jars filled with different types of dried beans (stored away from direct light), and I often cook them from scratch. It is really easy, you just need to remember to soak them in water the night before. Do I forget? Regularly! Family life can be so busy at times! So here’s a quick fix in that case. Place them in triple their volume of water in a pot and bring to a boil, turn off heat and let them soak for 1-2 hours, then cook them the same way as if they had soaked in cold water overnight.
Tip for cooking beans
To avoid their gaseous side effects, I always include a 2 inch size piece of kombu (hardy seaweed you can get at the health store) when cooking beans. The glutamic acid in kombu helps break down the starches in beans and makes them more easily digestible. Plus the kombu adds a host of vital minerals and trace elements. Adding lemon juice to beans’ soaking water and skimming off the foam when cooking them helps on the flatulence front too.
As I was searching for ways to incorporate all the eggplant our local farm was providing us with at this time of year, I included roasted eggplant too.
- 1 large or 2 medium eggplant, roasted
- ¼ cup cooked black-eyed peas
- ½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 TBSP EVOO (Extra-virgin olive oil)
- Celtic sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Pinch (tiny!) of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Filtered water (if necessary)
- Throw all above ingredients into the blender or food processor, season to taste, and spread on your favorite crackers, Ry-vita, gluten-free crispbreads (e.g. “Le Pain des Fleurs” brand has a buckwheat, chestnut and quinoa selection), rice cakes or use as a dip for fresh veggie sticks.
- Heat oven to 400 deg F, prick eggplant all over with a fork
- Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for about 45 min, until the eggplant nearly collapses into itself. It does not look very appetizing then!
- Peel once cooled, best if still slightly warm.
I usually roast in big batches, e.g. I will place a variety of whatever I have, such as winter squash, eggplant and garlic, on the same baking sheet, and refrigerate for use the next day or freeze whatever I won’t use right away.
Why not try kohlrabi as a delicious and often overlooked and undervalued alternative to carrot or celery sticks. It has a crispy texture similar to a turnip, but has a sweet, juicy taste. Best of all, kohlrabi belongs to the cabbage family (“Kohl” actually is German for “cabbage”), one of the significant anti-cancer food families. Kohlrabi also balances blood sugar levels and is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium. It’s tough to find organic kohlrabi in supermarkets, if buying conventional is your only choice, make sure you use your veggie peeler!