By Siew Guan Lee – University of Idaho Extension
As the meat supply in the nation is possibly disrupted due to COVID-19, you might find some stores that have placed limits on purchase amounts and have smaller selections of meat. With meat prices expected to rise, this could be a good time to consider expanding your palate with plant-based protein that are not only beneficial for your health, but also for the health of the meat processing plant workers during the pandemic.
What are plant-based proteins? Beans, peas and lentils are the mature forms of legumes that are healthy alternatives for protein. There are many varieties including kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas and lentils. They are available in both dry and canned forms that are nutritious and can be added to any meal.
Health Benefits – Beans, peas and lentils are excellent sources of dietary fiber and rich in other important nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and folate. Because of their high nutrient content, beans, peas and lentils can be counted as either a vegetable or a protein food by the USDA.
Preparation – To soak dried beans, add enough cool water to cover completely. Soak beans for 8 hours or overnight. For a quick soak, place 1 cup of beans in a stockpot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes then remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. No need to soak split peas and lentils – just rinse with water.
Cooking – After soaking, drain and rinse beans in cool water to reduce the gas factor. Combine 2-3 cups of water for every cup of beans. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 1-2 hours until tender. For every cup of split peas or lentils, add 2 to 2.5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20-40 minutes or until tender.
Half a cup of dried beans yields 1 cup of cooked beans. Note that canned beans don’t require soaking or long simmering. Choose “low-sodium or “no salt added” options or rinse before using.
Adding to your meals – Beans, peas and lentils are great in soups, stews, casseroles and salad. Use pureed beans for dips and spreads. Try different types of beans and recipes to make your meals and snacks both nutritious and tasty. For more information and recipes, check out our bean brochure.