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The Power of BeansThe Power of Beans

Nancy Backas

June 10, 2009

5 Min Read
The Power of Beans

Theres that cliché in old movies where one sees people eating beans during hard times. No doubt, beans are a go-to food that people consume for its affordable high protein content.
Beans have been a key staple food of all civilizations from the dawn of man, says Lee Perkins, president, Pacific Grain and Foods, Fresno, CA. Since the 2008 world economic downturn, our monthly bean and rice sales have set new records. The public is rediscovering the bean for basic nutritional sustenance and value, because of its low fat and high protein.
The variety of beans on the market today, both familiar and heirloom, have amazing versatility and many qualities that make them attractive to food manufacturers, especially in specialized ingredient forms. Beans also have recently been the subject of a number of studies related to colon health, diabetes, prostate cancer and macular degeneration.

Little powerhouses
Beans (also known as edible legumes or pulses) include soybeans, peas, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas and many other varieties. Despite differences in size, shape, color and texture, beans are similar in nutrient composition. They are naturally low in calories, sodium, sugar and fat and, like all plant products, cholesterol-free.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report stated that, without the recommended 3 cups of legumes per week, people would fall short of receiving enough calcium, magnesium, iron and fiber in their diets.
Beans have a high protein content20% to 30% on a dry-weight basisand are rich sources of lysine, the amino acid missing from most grains. This is why nutritionists encourage the combination of rice and beansthe two together make a complete protein.
Beans also have B vitamins and some vitamin A. A half-cup serving (64 grams, cooked) provides more than 20% of adult daily requirements for fiber and folate, and more than 10% of daily requirements for manganese, magnesium, copper, iron and potassium.
Nutritional studies have shown that fiber from beans minimizes cholesterol, promotes heart and colon health, and prevents against diabetes. The isoflavones and protease inhibitor in beans may help protect healthy cells from cancerous cells. And, beans low glycemic index, which is linked to helping prevent and treat type 2 diabetes and macular degeneration, provide a positive correlation between bean consumption and reduction in these diseases.

Dry legume applications
Dry legume products have emerged as valuable ingredients in many manufactured products, adding fiber and protein, as well as functional qualities, to baked and extruded products.
Bean flours and powders add fiber and protein to breads, pastas, breakfast bars and other baked goods without adding color, and are excellent flavor carriers. They help create gluten-free baked goods, adding structure and enhancing nutrition of products made with other gluten-free ingredients, such as rice, tapioca and potato starch. Bean powders are used in extruded products and as extenders in meat products.
Green and yellow pea flour works as a thickener in soups, instant dry soup mixes, dips and broths. Yellow pea flour is stabilized by roasting and/or steam precooking. Both processes partially gelatinize starch, denature protein and inactivate enzymes, thus increasing shelf life.
Other bean ingredients, such as instant dehydrated whole black bean powder or whole pinto bean powder, can be used in bakery items, dips, salads, dry soup mixes, or as natural thickeners or meat binders, says Beth Chandler, corporate communications, ADM, Decatur, IL.
Bean fiber ends up in nutrition bars, white breads, bagels, muffins, cookies, cakes and tortillas, and in low-fat entrées, plus adds fiber to pasta, meat products, soups and vegetarian foods. The fiber acts as an economical gum alternative, modifies texture, creates a full-bodied mouthfeel, improves uniformity and reduces breakage.

For solubility, emulsifying properties, good lipid affinity, foam stability and water holding capacity, as well as enhancing structure and nutrition to many products, pea and soybean protein are valuable ingredients. The protein is used in breads and dressings, nutrition bars, baby food, and meal-replacement beverages.
Pea starch is often used in cookies, crackers, breakfast bars, snacks, extruded products and noodles to improve crispness, volume and appearance.
Peas, lentils, chickpeas and soybeans can be fried, roasted, baked and extruded to create many snack foods. Crushed lentils are often used in instant dry soup mixes and in combination with rice, couscous or pasta in many dry, packaged entrées.
With current consumer demand for low-fat or fat-free products, and for formulas that are non-allergen, gluten-free and cholesterol-free, beans and their various ingredient derivatives allow food processors to tap into this market. In addition, because pulses crops use less water and require no chemical fertilizer, they can also be touted as environmentally friendly ingredients.
Further, beans and bean products can be used to make entrees more nutritious, allowing manufacturers products to be eligible for nutrient claims on labels, says Chandler.

Nancy Backas is a Chicago-based freelance writer and chef. She has been writing about food and the foodservice industry for more than 20 years and can be reached at [email protected] .

Bean Inventory

Adzukismall ovals; deep, red-brown color with a white line; nutty; quick-cooking.
Appaloosasimilar to pintos, but larger and thinner, more elegant.
Azukismall, reddish brown, with a white ridge and a nutty flavor.
Blackmedium size; black color with a white stripe; deep, earthy flavor.
Black-eyed peas medium size; cream-colored with a dark blotch; slightly bitter flavor.
Chestnutlarge, plump and shiny; dark, red-brown when cooked.
Cranberryabout ½-in. long; dark-tan with a pink cast and wine-colored dappling; commonly has wine-colored stripes on a cream background.
Garbanzo (chickpea)tan-colored; round.
Kidneykidney-shaped, light- or dark-red., with a sweet flavor
Lablab (val dal)brown, reddish-brown, or cream colored, with a nutty flavor
LimaLarge, kidney-shaped, usually cream or green, with a buttery flavor.
Lentilsa wide variety of  mild-flavored flat, black-, brown- green- or red-colored.
Pigeon peasUsually green, white, or black, with a rich flavor
Pinksimilar to pinto beans or small red beans.
Pintorelated to kidney beans; slightly smaller and tan-colored; down-to-earth flavor.
Rattlesnakevery similar to pintos, with a tender texture and strong flavor.
Runnerscarlet, white, black; large; distinctive flavor; not easy to find commercially.
Soybeansover 1,000 varieties available; various colors; nutty and crunchy when cooked.
White (navy, pea, great northern, flageolet, Anasazi, calypso)slightly bitter flavor; smaller ones (navy and pea) are round.


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