By SIEW GUAN LEE, MS, RD – Univ. of Idaho Extension
Beans, peas, and lentils are the mature forms of legumes that provide many health benefits. 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 versatile to add to your diet.
Health Benefits – Beans, peas, and lentils are excellent sources of dietary fiber and plant-based protein. They are also 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 dry beans, put 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 boil. Simmer for 20-40 minutes until tender. Half a cup dry beans yield 1 cup cooked beans. Note that canned beans don’t require soaking or long-simmering. Choose “no salt added” or rinse before using it.
Incorporating into your diet – 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.
Source: USDA www.ChooseMyPlate.gov and USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council https://www.usapulses.org