Hot on the tails of new research indicating that red meat’s precarious nutritional profile deserves a closer inspection, I choose beans.
The research conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health reviewed 20 studies to discover that salt found in heavily processed meats such as bacon, sausage and hot dogs, rather than saturated fat or cholesterol, may be the more convincing factor when it comes to heart disease risk:
“…the researchers found that daily consumption of about two ounces of processed meat was associated with a 42% increased risk of heart disease and a 19% heightened chance of diabetes. By contrast, a four-ounce daily serving of red meat from beef, hamburger, pork, lamb or game wasn’t linked to any increased risk of heart disease.”
Hm. This definitely isn’t the green light to eat a hamburger every night; just a reality check in the decision tree of food choices. Essentially this research confirms that fresh, whole, minimally-processed foods are sound choices for optimal health – meat included. Yet the fact remains that eating less meat remains a healthful, environmentally-savvy, and even money-saving resolution. The folks at Meatless Monday are helping others achieve this goal and the Washington Post reports that it’s really started to catch on. The Cheap Healthy Good blog has “10 Ways to Eat Less Meat” for those looking for inspiration — my favorite tip is to not eat meat before dinner, which is very realistic for me, especially when I have this Black Bean Soup on hand.
This recipe is my hat-tip to the Meatless Monday group. Yes, I actually made this on a Monday for dinner and it’s served as an excellent leftover for the lunch hour this week. I picked up some black beans packaged by the Kensington Food Co-op at Greensgrow Farms about a month ago. Admittedly, I have only used the canned kind in the past (gasp – sodium!) so this was my first attempt at dried beans. Soaking the beans first is key to ensure they are thoroughly cleaned and absorb enough liquid to cook evenly. Soaking also allows for shorter cooking times, helping to preserve its excellent nutrient profile.
Beans are a type of legume, a class of vegetables that includes alfalfa, peas, beans, lentils, and peanuts. Legumes are versatile and nutritious, low in fat, cholesterol-free, and contain a considerable amount of folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. Black beans, in particular, are a good source of protein making them a perfect, low-fat substitute for the protein-packed meat group.
So choose beans, too; and take a step towards a healthier self and environment. Even if it is kinda trendy right now.
Black Bean Soup
Adapted from Hillbilly Housewife
- 2 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1/2 green pepper, chopped
- 1/2 red pepper, chopped
- 3 cups chicken broth (I used organic, low sodium)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- In a large pot, soak the beans in 2 quarts of cold water overnight, or in 2 quarts of boiling water for an hour or two.
- After soaking, or the next day, drain the beans and cover them with fresh water. Bring the beans to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat. You want the beans to simmer gently for most of the cooking process. Cover the pot and simmer the beans for an hour. Add more water if needed, to keep the beans covered. Remove and set aside. Beans should be tender at this point.
- Chop the vegetables and heat olive oil in large pot.
- Saute until the vegetables become somewhat tender and very fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth and black beans. Stir the soup up and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Now, if you have the time and inclination get out your potato masher or hand blender to blend the soup in the pan until it thickens slightly and the vegetables are mostly squishy. You don’t have to do this step, but I like the way the texture changes after the soup is mashed.
- Season to taste (although I didn’t add any pepper or salt) and top with cheese (as I did; so not entirely vegan) or a dollop of yogurt on top if desired.