Where have you bean all my life?

Kellie Collins

From beans on toast to dhal with rice, pulses are a versatile, nutritious, low Gi and economical alternative to meat. Their use has been little explored in British cookery but they are an important staple in dishes from India, Mexico and the Meditteranean. They will make a tasty and healthy addition to pep-up any summer salad, winter stew or spicy curry.

What's more, dried beans are loaded with health benefits. Eating peas and beans will provide you with fibre, high quality protein, vitamins including the B vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and magnesium… and all this for VERY little fat.

They are also thought to play a role in the prevention and treatment of heart disease and cancer. Regular consumption of pulses can improve blood glucose control and may help treat diabetes.

There are several kinds of dry beans and peas and they are easy to incorporate into everyday recipes. Here’s a quick rundown of the different types of beans and their most popular uses:

Canellini Beans - Often used in Italian cookery and can be included in pasta sauces, salads, mashed to a puree with garlic or even on pizza

Red Kidney Beans - Are most often used in chilli, salads, soups and rice dishes

Pinto Beans - Used to make refried beans; they’re great for Tex-Mex and Mexican dishes

Navy Beans - This term actually refers to several types of white beans. These beans can be used in soups and casseroles also make up that old favourite, baked beans

Lima Beans - Usually referred to as butter beans, these are delicious in casseroles and soups or large lima beans can simply be served as a vegetable side-dish

Black Beans - Widely incorporated into many dishes including Caribbean, Cuban and Mexican

Blackeye Beans - Give a smooth texture and delicious flavour to any rice dish

Chickpeas - Traditionally used in Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus and falafels which are becoming increasingly popular in Europe

Cooking dried beans does take a little time and preparation. The beans should be soaked overnight to soften and rehydrate them - soaking them will also dissolve some of the gas-causing substances making them easier to digest. The beans should then be drained and boiled for 2-3 hours in fresh water.

Alternatively you could save yourself time and use canned beans. If you do use these, don’t add any salt to the dish as most canned beans already have salt added – or look for brands with no added salt or sugar.

Add beans to veggies, lean meat or rice for increased flavour and added nutrition. Beans also carry spices well so don’t be afraid to experiment!

Start a diet plan at tescodiets.com

Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.