Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lovely beans, wonderful beans

Well, there's egg and bacon;
rice and beans; rice bacon and beans;
beans bacon egg and beans;
beans rice beans beans bacon and beans;
beans egg beans beans bacon beans rice and beans
I have posted about rice and beans, one of the most traditional brazilian dishes. Unsurprisingly, the most eaten foods in Brazil are rice, beans and coffee, with a daily average consumption of 182 grams, 160 grams and 220 ml, respectively.

Well, first, we'll examine the nutritional qualities of beans; then, we'll examine how to prepare and consume it properly for unlocking its nutritive potential. After that, we'll cook brazilian beans. Go on then:

  • Plenty of folate: As Chris Marterjohn points out,  the greater your ingestion of muscle meat and eggs (high sources of methionine), the higher your needs for homocysteine-neutralizing nutrients (vitamins B6, B12, folate, betaine, and choline) and for the amino acid glycine. Folate is the most important of those nutrients for it, because "betaine and folate can generate glycine in addition to neutralizing homocysteine, although the effect of betaine is restricted primarily to certain tissues such as the liver and kidney". And, what are the main sources of folate, gram per gram? Liver and legumes. 100g of cooked black beans provides 140mcg of folate, the same that 138g of broccoli and 160g of collard greens (two of the greatest vegetable sources). One cup of orange juice, the major food contributor of folate to the US diet, has 80 mcg. I highly recommend that you read the excellent Chris' article about this.
  • Good source of minerals: beans provide very nice quantities of magnesium (170% DV/kg), iron (120% DV/kg), manganese (220% DV/kg), zinc (70% DV/kg), copper (100% DV/kg), phosphorus (140% DV/kg) and potassium (100% DV/kg). However, beans contain phytates and tannins, that reduce the absorption of minerals, and need be soaked before cooking to unlock its minerals. The bean soaking water must be discarded too.
  • Other benefits: slowly digested starches and low glycemic index (about 30), high in protein, high content of phytonutrients... I didn't address all the benefits in details, but I did try to give a good vision of why beans are a great food to include in one's alimentation.

Brazilian rice and beans are a meal with complementary foods, the strenghts covering the weaknesses of each other. Isn't  it beautiful? Beans providing folate to address methionine from meat; rice providing aminoacids that make rice and beans a source of complete protein; vegetables increasing the absorption of minerals in meat and beans, because of their vitamin C content. Oh, the wisdom in the traditional food... :-)

Now, the recipe! This is a simple brazilian beans recipe, but some people include sausage and/or bacon and/or pork bits and/or tomato and/or bell pepper and/or whatever in the beans.

Brazilian beans:

  • 250g dry black beans or pinto beans
  • 1 1/2L water
  • 3 cloves garlic minced/crushed
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1/2 or 1 tablespoon lard, coconut oil or butter
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • things (sausage, bacon, pork bits, tomato, bell pepper...) (optional)
  • salt to taste (1 teaspoon?)
  1. First, soak the beans overnight (about 12 hours), 2 cups of water for each cup of beans
  2. Drain the beans; throw away the soaking water
  3. In a pressure cooker, put the beans, the bay leaf and the things (optional). Add the water to cover by about 2 inches
  4. Cook the beans for 30 minutes, at 180ºC
  5. In another pan, heat the lard and fry the garlic and onion, until they turn a light golden brown
  6. Add the garlic and onion to the beans
  7. Verify if the beans are tender.
  8. If it is still too runny, you can let it boil without the top until the liquid thickens up a bit
  9. Discard the bay leaf and serve.
Number of servings: 3

I eat this recipe about everyday in lunch. In Brazil, the beans are always eaten in companion of rice, it's sort of a romantic relationship. As a "carioca" (a person born at Rio de Janeiro), I prefer the black beans (despite the fact that pinto beans are named as "feijão carioca").

P.S.: I've never eaten canned beans, what is the flavor of it? Are they tasty?

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