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How to Use Beans (Legumes) on a Low-Glycemic Diet

6 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Choosing Low-Glycemic Foods

If you're not familiar with the class of foods known as legumes (which includes beans, lentils, and peas), you're missing out. The all-star legumes, beans, really have it all. Beans are low-glycemic, high-fiber, high-protein, and packed with important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These little foods are also very convenient to cook or add to a meal.

And as a bonus to the dieter, beans help you feel fuller for a longer period of time.

What you should know about canned beans versus dried

You have one major choice when it comes to beans: canned or dried. Canned beans are already cooked, so you can use them instantly on a salad or in soups and other hot meals.

Dried beans, on the other hand, need a little preparation before you can enjoy them. Specifically, dried beans must be soaked before you can cook them. Not only is soaking dried beans the only way to get them clean before cooking but it also helps

  • Decrease their overall cooking time

  • Remove gas-producing compounds from the outer coating of the shell

  • Retain nutrients

Making small changes in the way you prepare foods can greatly impact the foods’ glycemic content. Canned beans and dried beans often have different glycemic levels. Sometimes the canned is higher than the dried; other times the dried is higher than the canned.

These differences are subtle and shouldn't make a large impact on your choices. Why? Because you're not getting too caught up in small number variances. The numbers still fall within a low or medium range, so you're in good shape regardless.

Prepare and cook both kinds of beans

Similar to whole grains, beans may seem intimidating, but they're not as bad to work with as you may think. Granted, dried beans require a bit more preparation, but cooking them is a fairly straightforward process. Of course, if you really don't want to tackle the soaking and cooking steps of dried beans, you can easily use canned ones.

Regardless of which way you go, here are some quick preparation and cooking tips.

Canned beans

Whether you want the convenience canned beans offer or you just prefer the taste of them, keep the following in mind:

  • If you're adding cold beans to a salad, rinse them in a colander. Doing so removes the saucy liquid and helps decrease some of the sodium used as a preservative.

  • When adding canned beans to a hot dish, make sure to add them toward the end of cooking. Otherwise they can become too soggy and fall apart.

Dried beans

Eating dried beans requires a little more upfront work, but it's certainly worth it. First things first: preparation. Preparing dried beans for cooking involves soaking them in one of two ways:

  • A leisurely soak is the most common method for preparing dried beans. Soak — in a large pot of water overnight. Afterward, simply discard the liquid and cook with fresh water.

  • You can also soak your dried beans the quick way. Bring water to a boil, remove it from the heat, and let the beans soak in the hot water for three to four hours. Discard the liquid and then cook the beans in fresh water.

To cook dried beans after soaking, cover about 1 pound of beans with 6 cups of fresh water (not the soaking water). Simmer the beans until they're cooked and soft. The table shows you some great low-glycemic beans along with their cooking times (which depend on whether you're cooking in a saucepan or a pressure cooker).

Cooking Times for Low-Glycemic Beans
Type of Bean (Previously Soaked) Cooking Time in a Saucepan Cooking Time in a Pressure Cooker
Black 1–1-1/2 hours 5–8 minutes
Garbanzo 1–1-1/2 hours 5–8 minutes
Kidney 1–1-1/2 hours 5–8 minutes
Lima 45 minutes–1 hour Not recommended
Pinto 1–1-1/2 hours 5–8 minutes
Soy 3 hours 12–15 minutes
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