Let’s Talk Food: Beans as part of your diet

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Canned beans will work when you’re in a pinch.

  • Courtesy of AUDREY WILSON Furikake chicken from Lemongrass Express at the Waiakea Center in Hilo.

Dried legumes are dried beans as we know it, and they are in three categories: beans, peas and lentils.

It might be confusing as the French word “legume” means “vegetable.”


When we think of beans, we think of the following:

• Black beans: A smaller bean and native to South America.

• Black-eyed peas: A medium-sized cream-colored bean with a distinctive black spot.

• Chickpeas: Also known as garbanzo beans and most commonly used to make hummus.

• Dried peas: Field peas, not the usual garden peas.

• Lentils: Come in brown and green, lentille du puy and red and yellow.

• Pinto beans: Speckled beans and can be used in place of red kidney beans. Actually, if you do not like kidney beans in Portuguese bean soup or chili, you might be surprised how you might like pinto beans instead. Mexican refried beans are made with pinto beans.

• Red kidney beans: Relatively large, burgundy color and a common bean for Portuguese bean soup and chili.

• White beans: Navy, great northern are white beans, but in varying sizes.

One of the highest benefits of beans is the fiber they contain. One cup of navy beans, for example, contains 20 grams of dietary fiber, or about 70% of the recommended daily value.

Beans also contain resistant starch, which encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria, lowers blood sugar, improves insulin sensitivity, reduces cholesterol and triglycerides and might protect against colon cancer.

Are you worried about indigestion? Cooking dried beans in lots of water helps to extract and dilute oligosaccharides, the molecules that cause digestive difficulties.

Cooking with dried beans makes you able to soak the beans in plenty of cold water overnight, and in the case of dried chickpeas, up to 24 hours.

The high heat created in a pressure cooker is recommended to cook the beans, as the slow cooker will not reach a high enough temperature to get rid of the substances that cause gut problems.

So soak and cook your beans well in a pressure cooker. I hope you do not eliminate beans from your diet.

Keeping your pantry with canned beans also works. Rinse the beans to cut down the salt if the cans are not low-sodium.

Did you know the aquafaba, the liquid in a can of chickpeas, can be whipped to a meringue-like consistency to be used in vegan cooking and baking?

According to the USDA, the shelf life of dried beans is 1-2 years, but unofficially, they can last forever. However, after 2-3 years, their nutritional value starts diminishing. As long as you keep them in a cool, dark place, in a tightly sealed container, your beans will last longer.

This recipe is a guide for cooking dried beans if you do not have a pressure cooker. Please note that lentils do not need to be pre-soaked, especially if you want them toothier and not mushy.

Cooking Dried Beans

Serves: 12

1 pound dried beans, rinsed and sorted

10 cups water, plus more for soaking beans

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided

4 fresh thyme sprigs, tied with twine

2 bay leaves

1 large yellow onions, quartered lengthwise

Place beans in a large bowl or container; cover with cold water to 4 inches above beans. Let stand at room temperature overnight; drain.

Bring drained beans and 10 cups of water to a boil in a large Dutch oven, skimming the surface occasionally. Add oil, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme, bay leaves and onion to the pan. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and simmer another hour or more depending on the type of bean:

• Red kidney beans: 1 hour.

• Great northern beans: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

• Black beans: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

• Cannellini beans: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

• Pinto beans: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Remove thyme, bay leaves and onion; discard. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Cool to room temperature in cooking liquid. Place beams and cooking liquid in an airtight container, refrigerate.


If you cannot tolerate beans or are on the Paleo diet, you can take supplements such as fiber, B-complex, mineral supplements and protein.

Foodie bites

This is the last week that Hawaii Community College’s Bamboo Hale is open for takeouts.

• Today through Thursday: European and German special menu.

• April 27-29: Closed.

Call 934-2791 to order your $15 lunch, which includes an amuse-bouche, appetizer, soup or salad, and dessert. Pick up from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.


Lemongrass Express opened in the Waiakea Center by Chef Thepthikone Keosavang, or Chef TK, who also owns Thep Thai Cuisine at the Pahoa Kai Shopping Center. Folks in Hilo do not have to drive to Pahoa or Kona to enjoy Chef’s cuisine. Lemongrass Express is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Call 969-6090 to pre-order your takeout.


I ordered crispy orange chicken salad, crispy furikake chicken with rice and vegetable and the crispy calamari salad. All were great and consistent with Chef TK’s cooking.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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