Beans are prepared and consumed in a variety of ways. Arguably, Nigerians have the highest numbers of ways/methods of cooking and eating beans. They can be boiled and eaten alone, or in combination with cereals such as rice or corn. They can also be mashed up, made into soups, milled (usually with peppers, onion etc.) and fried as a fritter (akara, acaraje as it’s called in Brazil) or steamed into a savoury pudding (moin-moin).
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Diabetes and Glucose Metabolism
Beans may help stabilize blood glucose levels or even prevent diabetes. Beans are high in fibre, which can help lower blood glucose.
A 2015 study in mice found that a chemical found in soybean leaves could help the body maintain healthy glucose levels.
Soybeans also support the healthy functioning of pancreatic cells. The pancreas produces insulin, which regulates blood sugar.
Preventing Fatty Liver
Fatty liver is a metabolic disorder that occurs when fats accumulate in the liver.
Research published in 2016 found that adzuki beans improve the accumulation of fat in the liver of mice. This result suggests that these beans might preserve liver health and reduce the risk of fatty liver, although more studies in humans are needed.
The fibre and healthy starches in beans can help prevent food cravings. People may feel fuller after consuming beans, which may prevent overeating and even help with weight loss.
Improving Gut Health
Research has shown a variety of beans, especially black beans, enhance gut health by improving intestinal barrier function, and increasing the number of healthy bacteria. This may help prevent gut-associated diseases.
There are over 100 varieties of beans known to man. Some of these are specific to certain regions of the world.
The popular Nigerian beans are actually cowpeas which are cultivated and consumed in most of Sub-saharan Africa. This variety also exists as White and Brown. The beans are highly nutritious containing good levels of carbohydrate, protein, dietary fibre and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron, zinc, manganese and copper.
Beans are an important crop that plays a significant role in the diets of Nigerians. They serve as a major source of protein in the absence of sufficient animal protein. It is thought the beans were introduced to Africa over 2000 years ago but Nigeria is currently the world’s largest brown beans producer accounting for about 22% of total production followed by Brazil.
Nutritional Data for Beans (based on 100g boiled brown beans):
Calories: 378.9 (kcal)
Protein: 25 (g)
Dietary Fibre: 10.7 (g)
Carbohydrates: 59 (g)
Fat: 1.2 (g)
Vitamins: A, Folates
Minerals: Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Iron, Zinc, Manganese and Copper
Note: Other ingredients added to beans during the cooking process such as oil and other vegetables will impact on the overall calorie count of the dish.
In recent times, the beans have also been dried and milled into flour for use, again in different ways.
Tips for cooking beans:
- Beans can take a really long time to cook so cooking with a pressure cooker can half cooking time.
- Inspect individual bean seeds to check for insect infestation. Insect infested beans will not give a suitable result when used in cooking
- Ensure all chaff and other debris are removed from beans before using
- Soaking beans for a minimum of 15 minutes makes peeling faster and easier
- Soaking beans before cooking also reduces the flatulence factor