June 19, 2018
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Beans for the New Year

By Kate Yerxa, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Are you looking for an inexpensive way to eat a healthier diet in the coming year? Beans are the perfect way to eat well with out spending a lot of money.

Dry beans contain protein, carbohydrates, fiber, B-vitamins, and minerals such as iron. Dry beans are also very low in fat and sodium and are cholesterol-free. Dry beans are a great source of dietary fiber; in fact, a 1/2 cup serving of beans has almost 8 grams of fiber. Why is fiber important? Fiber can help you:

  • maintain digestive health
  • reach and maintain a normal cholesterol level
  • lose weight, and
  • prevent diseases like heart disease and certain types of cancers.

What amount of dry beans do you need to meet your protein needs?

Your protein needs depend on your age, your gender and how physically active you are. Most adults can use a 200- calorie diet as a starting point to determine their needs.  Most adults need at least 5.5 ounces of protein from the meat and bean group each day.  One-quarter (1/4) cup of cooked dry beans provides the protein equivalent of one ounce of meat.

How much money can I save if I start to replace animal protein with dry beans in my diet?

Here is a comparison of the cost of an ounce equivalent of dry beans compared to animal protein:

Beans are economical, too. If you substituted dry beans for ground beef for one meal per week for a family of 4, you would save about $2.40 that week. If you did this every week for one year, you could save $124.80!

Give dry beans a try and improve your health while you keep more money in your pocket.

To cook with dry beans:

Sort dry beans to remove small stones or other foreign objects. Place beans in a pot or strainer and rinse a under cold running water Soak beans using one of the two methods below:

Overnight soak: Place 1 pound (16 oz) of beans in a large pot or container and soak in 6 cups of cool water.  Soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

Quick soak: Place 1 pound (16 oz) of beans in large pot with 8 cups of water, boil for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and soak for 1 hour.

When finished soaking, the beans should have doubled or tripled in size.

Drain away the water used to soak the beans and rinse the beans in fresh water. Place the beans back into a large pot with 6 cups of fresh water. Bring  to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 to 2 hours until tender.

Does cooking one pound of dry beans make too many beans for your recipe? Below are the steps to take to safely store cooked beans.

One pound of dry beans will yield 5 to 6 cups of cooked beans. Cooked beans can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days and stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Drain the water from your cooked beans. Fill a large bowl with ice and water and submerge drained beans to cool. Drain beans and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel. Store the cooked beans in 1 to 2 cup packages in freezer grade resealable bags or plastic containers labeled with the date.

To thaw frozen beans, place in the refrigerator 24 hours before you need to use them. To thaw beans faster, thaw in the microwave using the defrost setting.

Kate Yerxa is a nutrition educator with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Black Beans with Corn and Tomatoes

Black beans with corn and tomatoes is a tasty, meat-free dish.

Makes 4 servings
Each serving equals two vegetable servings

  • 1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium, no-fat-added black beans
  • 1 cup cut tomatoes, fresh or canned
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 clove garlic, pureed or roasted
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
  1. Drain and rinse beans.
  2. In a bowl, combine beans, corn, tomatoes and garlic.
  3. Add parsley, pepper and chili powder. Combine and serve.

Nutrition Facts per serving: calories, 260; protein, 10g; fat, 2g; percent calories from fat, 7%; carbohydrates, 50 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; fiber, 8g; sodium, 430 mg

SOURCE: Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information and recipes for adding fruits and vegetables to your diet, visit http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/


  1. This recipe may be enjoyed as four side-dish/salad servings or two main-dish servings.
  2. Chili powders can vary in intensity. You may wish to start with less chili powder if using a medium hot or hot form rather than regular chili powder. Sample the recipe and adjust according to personal preference.
  3. Too much cayenne pepper can make food fiery hot; however, a dash can boost the flavor of dishes and enhance the taste of low-fat, low-salt recipes. Store cayenne pepper away from heat and light in a cool, dark and dry place.
  4. Yellow corn is a source of lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants may help reduce the risk of developing age-related diseases of the eyes such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss or legal blindness in people over the age of 60 in the United States. Other sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and collard greens.
  5. To thaw frozen corn quickly, place it in a colander, run cold water over it for about 30 seconds or until thawed, and shake off the excess water.
  6. Tomatoes provide lycopene, an antioxidant that may help lower the risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. Some research indicates lycopene is absorbed better in the presence of a little fat. If there are no other sources of fat in the foods served in combination with this dish, you may wish to add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil to this recipe.
  7. If you don’t have a garlic press to puree the garlic, mince the garlic really fine. Some cooks will use the flat end of a chef’s knife to help mash the garlic; watch out for your fingers if you use this method!
  8. As a substitution for fresh garlic, use 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder.
  9. Store fresh garlic in a cool, dark place other than the refrigerator. Many people use the small clay garlic holders to keep garlic for several weeks. Though cloves that have sprouted are still safe to use, their flavor will be less strong than fresh cloves.
  10. Other types of beans may be substituted for the black beans in this recipe.

Recipe courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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