Beans: A great meat alternative

Adzuki Beans 

The adzuki bean, pronounced “azuki” is also known as red chori or red cow pea. It is a small red colored bean common in Asian cuisine. Adzuki beans have a sweet, nutty flavor and can be eaten raw, dried, ground; and adzuki can be used to make red bean paste for desserts as a filling or topping on shaved ice. This little bean is rich in folate, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and phosphorus. It also acts as a diuretic because of its high potassium and low sodium content. Adzuki beans can be found in Asian markets and many specialty food stores.

Pinto Beans 

The pinto bean gets its name from the Spanish word for ‘painted’, referring to its beige color with dark red splashes of color along the outside of the bean. Once the pinto bean is cooked, the color becomes a vibrant pink color with a creamy texture. The pinto bean is especially popular in the United States and in Northern Mexico, often used for making refried beans. These beans contain fiber, protein, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium and thiamin, so there are lots of nutrients in this little legume.

Mung Beans

Native to India and cultivated in Asia, this bean is most commonly found in the United States, not as a bean, but as a sprout. Mung bean sprouts are a mainstay in Asian cuisine and they are packed with Vitamin C. Cellophane noodles are made from mung beans that have had their starch content removed. Boling the bean makes it soft and flavorful, great for soups and stews. Nutritionally, mung beans contain iron, potassium, magnesium and fiber, making it a super-healthy choice.

Navy Beans

The navy bean gets its name, not from its creamy white color, but because it was fed to the United States Navy during the early 20th century. This small white bean is readily found any time of the year either dry or canned. Like most legumes, navy beans top the charts when it comes to fiber; just one serving provides 76 percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber. Even more, navy beans contain a whopping 16 grams of protein per 1 cup serving, and they are a good source of folate, iron, magnesium, potassium copper and vitamin B1. Navy beans are a delicious bean for soups or just simply in baked bean dishes.

Tip: Preparing Dry Beans

To prepare dry beans, a few simple steps will ensure that you do not end up with gritty or hard beans. The first step is to rinse the beans with water and sift through them for any dirt, debris, or stones. The second step is presoaking and there are two different ways to do this. The first way is to bring the beans to a boil (2-3 cups of water per 1 cup beans) in a large pot and boil for two minutes. Take the pot off the heat, cover it and allow the beans to soak for two hours. The second method for presoaking is to add the beans and water to a pot and let sit in the refrigerator for at least eight hours up to overnight. With either method, once you have presoaked the beans, rinse with fresh water, add another 2-3 cups of water per cup of beans to the pot and let simmer until soft and tender.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a nationally known registered dietitian based in New York and the creator of a proprietary high-fiber nutrition program for weight loss, wellness and for treating various medical conditions. Tanya authored the bestselling weight loss book The F-Factor Diet, and she is the first dietitian with a national line of high-fiber foods, which are sold under the F-Factor name. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website