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You're Full of Beans

February 5, 2009 By:
Ethel Hofman, JE Feature
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Beans and broccoli don't sound all that exciting or particularly sexy. But these foods are inexpensive, jam-packed with nutrients and may help to offset cancer -- all significant reasons to include them in your diet. Canned beans and fresh or frozen broccoli can easily be transformed into appetizing dishes. Dried beans and legumes need to be soaked first, and so may take longer to prepare, but are much cheaper than the canned variety.

The American Institute for Cancer Research's report, "Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer," found that foods containing dietary fiber may decrease the risk of colorectal cancer.

The fiber in beans also helps lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health. Beans are also protein-rich and provide other nutrients, such as iron and zinc. That makes them an excellent, cholesterol-free meat alternative.

The USDA recommends eating at least three servings of fiber per day. One serving-size equals a half-cup of cooked of rice or pasta, one slice of bread or one cup of cereal. That's hardly difficult to include in your meal planning.

Cruciferous vegetables are so named because they contain four-petaled flowers that resemble a cross. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussel sprouts are cruciferous, but so are watercress, bok choy, turnips and collard greens. They all contain a variety of substances, like the potent phytochemical sulforaphane, which has been found to effectively block breast, colon, stomach and bladder tumors in animals.

Be picky when buying these vegetables fresh. Look for firm stalks, tight florets and bright-green leaves. Avoid anything that is limp, wilted or discolored, and buy only as many fresh cruciferous vegetables as the family can eat within a few days. Beyond that, they turn bitter. Store unwashed vegetables in a loosely sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Nutritionists recommend eating these foods as part of a varied, plant-based diet. To get you started, here are some recipes you'll want to serve often -- and that won't break your budget.

Bulgur, Black Beans and Pineapple

(Pareve)

1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic from a jar
2 Tbsps. grated ginger root
1/3 cup low-fat coconut milk
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned, drained pineapple chunks
1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper

Place bulgur in a medium bowl.

Pour hot water over to about 1/2 inch above the bulgur. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger root, and heat through.

Drain the bulgur wheat well. Add to the onion in pot.

Add the remaining ingredients. Stir to mix. Serve hot.

Serves 4 to 5.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 169; protein, 6 g; carbohydrates, 27 g; fat, 5 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 270 mg.

Wheatberry Salad

(Pareve)

Wheatberries are whole, unprocessed wheat kernels. They are a rich source of vitamins and fiber, and are available in health-food stores and some supermarkets. Double the recipe and add leftovers to your brown-bag lunch.

1/2 cup wheatberries
2 cups diced jicama
1/2 cup fresh parsley, snipped
1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered
2 Tbsps. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
11/2 Tbsps. honey, warmed
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the wheatberries in a bowl.

Add enough water to cover by about 1 inch. Refrigerate and soak overnight. Drain.

Place in a saucepan with 2 cups cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook until wheatberries are chewy, about 20 minutes. Drain well.

Place in a bowl along with the jicama, parsley and raisins.

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and honey. Gradually whisk in the oil.

Pour over the wheatberry mixture; toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 243; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 28 g; fat, 14 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 191 mg.

Stir-Fried Florets With Walnuts

(Dairy)

Fresh broccoli and cauliflower florets may be purchased in a bag in supermarkets.

2 Tbsps. olive oil
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups cauliflower florets
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tsp. chili powder
4 Tbsps. reduced-fat sour cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
chopped parsley or chives to garnish (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat.

Add the florets and toss for 2 minutes, until just beginning to brown. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue stir-frying 4 to 5 minutes longer, or until the florets are beginning to lose their raw look.

Stir in the walnuts and chili powder. Cook 3 to 4 minutes longer, until florets are crisp-tender.

Stir in the sour cream; heat through.

Garnish with parsley or chives (optional) and serve.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 178; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 3 g; fat, 18 g; cholesterol, 6 mg; sodium, 6 mg.

Orange-Flavored Turnip Chunks

(Pareve)

2 Tbsps. unsalted margarine
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 medium onion, chopped
11/2 lbs. (about 6) small white turnips, peeled and quartered
1 cup orange juice
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the margarine and oil in a medium saucepan.

Add the onion and stir over medium low heat until soft, but not brown.

Add the turnips. Cook, shaking the pan frequently until the margarine and oil are absorbed.

Pour the orange juice over top. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, or until the turnips are tender. Shake the pan often. Serve hot.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 96; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 10 g; fat, 6 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 57 mg.

Sweet Lentil and Chickpea Salad

(Pareve)

Equally delicious served hot, cold or at room temperature.

11/4 cups dried lentils
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
3/4 cup currants
1/3 cup honey-mustard salad dressing
1 Tbsp. brown sugar or to taste
1 Tbsp. cumin
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to boil over high heat.

Add the lentils; reduce heat to medium.

Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, but still slightly chewy, about 20 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain well.

Transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir gently to mix.

Adjust brown sugar and seasonings.

May cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 271; protein, 15 g; carbohydrates, 53 g; fat, 1 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 300 mg.

Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

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