Beans are one of the healthiest things you can eat. But canned beans may not be as healthy as you think.
Try this on for size: a standard, 3 1/2 ounce serving of boiled red kidney beans has only 2 milligrams of sodium. The same serving of canned red kidney beans has 231 milligrams of sodium — that’s almost 10% of your recommended daily sodium intake. There are other “fun” ingredients found in canned beans as well, such as calcium chloride, animal fats and sugars, which can alter beans’ nutritional value. High fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners are also commonly found in canned varieties, which drives calories up. A single serving of canned beans can have as many as 100 calories more than its dried counterpart. Probably not what you want when you open a can of a seemingly healthy food.
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The simple alternative is to buy dried beans and soak them. If you aren’t already doing this, here’s why you should start:
- Un-soaked beans can take up to 60 minutes to cook, but soaking them first cuts the cooking time by as much as 70%.
- Soaking preserves more of the nutrients in the bean, so that you get the benefit of all the protein, vitamins and minerals, while allowing the bean to become more digestible.
- Soaking also allows beans to slowly absorb the liquid they need to cook evenly and completely, minimizing the chance that they’ll split open or lose their skins.
Added to all that, dried beans cost significantly less than canned beans, and they’re easy to store. There are no added ingredients or concerns about toxins leaching in from the lining of the can. With dried beans, what you see is what you get: beans. Dried beans also allow you to cook the beans with other flavors and to the texture you prefer, which is especially attractive if you don’t care for mushy beans.
Sure, nothing beats the convenience of opening a can, but soaking simply takes a little pre-planning. All you have to do is soak your beans in water overnight, drain them (to reduce the gas-causing complex sugars, don’t cook them in the soaking water) and simmer them in slightly salty water until tender to the bite.
Still not convinced? Luckily, not all beans need to be soaked. The softer categories of legumes like split peas, lentils and butter beans don’t need soaking to cook evenly.