Cranberry beans belong to the glorious family of legumes known for their high nutritional value and numerous healthful properties. They have been cultivated for many centuries, spreading all over the world and gaining more and more popularity. It’s believed that this kind of beans was brought to the USA from England in the first part of the XIX century. What makes them outstanding among other kinds of beans is their richness in protein: they have the highest content of this essential nutrient of any plant-based food.
Beautifully colored, cranberry beans have a pleasant creamy texture and a flavor similar to that of chestnuts. Another distinguishing feature of this kind of beans is their extremely high content of vitamin B complex. Almost all vitamins of this group are found in them. In addition, they are a rich source of soluble fiber, essential minerals, and various substances with antioxidant properties. These facts explain why these beans are so beneficial for human health.
Health Benefits of Cranberry Beans
These beans are helpful in preventing and treating numerous ailments due to their great amount of health-beneficial nutrients. They speed up metabolic processes in the body, supply it with energy, and promote overall health. Here are the ways they achieve this:
- Enhance the body’s functioning.
Each 100g of beans provide you with about half of your daily requirement of protein – 23g (45%). This nutrient is a necessary building material for the body’s tissues and muscles. It takes part in the production of all the substances that the body needs for its proper functioning: cells, hormones, and enzymes. Vitamins B1, B2, and B3 play a great role in the process of metabolism, converting the energy of nutrients into the energy of the body. In addition, vitamins B3 and B5 help build DNA, RNA, and nerve fibers.
- Protect against cardiovascular disease.
Dietary fiber (24.7g per 100g) is one of the main instruments in lowering bad cholesterol levels, which protects your heart. Cranberry beans are full of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties which, together with Omega 3 fatty acids, also promote cardiovascular health. However, it’s potassium that is especially essential for this function. 100g of this plant contain 1,293g, or 37% of the daily value, of this mineral, which regulates water balance in the body, controls the work of the muscles, including the heart, and normalizes blood pressure.
- Prevent diabetes, or help with treating it.
The dietary fiber in these beans has a low glycemic index (14 points from 250). This means that they are digested slowly, and the carbohydrates are broken down into sugar at a slower pace as well, preventing insulin spikes after meals. People who suffer from diabetes can consume the beans to manage their blood sugar levels.
- Show anti-cancer properties.
A high content of useful nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals, promotes the overall health of the body, strengthening the immune system. B-complex vitamins and folate are vitally important for the synthesis of new cells in the body. Selenium and antioxidants, which are found in the beans, have shown the ability to inhibit the formation of cancer cells, according to recent studies.
- Are useful for pregnant women.
This property of cranberry beans is accounted to an extremely high content of folate (100g of the beans provide 147% of the daily value of this vitamin). This substance is important for the formation of DNA, RNA, blood cells, and certain amino acids in fetus. Eating these beans should be a must for pregnant women, as the deficiency of folic acid can result in various defects in newborns.
- Help cope with digestive problems.
Dietary fiber, especially insoluble fiber, works as a cleanser for the digestive system, warding wastes out of the body. This nutrient regulates the bowel movement and prevents constipation.
- Fight obesity.
Cranberry beans are rather low in calories – 326 per 100g. At the same time, the content of carbohydrates and fiber is high, which makes them more filling. This is beneficial for getting rid of spare pounds and managing weight.
- Improve blood.
Iron and copper are the main minerals which are responsible for the formation of blood cells and providing the body with oxygen. Vitamins B6 and folate also contribute to this process.
- Protect the nervous system.
Folate and magnesium are the nutrients that render this protection. Folate is needed for the production of specific amino acids which are essential for the work of this part of the body. Magnesium regulates blood pressure and calms down the nervous system.
What to Cook with Cranberry Beans
The most popular and common way of cooking cranberry beans is to boil them. Boiled beans are used in a wide range of dishes: salads, casseroles, soups, pasta, stews, and cakes. They may be used for preparing bean spreads and snacks. In Italy, they are traditionally served with olive oil, lemon juice, and chopped fresh parsley. Sometimes, olives and cheese are added. The beans go well with different vegetables and whole grains, making great combinations of taste and nutritious value. You can bake beans as well as puree them, making the basis for wholesome meals. Experts advise to add herbs such as sage, bay, cilantro, ginger, rosemary, basil, and celery as seasonings.
Some Tips on How to Cook the Beans
Dishes with cranberry beans are not very complicated in preparation. As the basis of them is the cooked beans, it’s necessary to observe certain rules of cooking them in order to reveal their best qualities:
- Spread the beans in a thin layer and remove small rocks, debris, and spoilt ones. Rinse them in cool water.
- Soak the beans. Although it’s not obligatory, it’s better to soak them. This allows them to cook more quickly and evenly, and they will be easier to digest. You can use either a cold soak or a hot one. Put the beans into a large saucepan and pour cool water over them until it covers them by 3 inches. The soaking process will take 6 to 8 hours. You can also soak them overnight. Drain and rinse the beans. Now they are ready for cooking.
You can shorten the time of soaking with a hot soak, but this may slightly impair their quality: they may not become fully hydrated. For a hot soak, put the beans in a saucepan, pour water in similarly, and bring them to a boil. Let them boil for two minutes, then take them away from the heat, and wait for 1 to 2 hours.
- Use fresh water for preparing the beans. The water in which they have been soaked may have substances that cause flatulence.
- Don’t keep them boiling, but just simmering, to preserve them whole.
- Don’t add salt and acids until they become soft. Otherwise, the beans may become tough.
- Add seasonings such as herbs, garlic, and onion at the beginning of cooking.
Where to Buy and How to Choose Cranberry Beans
Ideally, beans should be used within a year after they have been harvested. If you buy packaged beans, read the food label with the date of packaging attentively. Try to buy beans in a store with a good turnover so that you’ll have a better chance of buying fresh ones. When buying beans, pay attention to their appearance. They should be even in size, shape, and color. Ensure that the beans are not split or wrinkled. Check that they are not damaged by insects, i.e., that there are no tiny holes on their surfaces.
How to Store the Beans
Cranberry beans should be stored in a cool, dry place in an airtight container. Try to use them within 6 months, because old beans take more time to be cooked, and they lose some of their useful qualities. Cooked beans can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator in a glass, porcelain, or stainless steel container with a tight cover. You can also freeze cooked beans and keep them in a freezer for up to 6 months.