Beans — pinto, navy, black, kidney, and garbanzo are just a few. As I write this, I keep hearing that little ditty, “Beans, beans the musical fruit/The more you eat, the more you toot!”

Beans have gotten a bad rap for giving us gas. If you’re not used to eating beans, start off slowly and gradually increase how much you eat to avoid stomach pain and flatulence.

Beans are nature’s most perfect food. Beans are a great source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Plus, they tend to be low in fat.

A diet rich in beans may help reduce heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Beans are a great source of magnesium and potassium, key minerals for your heart. According to the National Institutes of Health, potassium naturally removes excess sodium and water from our bodies, which reduces blood pressure.

If you have diabetes, try adding more beans to your diet. Beans are full of fiber and are low on the glycemic index. Because beans are absorbed at a slower rate, they will keep our blood sugar more balanced.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating 1 cups of beans per week, or three servings. However, most will eat less than one serving each week.

Beans are so versatile and can be used in a lot of different recipes. When “Cooking with Karen” class takes place, we will be making some sort of recipe that uses beans. They are a great source of protein and can replace any meat in soups, tacos, or casseroles.

You can find dried beans close to the rice in the grocery store. One local grocery store had a variety of very inexpensive dried beans. The unit price varied depending on the size of the bag: the larger the bag, the lower the unit price.

If you plan on using dried beans, soak them overnight and they will be ready to cook the next day. Cooking up a large batch of beans and freezing what you don’t use will be a time and money saver. Be sure to label containers, and beans can be frozen up to six months.

According to the Nutrition Facts, serving size was cup dried beans, with a 32-ounce bag carrying 28 servings with 100 calories and 4 mg sodium. Likewise, canned beans have the same nutritional value with little to no prep work. Each can is 15 ounces, which is 3 servings, and serving size is cup at 90 calories, 190 mg sodium. One way to reduce the sodium is to drain and rinse beans.

Here is one of our favorite bean recipes:

Cowboy Caviar (Bean Salsa)

  • 1 can kidney beans, drained (15 oz.)
  • 1 can black beans, drain and rinsed (15 oz.)
  • 1 can corn, drained (15 oz.)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes, drained (15 oz.)
  • 1 can chopped green chilies, drained (4 oz.)
  • cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 3 limes, juiced (optional)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)

1. Mix beans, corn tomatoes, chilies and onion in a large bowl.

2. Add lime juice, oil, salt and pepper; toss gently to combine.

3. Serve it by itself or with corn chips.

Note: You can spice it up by adding cumin, chili powder, colored sweet peppers or jalapeo.

McDougall is the SNAP-Ed program assistant at the Ohio State University Extension of Hancock County.