With their coats of many colors, dry beans are more than pretty packages. The skins -- in tints of sienna, earthly black, and red -- may deliver a potent nutritional boost. That means the lowly bean has joined the list of foods under the microscope. Researches have identified some surprisingly powerful substances tucked away in their skins. It turns out that beans contain eight flavonoids, plant substances that act as nature's dyes and give many fruits and vegetables their colors. Scientists say those plant chemicals act as antioxidants to give you some protection against certain cancers and heart disease. More research may lead to beans with more flavonoids, and a more powerful antioxidant effect. Meanwhile, some doctors suggest that the cooking liquid from beans be reused in soups. When you soak or cook beans, flavonoids leach into the liquids but aren't destroyed.
- Add a handful of intensely flavored ingredients, such as Parmesan cheese, bacon, or prosciutto, to perk up a humble bean dish.
- Use a canned variety of beans to cut cooking time to minutes. Rinse beans first to trim sodium levels. Rinsing also freshens the taste of canned beans.
- Combine tomatoes, which are high in vitamin C, with plant sources of iron, such as beans. Your body will absorb more of the iron.