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.
The flavonoid factors are highest in red, black, and deep-colored beans. But all beans, including cream-colored navy beans and garbanzo beans, contain iron, folate, zinc, and a bit of calcium.
White Beans and Spinach Ragout This savory blend of bacon, cannellini beans and spinach is drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette, for this perfect low-cal side dish.