Fresh Fridays

June 26, 2015
Vol. VII No. 13
Borlotti Beans
In This Issue
Mediterranean Bean Basics

Beans and other legumes, also known as pulses, are cornerstones of the Mediterranean diet, along with other vegetables and whole grains. In the Middle East and North Africa, it is common to eat stewed beans for breakfast with eggs, olives, and other fixings. In Middle Eastern countries, hummus, a chickpea spread, is a source of local pride and competition. The French have their flageolet beans and the Italians have their borlotti beans. In Greece, gigante beans steal the show. Beans are important to the Mediterranean diet because they are an excellent source of protein, very affordable, store well, and are filling and flavorful. 


Beans are anything but boring. Many of us recognize the usual pinto bean, kidney bean, and black bean, but there are over 13,000 varieties of beans. Many of these are heirloom, with names like calypso, rattlesnake, scarlet runner, and tongues of fire. Beans come in a swath of colors and patterns, and, thanks to increasing consumer demand, we are beginning to see more variety in grocery stores. The United Nations even declared 2016 the "International Year of Pulses" to raise awareness for pulses as a sustainable, nutritious, and versatile crop. We may have even more beans to choose from at the store in the near future.


Despite all they have going for them, beans are often overlooked in the standard American diet. According to the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, Americans need to consume more nutrient-dense foods like beans instead of foods with added fats and sugars. They also recommend beans as a solution to a lack of vegetables and fiber in many diets.


Beans are an excellent source of fiber, folate, and protein, contain iron, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, and are associated with reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and digestive disorders. According to a study published in Circulation, replacing red meat with beans as a protein source was associated with 32% lower risk of coronary heart disease. Beans have no cholesterol and are low in fat too. Eating beans may also help with weight loss by providing satiety, or fullness. A study in Obesity found that eating a meal with pulses, which include beans, made study participants feel more full than a meal without pulses. 


All of the health benefits of beans come at little cost. Although all types are relatively inexpensive compared to animal protein sources, choose dried beans if you want the most bang for your buck. A pound of dried beans costs about one dollar for 12 servings! They take a little bit more effort to prepare - most require soaking overnight and cooking for at least half an hour - but you can save time by preparing a big batch and saving a lot for later. Alternatively, use a quick-cook method if you forget to soak your beans ahead of time. Beans store well in an air-tight container in the fridge (up to five days) or freezer (up to six months). Add them to grain, pasta, and vegetable dishes you cook throughout the week. 


That being said, canned beans are a convenient option when you need beans in a pinch. Check out our 12 Great Ways to Use Canned Beans for recipe ideas. Beans are equally nutritious from a can, frozen, or dried, as long as you buy low-sodium canned and frozen beans and rinse before eating. Draining and rinsing canned beans can reduce sodium by 41%.


Be sure to include whole grains in your diet to complement your bean intake. Together, beans and whole grains make a complete protein source that can take the place of animal proteins.


Below are a few delicious recipe ideas to add more beans to your diet. You'll be reaping the benefits of beans in no time!


Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipe. 

Navy Bean Salad


This refreshing bean salad is delicious chilled. Leave it in the fridge for a few hours to let the beans soak up the citrus flavor and cool you down on a hot summer day.


Recipe and photo courtesy of Kath Eats Real Food for the American Pulse Association.


Garbanzo Bean Salad


Sun dried tomatoes, chickpeas, and artichokes make this salad a delectable Mediterranean treat. It is perfect for picnics and packs well for lunch at work. 


Recipe and photo courtesy of Mooney Farms


Gigante Beans


Look for bags of large white dried beans at any store that sells Mediterranean foods. Allow time to soak the beans for at least eight hours. And, once they're cooked, freeze some for a meal down the road.


Recipe from Oldways. Photo:


Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be. 

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        





Let the old ways be your guide to good health and well-being.       



Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter  

Find us on Pinterest   

Bean by Bean
by Crescent Dragonwagon

From old friends like chickpeas and pintos to rediscovered heirloom beans like rattlesnake beans and tapers, from green beans and fresh shell beans to peanuts, lentils, and peas, Bean by Bean is the definitive cookbook on beans.


The Great Vegan Bean Book
by Kathy Hester

In The Great Vegan Bean Book, author Kathy Hester primes you on everything you need to know about the best way to cook - and eat! - every bean you've ever seen (and a few you probably haven't). Although the book is intended to help vegans get creative in the kitchen, these recipes will satisfy everyone.


by Martha Rose Shulman

In this authoritative and anecdotal cookbook, award-winning author Martha Rose Shulman captures the vibrant flavors of the Mediterranean region in more than 500 delicious vegetarian dishes that will appeal to everyone. Many of the recipes feature beans - Proven�al Chick Pea Salad, for example - cooked in traditional ways.