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Beans are packed with good things for good health including slow-digesting carbs, fibre (including the sticky ones that lower cholesterol), vitamins and minerals. But what makes them really stand out from the plant food crowd is their protein – typically 7–10 grams per half cup cooked dried beans.

Roasted Beetroot and White Bean Salad
Picture: Roasted Beetroot and White Bean Salad from The Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook (Hachette Australia)

Renowned for farts and jokes, the main culprits in beans are the large indigestible sugars (raffinose, stachyose and verbascose) which zip through the digestive system and arrive in the large bowel intact where the resident healthy bacteria enthusiastically ferment them and feast. That embarrassing gas is a natural outcome. Eating small amounts regularly helps your body acclimatize. And rinsing beans several times before soaking and cooking helps wash them away (the indigestible sugars are water soluble). Our word is “bean” and the Roman’s was “faba” – but they actually have a common ancestor, the Indo-European bhabh or bhabha which means “swollen” or “swelling”. Whoever had naming rights was spot on – beans are generous providers, swelling up in the cooking pot so that one cup of dried beans gives us two or three cups to serve. It’s no wonder they have made themselves at home in kitchens around the world in classic dishes, family favourites and vegetarian fare. Not only do they bulk things out, they thicken, add texture and colour, absorb flavours, make great partners, and are nourishing, frugal extenders making a little go a very long way.

Chia nutrition facts
 Source: The Good Carbs Cookbook