Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow…

Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,
Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,
Can you or I or anyone know
How oats, peas, beans, and barley grow?
~ traditional British & American folk song,
#1380 in the Roud Folk Song Index

Well, they would grow — if I didn’t have The Thumb of Death. I can’t even keep plastic plants alive. Needless to say, I don’t do as much growing as I do eating. Why should we eat these little things? What kinds of nutrients and benefits do they have?

Let’s start with the easiest and most obvious benefit: they’re cheap and can be stored almost indefinitely as long as they’re kept safe from moisture. I have lots of containers of beans, lentils, rice, oats, and other grains (and grains includes pasta!) in my pantry. From a 1-lb bag of beans, I can make the equivalent of 2-3 cans, depending on the type of bean. What’s the trade-off? Convenience. If you want to use most dried beans, you’re going to have to soak them, and then go through the cooking process.

Bean Cooking Times

Beans (soaked) Saucepan Pressure Cooker*
Black Beans 1 to 112 Hrs. 5 to 8 Min.
Garbanzo Beans 1 to 112 Hrs. 5 to 7 Min.
Great Northerns 1 to 112 Hrs. 5 to 7 Min.
Lima Beans, Large 45 to 60 Min. Not Recommended
Lima Beans, Baby 1 Hr. Not Recommended
Navy or Small Whites 1 to 112 Hrs 5 to 8 Min.
Pink Beans 1 to 112 Hrs 6 to 8 Min.
Pinto Beans 1 to 112 Hrs 5 to 7 Min.
Red Beans 1 to 112 Hrs 6 to 8 Min.
Red Kidney Beans 1 to 112 Hrs 5 to 8 Min.
Soybeans 3 Hours 12 to 15 Min.
Beans (not soaked) Saucepan Pressure Cooker*
Black-Eyed Peas 1 to 112 Hrs. Not Recommended
Lentils 30 to 45 Min. Not Recommended
Split Peas, Green 30 to 45 Min. Not Recommended

The four major legumes known to ancient Rome lent their names to four powerful and prominent families. Fabius (fava beans), Piso (peas), Lentulus (lentils), and, of course, Cicero (chickpeas).

So, back to the more fun stuff. Beans and peas (grouped together as legumes, pulses, or seeds) have a high protein content. This is partly attributed to their friendly relationship with certain types of bacteria found in the soil. This bacteria colonizes the root systems of the bean plants, converting the nitrogen found in the soil into a form more useable by the plant. The plant is then able to convert it directly into amino acids, saving energy. These legumes also are very low in fat, usually less than 1g per serving. While comparable to meat in terms of calories, theres a huge difference. The calories in meat comes largely from saturated fats, while the calories in our bean buddies comes from carbohydrates — largely in the form of dietary fiber. Because of this high fiber content and their ability to hold water, beans make you feel fuller faster and for longer. This is why they’re a large component of “slow-carb” diets.

Use filtered water to soak and cook your beans and grains. Otherwise, the minerals present may prevent them from becoming tender. 

Most Americans consume less than 15g of fiber each day — barely half their recommended daily amount (that’s a lot of stopped-up people!). One cup of cooked beans contains about 12g of fiber. Do you remember the benefits of fiber from my kale post? And, of course, we can’t ignore the cancer-fighting properties of the multitude of antioxidants found in oats, grains, and legumes.

One of the first recommendations of your doctor, should you be told of high cholesterol or blood pressure, is to increase your consumption of oats. This is because of the insoluble carbs which absorb and hold water and lower our cholesterol levels. Whole grains of all types also have this useful ability of helping us maintain healthy blood pressure and weight levels, besides reducing the risk of heart disease, strokes, and certain types of cancers as well as asthma and diabetes (type 2).

Whole grains like quinoa, farro, and wheat help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as help prevent the development of diabetes and other health conditions. Whole grains are just that — whole. The bran, endosperm, and germ normally stripped away by the milling process are intact. This means that whole grains actually have fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin E — nutrients which traditional milled grains either lack or must be fortified with.

A really cool thing you can do with all these various seeds and grains is to sprout them. You can buy your own and find an online tututial or even buy sprout kits online. Sprouts have a nutritional value somewhere between the seed and the plant — usually higher in vitamin C and lower in calories than the seed form but higher in protein, iron, and the B vitamins than most vegetables. Sprouts of all types have a unique flavor of their own. Some are sweet because of the conversion of plant starch to sugars.

I just felt like I want to interject something again.
I hope you have a lovely day — carry on!

Other than chili or as a side dish, how can you use grains and beans? Easy peasy! Mix them into salads, sprinkle some on wraps, stir them into mashed potatoes, or use them to make snacks and desserts! Black bean brownies and chickpea blondies are decadent yet healthful treats. Or, if you want something more savory, how about some not-meatloaf? Or maybe my Beans & Greens Soup? A great way to enjoy your bowl of morning oats is by taking them on the go. Whatever you choose to do, try a variety!


Bean Cooking Time Chart: Central Bean. “Cooking Beans”. centralbean.com. Retrieved January 11, 2013 from http://centralbean.com/cooking-beans/#how-to-cook-dried-beans.

Barnard, Neal. (1993). Food for Life: How the New Four Food Groups Can Save Your Life. New York: Harmony Books.

Harvard. “Health Gains from Whole Grains”. Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved January 11, 2013 from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/health-gains-from-whole-grains/.

McGee, Harold. (2004). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York: Scribner.

Science Daily. “Health Benefits of Whole Grains Confirmed”. sciencedaily.com. Retrieved January 13, 2013 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070509161030.htm.

Stamos-Kovacs, Jenny. “Beans: Protein-Rich Superfoods”. WebMD.com. Retrieved January 9, 2013 from http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/beans-protein-rich-superfoods.

WHFoods.com. “Oats”. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Retrieved January 10, 2013 from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=54.


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