We all know that eating healthy, keeps us healthy. But it also helps lower pain levels by decreasing inflammation. It’s not always easy to know which foods succeed, while others fail, so here are two others to add to your list- lentils and beans.
Beans and lentils are an excellent source of protein, fiber and essential minerals. They also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Black beans, lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans and soybeans are all great sources of anthocyanins – that magical flavonoid that reduces inflammation. All beans can be part of a healthy diet, but because the contain phytonutrients that function as anti-inflammatory compounds helping to lower CRP, an inflammatory protein, they are especially important in combating the inflammation involved with chronic pain. They are also loaded with nutritious fibers and proteins.
Those of us who suffer from chronic pain can also feel run down, worn out and chronically fatigued. Beans and lentils can help improve energy. Unlike sweets that give a quick boost that increases inflammation and then cause a crash when depleted. Beans and lentils are a great source of fiber, iron and protein. They are low calorie, low fat and nutrient -dense so you feel full faster and stay that way longer.
Here are a few recipes to get you started:
Sauté 3 cloves of smashed garlic, and 1 cup each diced onion and poblano pepper in canola oil until caramelized. Season with salt, cumin, oregano and ancho chili powder. Transfer soaked beans to a pressure cooker pot with the onion mixture and cover with 2 parts liquid (water, broth or a mixture of the two) to 1 part beans. (If you started with 2 cups dried beans, use 4 cups liquid.) Secure the lid and bring to high pressure for 25 minutes. Let the pressure ease and test to see if the beans are tender. If they’re still tough at the center, cook longer. Season to taste. Terrific with brown rice, or in a tortilla and topped with sliced avocado and hot sauce.
Cannellini Beans with Shallots and Sage
Sauté 1 diced shallot and 2 cloves crushed garlic in olive oil until the shallot is caramelized. Season with salt and pepper and stir in ¼ cup minced sage and 1 bay leaf. Add pre-soaked cannellini beans to pot with a 2-to-1 ratio of liquid (water, broth or both) to beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, until beans are tender and creamy. Serve with roasted mushrooms.
Lemony Roasted Broccoli, Arugula and Lentil Salad
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line your largest rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy-clean-up. Cut the broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces. Trim the ends off the sprouts; cut the small sprouts in two through the stem, and the large sprouts into quarters. Toss the florets and sprouts in the olive oil so they are lightly coated, and sprinkle with the salt. Spread the florets and sprouts in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, tossing halfway, until the vegetables are crisp-tender and well caramelized on the edges.
In the meantime, bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the lentils. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape. Drain off any excess water. Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients while the roasted vegetables and lentils cool a bit .In a large serving bowl, combine the roasted vegetables, cooked lentils and arugula. Drizzle with vinaigrette, sprinkle in the Parmesan and toss well. Taste and add more lemon juice (for more zing), salt (for more overall flavor), and/or pepper, if needed. This salad is best served immediately.
Soak and cook pinto beans on the stove top or in a pressure cooker with water, a bay leaf and three sprigs of thyme, until just tender. Drain beans and reserve 2 cups cooking liquid. On the stovetop, sauté 1 diced onion, 1 diced Serrano pepper and 3 cloves minced garlic in canola oil until translucent. Add to slow cooker with cooked beans, 1 small can diced tomatoes, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon molasses, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon dry mustard. Season with salt and add enough water to just cover the beans. Turn slow cooker on high for 6 to 8 hours, until beans are tender and sauce clings to them.
Lemony Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Radish and Herbs
Pick over the lentils to remove any bits of debris. Rinse the lentils under running water in a mesh colander. In a medium pot, combine the lentils, halved garlic cloves, olive oil and 4 cups water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the lentils are cooked through and tender, which will take somewhere between 20 to 35 minutes. Drain the lentils and discard the garlic cloves.
In a large serving bowl, combine the lentils, chickpeas, chopped radishes and herbs. Drizzle in the dressing and toss to combine. Serve with avocado, crumbled cheese or fresh greens if you’d like.
How to Soak Beans
Soaking dried beans pulls out some of the sugars that cause gas and helps the beans cook more evenly. Soak beans overnight or try these quick-soak methods:
Sort through 2 cups of beans and place them in a pressure cooker. Cover with 2 inches of water, secure the lid and bring to high pressure for 2 minutes. Let pressure release and then drain the beans. Or, on the stove top, bring 2 cups of dried beans covered with water up to a boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the beans covered for 1 hour.
Use with Caution
Use with caution if there is any allergy to beans or members of the legume family. Peanuts, for instance, are a legume and a common allergen. Some people who are allergic to one bean or legume are allergic to others. It can also be unsafe to eat large quantities of beans raw because they contain proteins called lectins. These proteins can cause severe food poisoning because they interfere with digestion and can lead to cyanide formation. Cooking the beans for at least 10 minutes destroys lectins so that they can be safely eaten.
The most common side effects of eating beans are gas and intestinal discomfort. These are not dangerous but can be unpleasant and even painful for some such as those suffering from irritable bowel symptoms (IBS). The risk of gas and other intestinal problems can be reduced by soaking beans and then discarding the water used for soaking, or sprouting, boiling, or pressure-cooking them. Digestive enzymes can also be taken to improve their digestion.
Whatever way you prefer your beans and lentils, including at least 2 or more servings to your diet every week may help decrease inflammation and ward off painful flares.