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Healthy Tip: Eating Those Wonderful Whites

Two years ago, I took my first trip to France. Landing in Paris on the morning of my birthday and driving to a Chateau in the Loire valley was the best birthday present I could think of! The hosts at the Chateau planned a special birthday dinner. I had no idea what to expect, but what I got was an unforgettable meal of roast duck, fresh vegetables and the creamiest, most delicious white beans I have ever tasted. Now, of all the beans there are in this world, white beans are my all-time favorites. I love them in soup with carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. I love them in hummus, I love them in salads, and I really, really love them in a winter-warming bowl of my own special version of Cassoulet. White beans come in several varieties — the most recognized are Navy beans, Cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, and Haricot beans. They range in color from very white to pale green and can be found in many popular dishes from around the world. They’re packed with plant protein and soluble fiber (the kind that helps keep cholesterol healthy). They contain iron, magnesium and folate. They are naturally low in sodium, low in fat and high in versatility. When paired with whole grains, they provide quality plant protein and all-around good nutrition, whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat eater. You can purchase white beans dried or canned. If you go with canned beans, be sure to look for low sodium varieties with no added chemicals, sugars or preservatives. Canned beans are great to keep on hand for quick meals and snacks, but if you have some time, cooking a batch of your own white beans can be very rewarding. Here’s a simple  recipe for “Learn To Cook: White Beans.” Want to enjoy some delicious white beans? Start here:
  • Add to sautéed carrots, zucchini or leafy greens, like in this Sautéed Greens with White Beans and Garlic.
  • Add them to cooked whole grains.
  • Make a salad with cut veggies, white beans and your favorite salad dressing.
  • Add white beans to soups; try them in place of noodles in chicken soup. Here’s a recipe for Vegetarian Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup.
  • Eat them plain with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt or tamari, pepper and a pinch of cayenne.
  • Toss white beans into hot cooked pasta or your favorite pasta sauce. Or, indulge yourself with this recipe for Penne with White Beans and Shaved Asiago.
  • Try them in a stew. Here’s a recipe for Roasted Vegetable Stew with White Beans.
  • Cook white beans; stir in baby spinach leaves and sundried tomatoes while still hot!
  • Stir in to your favorite tuna salad.
  • If you’re in the mood for a hearty French stew, here’s a recipe for Cassoulet.
  • Make hummus with white beans. Delicious with whole grain pita bread, juicy red ripe tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, slivers of fresh basil and a sprinkling of feta cheese.
  • Serve them along with chicken like in this Chicken Toscana with White Beans.
  • Use them in bean dip recipes. Great with fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme.
You know, now that I think about it, our age-old American love affair with baked beans wouldn’t be what it is without the addition of white beans! Try this Classic Baked Beans for delicious proof. Got a favorite way to enjoy white beans? Let me know!