Rice and beans are highly convenient foods. They can be easily stored as a supply, are relatively cheap, and provide valuable nutrients. This makes them helpful food resources in times of world hunger and other crisis situations. How can sensibly integrate the two fillers into our diet and what needs to be considered when preparing them is the subject of the following.
Staple rice and beans
Rice is a staple food for more than half of the world’s population. The rice plant from the sweet grass family has been cultivated in Southeast Asia for around 7,000 years. Their importance can be seen in the identical designation of rice and meal in many Asian languages.
The Japanese, for example, enjoy an above-average, long and healthy life compared to other societies. In Ayurveda, rice symbolizes health, fearfulness, and wealth. As a wedding custom, throwing rice is also known in the western world and represents the wish of a large family.
Beans have also been cultivated for around 7,000 years. Especially in Central and South America, legumes dominate meals as a cheap filler. In the European Middle Ages, beans were eaten every day before they were replaced by potatoes. Think of Costa Rica’s national dish, Gallo pinto, or Indian dal, and many traditional cuisines seem to instinctively combine rice and legumes into one nutritious dish.
Reason enough for us to take a look at the nutritional composition of rice and beans.
Beans – protein suppliers in stock
For a long time, beans were ridiculed as poor people’s food. In the meantime, however, legumes have been rediscovered by modern kitchens because they can be used in many ways and are extremely filling. This is mainly due to their high protein content. Beans (e.g. broad beans, black beans, lima beans, kidney beans) can always hold a candle to the “classic” protein supplier meat.
Depending on the variety, the protein content of the bean is 21 to 24 percent. Animal protein sources such as veal, poultry, or fish lag behind with a protein content of 18 to 21 percent. As a vegetable protein, beans can particularly enrich vegetarian and vegan diets and can also be easily stored as long-term food.
Beans provide plenty of iron, folic acid, and fiber
Apart from the vegetable protein argument, beans also provide a variety of B vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. The iron content is particularly noteworthy. Just 100 g of dried beans contain around 10 mg of iron, which corresponds to the recommended daily amount for an adult.
Even spinach, the vegetable source of iron per se, is inferior to the bean with around 3 mg/100 g. Since it is inorganic iron (i.e. iron not bound to hemoglobin), absorption can be improved in combination with vitamin C (e.g. lemon juice).
Beans can counteract the widespread folic acid deficiency, which is often caused by an unbalanced diet and overcooking vegetables. One serving covers the recommended daily amount of folic acid of 200 µg for an adult. Especially during pregnancy, when the folic acid requirement increases to 400 µg, delicious bean dishes are ideal. An increased intake of folic acid can also be useful for heart diseases.
Last but not least, beans support our intestinal health with lots of fiber. A quantity of just 100 g (dry weight) provides us with around 15 g of these helpful plant fibers. This corresponds to more than half of our daily fiber requirement (25 g). Beans are also considered natural cholesterol-lowers. Their potassium content can regulate high blood pressure and the contained B vitamins B3 (niacin) and B5 (pantothenic acid) protect the skin and mucous membranes.
Brown Rice – Complex carbohydrates for stock
With around 8,000 varieties of rice, it’s easy to lose track. The main difference is between brown natural rice (whole grain rice) and industrially processed white rice (husked or polished rice). In detail, there are types of long-grain rice (e.g. basmati), medium-grain rice (e.g. sticky rice), and short-grain rice (e.g. risotto rice). All varieties are low-fat, gluten-free, and therefore easy to digest.
Unlike husked white rice, the complex carbohydrates in unhusked brown rice keep us full for longer and keep our blood sugar levels balanced. In addition, whole-grain rice has a clear nutritional advantage. In order to ensure a longer shelf life, it is common practice, especially in tropical countries, to remove the silver skin from the grain of rice.
With this silver skin, however, the rice also loses a large part of the proteins, vitamins, trace elements, secondary plant substances, and roughage.
Brown whole grain rice, on the other hand, provides significant amounts of the B vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6, which are involved in all metabolic processes, as well as vitamin K. Vitamin E, is supposed to protect our body against free radicals as an antioxidant.
We can also fill our calcium, zinc, and iron stores with regular consumption of natural rice. However, parboiling shows that processing methods do not necessarily reduce the value of food.
Parboiled Rice – The nutrient-rich alternative
Wholegrain grouches who do not want to do without rice in their diet will find parboiled rice a wholesome alternative to polished rice, which is low in vital substances. Parboiling is an industrial pre-cooking process in which brown rice is first soaked and then treated with steam. This method transports around 80 percent of the vital substances from the outer layers into the inner grain.
Then the rice is peeled. As a result, we get white rice (e.g. parboiled basmati) that is almost as rich in vital substances as natural whole-grain rice.
In addition, the structure of the rice starch changes as a result of parboiling. The almost transparent rice is less sticky and therefore easier to digest. The cooking time is also reduced to around 20 minutes. Another advantage of parboiled rice over whole grain rice is the phytic acid that is largely broken down during processing.
Phytic acid blocks vital substance utilization
Both brown rice and legumes contain phytic acid. This secondary plant substance is mainly found in the outer layers of the grains and beans. It serves as an energy source for growing seedlings. Phytic acid, on the other hand, is counterproductive for our diet, since it can bind the ingested minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium in our digestive tract in an insoluble manner.
A preparation that breaks down phytic acid is therefore crucial for optimal utilization of the vital substances from rice and beans.
Prepare beans and rice properly
Rice and beans should be soaked before cooking to strip them of their natural phytic acid. This is the only way we can really utilize the valuable nutrients of these two sources of energy. It is best to soak both overnights for about 8 hours (ideally 24 hours).
This not only reduces the phytic acid significantly but also reduces the cooking time (approx. 30-40 minutes). However, do not use soaking water containing phytic acid for cooking, but fresh, ideally filtered water. If necessary, salt should only be added after cooking, otherwise, the cooking process will be delayed. If you now combine rice and beans in one dish, you will also benefit from the optimal biological value of the two vegetable proteins!
Rice and beans combined for optimum biological value
The biological value of protein depends on the composition of its amino acids. The ideal combination of amino acids in food has a biological value of 100. The plant-based bean protein does not have all the essential amino acids and is therefore given a value of 51 percent.
In comparison, the biological value of eggs is 89 percent. The protein in beans is significantly enhanced when eaten with other plant-based foods that contain the amino acid methionine. Rice is such a food. The combination of beans and rice, as is common in Latin America, results in a full protein in one meal.
Rice and Beans: Proper Long-Term Food Storage
At best, buy organic rice and beans, in larger quantities from specialized dealers. These goods are usually perfectly cleaned, dried, and well-packaged. Not only are you equipped with long-term food for all eventualities, but you can also rely on good quality.
If stored correctly, i.e. in a dry environment, protected from light as much as possible, and tightly sealed, rice and beans will keep for several years. It is best to store supplies of rice and beans in sacks or grocery boxes – but not in plastic bags.
Don’t buy canned beans. Instead, choose dried beans that you soak yourself. This way you can be sure of more nutrients and avoid exposure to aluminum from the cans, which studies have shown can cause Alzheimer’s disease in the long term.
Another point that is often forgotten when storing food is the regular renewal of stocks. Consistently use up your food reserves and replenish your stock with new foods – just as you do on supermarket shelves
Storage and fresh food at the same time?
Rice and beans can feed many people in even the poorest countries in the world. Due to their storability and long shelf life, they are also very useful as supplies or emergency reserves for crisis situations (e.g. war, famine). Properly selected and properly prepared, rice and beans can also contribute to a balanced diet in “affluent societies”.
Nevertheless, neither grains nor legumes should be considered a staple food. Last but not least, it is a matter of acidic metabolized foods whose comparatively high starch content can put a strain on our digestive system.
Fresh vegetables and fruit remain unbeaten leaders in vital substances and nutritional “lightweights”. As a side dish, rice and beans can be a useful addition to our meals.
At this point, we would like to mention food that is both ideal for storage and can also be a fresh and basic source of vital substances within a very short time: sprouts from germinated seeds.
Just like rice and beans, sprouted seeds can be stored for years and transformed into a fresh, alkaline meal full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants in just a few days with just a little water. Sprouting seeds are therefore considered a unique source of vital substances in every crisis package.
It is therefore worthwhile – not only as a precautionary measure – to create a varied stocked storage cellar with different legumes, rice varieties, and different germinating seeds.