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Recipes for Lean, Nutritious Beans: Stars in an Arthritis Diet

Try three different ways to dish up legumes to reduce inflammation and improve overall health.

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Low-calorie, nutrient-dense peas, beans and other legumes are a perfect addition to an arthritis diet. They are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties, and have even been found to help people with diabetes (about half of whom also have arthritis) manage their blood sugar, according to a 2012 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

“As someone who struggles with fibromyalgia, I love foods that make me feel nourished deep down, while making my body feel good and strong. Beans are that kind of food,” says recipe developer Lia Huber, founder and CEO of nourishnetwork.com. “They’re a great source of fiber, iron and protein, and low in calories and fat.” Huber sometimes replaces meat with beans. “It’s a terrific tactic for reducing inflammation and warding off painful flares,” she says.

Here are three of her favorite ways to prepare healthful beans.

Lia’s Black Beans

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 presoaked 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.

Barbecued Beans

Soak and cook pinto beans on the stovetop 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.

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 stovetop, 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.

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