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Q. I am looking at a package of black beans and it says one serving contains 70 calories, but it also contains 9 grams of protein (9g X 5 cal/gram = 45 calories) and 23 carbohydrates (15g fiber). 23 g X 5 cal/gram = 115 calories.

How can this be? 45 + 115 = 160 calories. It’s confusing, ad I am trying to feed a diabetic, and I need to know how to figure this stuff out. Are there 115 calories or 70 calories as listed on the label?

A.To calculate total calories in foods, the general 4-4-9 formula has been used for many years. One would multiply the known weight of carbohydrate and protein by 4 (not 5!) and the know weight of fat by 9, then add the numbers together for the total calories of food. It is a good reference formula to calculate an approximate total calories for foods but it is not exact and usually overstates actual calories.

Until recently, most reported values for calories were calculated by using the 4-4-9 formula. Manufacturers and labs are now able to use other methods to more accurately report calories in foods, including the Atwater Factors or a modified 4-4-9. The modified 4-4-9 formula subtracts the weight of the insoluble fiber from total carbohydrate before applying the 4-4-9 formula.

Thus, the packaged black beans calories would be 9 grams of protein and 23 grams of carbohydrates ( less the 15 grams of insoluble fiber) would equal 9 plus 8 equals 17 x 4 equals 68 calories. Insoluble fiber is resistant to absorption into the body; therefore it moves food quickly through the digestive system…thus no calories. Hope this helps.

Q. I am trying to lower my cholesterol level and have been told that cooked dry beans can lower one’s cholesterol. Is this information correct?

A.Yes, dry beans are extremely high in soluble fiber, the type of fiber that has significant cholesterol lowering effects. Studies have shown that eating a variety of cooked dry beans in amounts ranging from 1/3 to 1 cup daily, lower serum cholesterol concentrations from 5 to 18 percent. Think of cooked dry beans as cholesterol “sponges” and send them through your system 4 times or more a week! Ideas for eating beans more often: Chili with beans Bean soups Choose bean salads more often Top salads with beans Add beans to casseroles, canned soups, Sloppy joes, tacos. Pork & beans as a side dish (take out The pork).

Q.My kids do not like dry cooked beans. I would like to get my kids to eat healthier and include cooked dried beans. Do you have any suggestions?

A.Kids love dips. Rinse and drain can of pinto or kidney beans. Blenderize with salsa into a dip and offer with baked tortilla chips. Add mashed beans to meatloaf and sloppy joes. They’ll never guess that they are eating healthy beans in their favorite foods. Also, offer baked beans often.

Q.Would you explain the importance of folic acid in one’s diet? Do cooked dry beans contain this B-vitamin? 


A.Folic acid (also known as folate or folacin) is a B-vitamin that helps to make new body cells and is important in forming hemoglobin in red blood cells. Additionally, researchers have found that folic acid supplementation prior to conception helps women lower their risk of delivering a baby with neural tube defects such as spinal bifida. Folic acid also plays a role in reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood. Excess amounts of homocysteine (an amino acid), is toxic to blood vessels, and researchers have shown that there are a greater risks of heart disease and stroke with high homocysteine blood levels. Experts recommend 400 mcg per day. 1 cup cooked dry beans contains approximately 260 mcg.

Q.When cooking dry beans, I can’t seem to get the beans to soften. What am I doing wrong? 


A.First, always try to buy fresh dry beans. Also, don’t add anything to the beans other than fresh water. Salt and acidic ingredients like tomatoes, citrus juice, vinegar, wine, mustard inhibit the absorption of liquid and stop the softening process while soaking and cooking the beans. Add such ingredients only after the beans have softened to your desired liking.

Q. I understand you can add something (a potato, baking soda, etc.) to pinto beans while they are cooking to reduce the gas effect – can you tell me what it is and how much?

A. Many say that adding baking soda or potato reduces gas/flatulence from eating cooked dry beans. It may work on some, but usually not. Humans lack alpha-galactosidase, the enzyme necessary to digest the complex sugars fround in beans. Proper soaking and cooking can get rid of some of their gas-producing potential. That means rinsing after soaking and cooking to get rid of the gas-producing sugars that are removed from the beans as they are soaked or cooked. Cooking beans to a very tender stage will break down the complex sugars. Adding beans gradually to your diet (1 to 2 tablespoons) at a time to start with and than gradually 1/2 cup plus as your system becomes accustomed to them. Eating beans more often, nutritious, high fiber, high protein, low-glycemic, high folic acid, cooked dry beans will aid in the digestion. And last, there is a liquid enzyme preparation available in stores that can be used to lower the indicence of intestinal complaints after eating beans. Good luck and enjoy those beans.

Q. I am trying to add more beans to my diet in an effort to lose weight. Do you have any sort of guidelines that would help me substitue beans for meat? I have a hard time finding such a substituition guide.

A. 1/2 cup cooked (dry) beans or canned (dry) beans, drained, counts as 1 oz of lean meant, although beans are lower in fat. Also, 1/2 cup cooked beans could be substituted for 1 oz fish; 1 egg; 1oz low fat cheese. And also remember that beans are a nutritional bonanza with all their health benefits. Beans are a high source of fiber, low glycemic (thus a good Carbohydrate); high in folic acid; packed with vitamins as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin; substantial source of minerals as calcium, iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Enjoy!

Do you have a question about bean nutrition?

Ask our Registered Dietician. Email your questions to info@michiganbean.com

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