Let’s first make a premise: canned foods are often considered B-grade foods and sometimes even harmful. In fact, if the cans are damaged and badly stored, they can release toxic substances such as BPA. Moreover, additives or salt and sugar can be added to foods in large quantities.
It is therefore important to purchase quality products, perhaps preferring products stored in glass jars or food cartons. If we do not use all the content of the can, we have to put the remaining part in a clean container and store it in the fridge for up to two days. We also have to read the labels carefully to make sure there are no unnecessary and potentially harmful things to our health. In the case of beans, therefore, the content must be only beans, water and a minimum amount of salt.
From a nutritional point of view, canned legumes do not have much to envy to the fresh product. In fact, they keep the quantities of iron, carbohydrates, fibres and vitamins almost intact; the protein intake is lower due to the pasteurisation process, so if you are on a vegan diet it is good to eat fresh legumes as well.
Having said so, to store canned legumes in the pantry is still like having an ace up your sleeve during a poker game. Being pre-cooked, in a very short time it is possible to prepare nutritious salads, excellent side dishes, tasty soups and fantastic pasta.
Among all the legumes, my favourite ones are beans and, in particular, two qualities extremely widespread in Italy, borlotti and cannellini beans.
Borlotti beans have white and red streaked pods and are rich in potassium, calcium and zinc. Once cooked, the borlotti beans have a brown skin and a tender but firm flesh. They are perfect for a nice summer salad with tomatoes or for a classic pasta e fagioli.
The cannellini beans are instead white, small and cylindrical in shape. They have a very high protein content and a very low glycemic index. Their taste is delicate and they are perfect for creams to accompany fish and shellfish, but also stewed as a side dish and especially in the traditional Tuscan “ribollita“, a wonderful soup in which cannellini beans are combined with potatoes, black cabbage, bread and pecorino cheese.