Have you ever eaten anasazi beans before? If you haven’t, you should strongly consider adding this cousin of the pinto bean to your diet.
The anasazi bean has a strong nutritional profile, marked by a high amount of iron per serving, as well as calcium, potassium and more. Anasazi beans also contain lectins, which researchers are finding potentially have anti-tumor, immunomodulatory, antifungal, antibacterial and even anti-HIV abilities.
Oh, and that’s not all. Anasazi beans are also cancer-fighting foods that simultaneously help fight diabetes naturally. So while anasazi is actually a Navajo word that means ancient ones or ancient enemies, but this bean should definitely be your friend when it comes to your health.
What Are Anasazi Beans?
Anasazi beans have been cultivated throughout generations of Southwestern Native American tribes in the U.S. and have also been harvested in the wild. Today these beans are commonly used in many Latin American and Southwestern cooking.
The Anasazi bean is very visually appealing with its burgundy and white colored speckles — they almost look like they’ve been splatter painted. This type of bean, which turns pink once cooked, tends to be sweeter and milder than other beans. They’re used in many refried bean recipes and other baked bean recipes.
These beans are packed with the typical healthy bean profile of protein, starches and fiber, as well as potassium and calcium. In fact, this cousin of the pinto bean, while having the same amount of fiber, actually has around a quarter less of the gas-causing complex carbohydrates of other beans and cooks in a third of the time.
Anasazi beans, or Phaseolus vulgaris cv., are harder to find than other beans, but their nutritional benefits are just as impressive. A half cup of raw Anasazi beans contains about: (7)
- 280 calories
- 52 grams carbohydrates
- 14 grams protein
- 2 grams fat
- 12 grams fiber
- 500 milligrams calcium (50 percent DV)
- 5.4 milligrams iron (30 percent DV)
- 680 milligrams potassium (19.4 percent DV)
1. Treat and Prevent Diabetes
The steady and slow source of glucose provided by the mix of carbohydrates, fiber and protein in Anasazi beans is great for diabetics. Studies have shown that a specific carbohydrate-binding protein in anasazi beans called lectin is a natural glucose-binder that is excellent for normal blood sugar management. (1)
While many types of lectins cause negative reactions in the body, there are also health-promoting lectins that can decrease incidence of certain diseases. Additionally, the body uses lectins to achieve many basic functions, including cell-to-cell adherence, inflammatory modulation and programmed cell death. Some lectins are antinutrients and toxic, but anasazi beans are a significant source of non-toxic lectin. (2)
2. Fight Cancer
Anasazi beans have antimutagenic and antiproliferative compounds that help decrease the risk of cancer as well as reduce of the spread of cancer. More specifically, when three leukemia patients were given the lectin extract from the anasazi bean during research, it was revealed that the protein compound in fact killed the leukemic cells in the patients’ blood that had become relapsed or drug-resistant. (3)
3. Improve Heart Health
The antioxidant capacity of the anasazi bean can be an important additive in your diet for heart health. The Phaseolus family of anasazi beans is a highly rich source of bioactive compounds as well as enzymes that reduce cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (what enables fats to be carried in the bloodstream), which benefits your cardiovascular system. (4)
4. Boost the Immune System
These heirloom beans contain lectin strands that have a strong ability to fight against certain autoimmune diseases. In a study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, the lectin in anasazi beans was shown to have potent anti-HIV properties.
Scientists showed that the Anasazi bean lectin inhibited HIV-1 reverse transcriptase. This is highly significant since without reverse transcriptase, HIV can’t become incorporated into the host cell and can’t reproduce. (5)
5. Combat Inflammation
One to two servings a day of anasazi beans can help toward reducing bodily inflammation, which triggers pretty much every kind of disease. Several studies have found that people who eat diets high in fiber have lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in their blood. CRP is the marker of inflammation that’s been linked to diseases like diabetes, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
High-fiber foods like beans can also decrease inflammation by lowering your body weight and feeding beneficial bacteria living in your gut, which then releases substances in your body that promote lower levels of inflammation. (6)
Anasazi beans are very high in fiber, which means that their consumption can help to lower CRP levels, increase beneficial bacteria, decrease body weight and, in turn, decrease overall inflammation in your body.
Anasazi Beans vs. Black Beans
How do anasazi beans stack up against other beans? Let’s take a look at how they compare to black beans.
- Anasazi beans have much lower levels of tannins and phytates than black beans.
- Anasazi beans have lower levels of purine than black beans for gout sufferers.
- Anasazi beans have 14 grams of protein per one cup cooked vs. black beans, which have 15 grams of protein per one cup cooked.
- Black beans and anasazis beans both contain iron and folate, which helps prevent anemia.
- Anasazi beans win when it comes to potassium with 680 milligrams (per one cup) vs. black beans with 611 milligrams of potassium (per one cup).
- Both are high in dietary fiber, which makes them both excellent for digestion, including constipation prevention, cholesterol levels and heart health.
- Anasazi beans have a unique and rich history. They’re also known as cave beans, New Mexican Appaloosa and Jacob’s Cattle.
- In the mid-1900s, archeologists found these beans in a clay pot while excavating a cave in the Southwestern U.S. Some stories say that those very beans had actually sprouted and were used to seed new strains of the bean.
- They’re now known as heirloom beans and are renowned as much for bringing back a taste of history as they are for their sweetness.
- Heirloom cultivars are important because they’re not used in large-scale agriculture but are in small and often isolated farming communities that have not disturbed the plant for large-scale production. This often gives these heirloom seeds a unique flavor and nutritional profile.
- Many of the heirloom vegetables and legumes are air pollinators and have been wildly cultivated throughout generations. This is particularly important for a legume such as the anasazi bean because the seeds become resistant to many pollutants, diseases, severe weather and pests.
How to Cook
Anasazi beans are best when purchased in the dried state and out of the bulk section in your local health food store, or at a reputable dealer online. You can also find them at the farmers market depending on where you live.
Check for beans that are shiny and firm with even coloring, which shows recent harvesting. You must soak them overnight before cooking the next day. They should also be picked through to sort out any debris or shriveled beans.
Anasazi beans are great because they take much less time to cook than other beans. You can quick soak them by pouring boiling water over them and letting them sit for an hour, or soak them in cold water overnight.
Once soaked, anasazi beans only need to be brought to a boil and then simmered in a covered pot for roughly 10 minutes to an hour depending on the recipe and preferred texture. They have a wonderful sweet meatiness to them that lends perfectly to stews and baking. They can also be cooked in hot water and seasoned. Anasazi beans can be used as a replacement bean in any dish calling for kidney or pinto beans.
Store the dried beans in an airtight container in a dark place. They will last indefinitely, but it’s best to consume within six months as they begin to fade in taste and start losing moisture. The fresher they are, the better and creamier they taste.
Anasazi beans are very versatile. Many of my recipes are just as tasty (or maybe even tastier?!) if you substitute Anasazi beans as the main bean in any of the following recipes:
You can also try these:
Risks and Side Effects
Anasazi beans are a great natural food that can have powerful, positive effects on your body’s health. As with all beans, they do have the potential to cause mild side effects like migraines due to tannins and intestinal gas.
However, this unique heirloom bean actually contains much less headache- and gas-producing compounds when compared to other beans.
- The anasazi bean has a strong nutritional profile, marked by a high amount of iron per serving, as well as calcium, potassium and more. Anasazi beans also contain lectins, which researchers are finding potentially have anti-tumor, immunomodulatory, antifungal, antibacterial and even anti-HIV abilities.
- Anasazi beans have also been shown to treat and prevent diabetes, fight cancer, improve heart health, boost the immune system, and combat inflammation.
- They make a great addition to many recipes, often used in stews, baking, and refried bean or baked bean recipes. They also take less time to cook than most other beans, making them a nutritious legume you can whip up even when you’re crunched for time.
- Even better, they cause less negative side effects like flatulence than other beans. That’s why anasazis are the recommended bean for people looking for legumes in their diets without the gassy, bloating side effects.