There’s a powerful superfood that’s often overlooked—black beans. If you think beans are boring, it’s time to take a second look at this pantry staple. Black beans embody the idea of food as medicine. They are more than just a good (and affordable) low-calorie source of plant-based protein and fiber; black beans are also nutritional powerhouses full of phytonutrients, folate, and other vitamins and minerals that are good for your overall health. Plus they’re super easy to add to your meals. Just throw them into a soup, stew, or salad.
Originally cultivated in the region stretching from Mexico to Central America, as well as the Andes Mountains of South America, beans were a key crop that helped give rise to the great civilizations such as the Maya and Incas, and many more indigenous peoples. Following the age of exploration, the exceptional nutritional value of beans was recognized and spread around the world.
Here in Havana—where I am researching and writing about food—black beans are a key part of the authentic local food scene. They are essential to traditional dishes, as stand-alone frijoles or combined with rice. Seasoned with salt, oil, onions, and sometimes bell pepper or fresh herbs, they make a delicious and satisfying dish. Beans are grown across the island, from the famously fertile farmlands of Pinar del Rio in the West to the rugged hill country of the Oriente in the East. Among their many superpowers, black beans can: