The 68th UN General Assembly recently announced that 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses. A pulse is essentially a fancy-schamcy way of calling anything that comes in a pod, including all beans, peas and lentils. These little pods of joy are not only packed full of essential nutrients (plant-based proteins, and amino acids) that help support a healthy diet as well as aid in chronic disease prevention and management, they’re also known to promote skin health. Awesome, right?
Unfortunately, to the general population (or could it just be me..?) the thought of green peas doesn’t necessarily scream culinary genius but rather a very specific scene from a movie that I watched as a pre-teen (way too young to be watching a movie like that mind you) on a dare involving some very graphic demon-possessed projectile vomiting. Green peas weren’t my thing before seeing that movie, and Regan most certainly made sure I’d never touch that stuff since then. Well, if green peas aren’t your thing, per se, there are plenty of other types of pulses out there. Why not try lentil? While the healthy plant is well-known in the weight-loss world as a super food, its association with a
deprivation-prone diet has me basically shoving it to the back of my fridge along with kale. So the second famous pulse is a no go. Should I just give up on pulses and all their nutritional benefits once and for all?
Just when I was about to give up on my quest to find a delicious yet nutritious pulse (uh, not quite taking the Ring to Mordor but still, a quest nonetheless), my Asian heritage spoke up. Among the various different types of pulse crops, there is one that’s been a staple in Chinese/Japanese cuisine, the Adzuki Bean, also known as the Red Bean. The red bean, getting its name from its reddish brown exterior, has long been a main ingredient in many Chinese and Japanese dishes (especially in desserts). As the 6th most grown crop in Japan and China, the red bean is mostly grown in climates similar to soybeans, such as south China, Korea, New Zealand, India, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines. It is often mushed into paste with sugar, water, and other a few other ingredients and used as a dessert filling (especially in Japan). It is often consumed directly with little or no processing, making it one of the super foods that’s super easy on your digestive systems (and we all know a smoothly functioning digestive system means clear and healthy body/skin). On top of being easily digestible, here are a few more reasons why Adzuki Beans is the next it girl in super foods.
Super Power One: It’ll give you rosy cheeks.
What does Adzuki Beans and rosy cheeks have in common?
(Wait, I think I know this one.. it’s a duck?!) Can you guess it? Yes, it is the level of iron available in the blood stream. While you can fake it til we make it by using good blush (a girl’s best friend next to eyeliners), we can all concede that having naturally rosy cheeks and that pinkish hue in your skin undertone is the key element to a youthful and healthy looking skin. That naturally reddish gleam comes from the tiny blood vessels located in your dermis just beneath the surface, or more specifically, comes from the amount of oxygen present in that blood coursing through your veins. So how do we amp up the oxygen concentration in our blood? In order to transfer the oxygen you breathe in from your lungs to your tissues, your blood needs a higher concentration of hemoglobin, an iron-containing protein molecule in red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen (and CO2), as well as maintaining the shape of your healthy blood cells. About 70% of the body’s iron is found in the hemoglobin and when we don’t have enough of it, our blood lacks the ability to transport oxygen from the lungs to various parts of the body, giving our body the bluish, purplish hue that’s often described as ghastly , or as I’d like to call it the hot Vamp look. The more oxygen your blood is able to carry, the more vibrant the red is in your blood and in turn reflected on your skin as a rosy tint.
Of all the foods that contain iron (red meat for instance) Adzuki Beans are high on iron but low on fat content. In fact a cup of these red beans would yield 26% of your recommended daily intake of iron with 0% of fat (while equal amounts of steak yields roughly 19-47 grams of fat). Furthermore, the water soluble iron in the Adzuki Beans makes them easily digestible so that it doesn’t require too much effort on your body’s part to absorb the nutrition.
Super Power Two: It’s a de-bloating champion
When you have excess fluids in your tissues, the tissues expand causing you to look bloated. A common indicator, a trick I use every time I look in the mirror and find my ankles a bit chubby, is press down on your lower limb (constantly retaining water thanks to my long hours sitting in the office) for a few seconds, when you remove your finger, you should see a white imprint of it
(if it turns purple, you’ve gone a bit too far). If the imprint fades away within seconds, then you’re probably not retaining that much water (and you’re free to go about your business), if it’s slow to turn back to your regular color, then you’d know to lay off the salty pretzels. While water retention could be caused by a number of things (raging hormones during PMS, a sprained ankle from wearing new heels while shopping, remaining in the same position for an extended amount of time because you’re binge-watching House of Cards), and if it persists you should definitely seek medical advice from a professional, there is one home remedy you can try to help with your body’s natural abilities to expel water. This is where the red bean comes in. The Adzuki Beans contain saponin, a type of glycoside that got its name for its foaming properties, and a high concentration of Potassium, making it a potent natural diuretic. According to the ancient Chinese herbal medicinal dictionary, Shennong Compendium of Materia Medica, these little red pods of joy can help the movements in the small intestines, and work as excellent water expellers (ie. takes care of your monthly water retention issue).
In fact, to many Taiwanese and Chinese girls, a bottle of cooked Red Bean Water is the best antidote to cure most (if not all) of their period woes. While the iron replenishes the lost hemoglobin during Aunt Flow’s visit, the saponin and Potassium helps rid the body of the excess fluids it’s unwittingly accumulating during this time of the month. It is so popular that bottles of Red Bean Water, or powdered red bean for those who prefer to mix their own concoctions, are sold in supermarkets. I believe, however, that it’s always better to have the real deal rather than the canned (thanks to my terrifying experience with canned coconut water. Never. Again.), so here’s how you can make your own Adzuki Bean Water.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Half a cup of organic Adzuki Beans
5 cups of water
- Wash the Adzuki Beans thoroughly (place them under running water for a good few minutes). Drain and remove all the beans that’s been broken open.
- Place the beans in a pot and add water.
- Bring the water to a boil then turn down the heat to simmer.
- Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and pour (carefully!) into a thermos.
Note 1: Adzuki Bean Water works best when it’s warm so better take this neat.
Note 2: Save the beans for Adzuki Bean Soup (by adding a lot of raw sugar) and viola! you’ve got a great Asian dessert in time for this Chinese New Year! (ps. Leave me a message if you’re interested in the recipe)