However, last year I got on this "bean" kick and started to increase the use of beans in my family's diet. I know, you are probably saying what my two youngest said, "we'll never be able to breathe around here."
One can go buy canned beans and get some nutritional value from those, plus a lot of sodium, but the real healthy beans are the dried beans. Let me offer some tips to make your experience better.
Soak beans in at least twice as much water as you have beans for about 12 hours. Do not add salt. Discard the water and rinse well. You can try sprouting the beans at this point, which also relieves the gas problems when you eat your sprouted beans. When you cook a sprouted bean, it will smell like corn on the cob cooking. If you don't want to sprout beans, then you can cook them in your crockpot for about 8-10 hours. Now you can add your salt, if desired. Once the beans are cooked to your likeness (soft and mushy, or with a slight crunch) you are ready to add any seasonings to make soups or chili's with them. One thing I really like is to take those beans and puree them. I take that bean puree and sneak it into just about every meal I prepare. My kids ate more beans than they ever knew, and no gas problems. My youngest son went to culinary school and loves to make bean dip for veggies and chips. It is excellent. This would be great to add to smoothies to help keep your stomach feeling full longer, give you the protein your body needs, and provide lots of healthy benefits.
(TIP: Hummus is made of Chick peas which are beans)
FOOD STORAGE TIP: If you're beans are older, then instead of cooking your beans in the crockpot, pressure cook them. My beans are probably 15 years old, and the crockpot doesn't cut it for cooking the beans. They are still really hard. I pressure cook them at 17 pounds of pressure for about 45 minutes to an hour. Lentils do not need to be pre-soaked. They will cook up in about 15-20 minutes on the stove. I just boil them in water until they are done to my likeness...more on the mushy side.
WHY USE THEM: Beans provide anti-aging benefits. Small red kidney beans rated the highest just ahead of blueberries for antioxidant protection. Beans help lower cholesterol levels, help regulate blood sugar levels, help reduce the risk of many cancers, besides providing many vitamins and minerals. Not to mention the fiber that they give your body to help regulate your body functions.