Beans, grains are bottom line of nutrition, and they're getting more attention lately, thanks to the new Food Pyramid nutritional guide

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September 02, 1992|By Dotty Griffith | Dotty Griffith,Dallas Morning News

Beans and grains are the bottom line of nutrition.

Best known as starches, more accurately called complex carbohydrates, grains such as rice, barley and corn are timeless foods.

They're getting a lot more attention lately, thanks to the new Food Pyramid nutritional guide recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the revised nutritional graphic, grains form the very foundation of the Food Pyramid.

Beans are a low-fat source of protein, so together with grains, these foods can make up the bulk of an enlightened diet. Beans and grains can be combined in salads, or used separately as the base of salads containing meats or vegetables. You can also add beans and grains to a vegetable salad to make it more filling.

In combination, beans and grains can give the same protein benefit as meat, fish or fowl, usually with less fat. And beans and grains, combined with a small amount of meat, fish or fowl, make a little protein go a long way.

"Using meat or fish as a garnish helps to provide a balanced complement of amino acids [the building blocks of protein]," says Sally Seubert, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

But watch out for high-calorie salad dressings and oversized servings, warns Ms. Seubert. Just because it's a salad doesn't mean it's low-calorie or low-fat. Salads with low-calorie dressings or with small amounts of dressing have the leanest nutritional profile.

Rice is perhaps the most familiar salad grain. But barley, bulgur used in tabbouleh, corn and new exotics such as quinoa also make wonderful salads. They combine well with black or red beans, as well as pintos, cannellinis or lentils.

Dallas cooking instructor Anita Frank says she likes salads based on beans, grains and rices because they satisfy without feeling heavy. At the same time, they're more substantial than a salad made up primarily of greens.

Ms. Seubert says: "Usually, a low-fat meal is digested and absorbed in less time. But a small volume meal with meat or fish will be digested faster than a meal from an all-you-can-eat salad bar when you eat all you can eat."

Getting enough protein in the diet isn't a problem for most Americans, but getting protein without animal fat is sometimes a challenge.

That can be accomplished by combining beans with grains or rices.

Once , the prevailing belief held beans and grains had to be eaten at the same time to realize protein benefits. Now scientists believe as long as beans and grains or rices are eaten within a few hours the nutritional benefits are the same.

A salad with grains, beans or rice and perhaps a small amount of meat or fish can be a one-dish meal, cool and easy to fix and to digest. Add a piece of bread and some fruit or a bit of cheese. The bottom line is simple food for summer's waning days.

The following recipes are from "Gourmet Grains, Beans and Rice" by Dottie Griffith (Taylor Publishing, 1992).

Chili bean and corn salad

Makes 8 servings.

2 (16-ounce) cans hot chili beans, drained

3 cups frozen corn with red and green peppers

4 medium ribs celery, thinly sliced, including leaves

1/2 cup picante sauce

fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

Combine beans, corn, celery and picante sauce. Set out at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

To serve immediately: Defrost corn in microwave. Cook on high (100 percent power) for half of recommended cooking time; or, cook in boiling water according to package directions. Drain and cool slightly before adding to salad.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, if desired.

Roma tomato, tuna and cannellini bean salad

Makes 2 servings.

1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 (6 1/2 -ounce) can albacore tuna packed in water, drained and broken into chunks

1/2 cup seeded and chopped cucumber

2 to 3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or to taste

2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried

salt and pepper to taste

lettuce leaves

Combine beans, tuna, cucumber, tomatoes and onion in a large bowl.

Combine lemon juice and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Stir in basil.

Add to salad and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Line plates with lettuce leaves and spoon salad onto lettuce.

This recipe is from "Quick Vegetarian Pleasures."

Lentil salad

Makes 4 servings.

1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed

5 cups water

1 bay leaf

1 celery rib, finely diced

1 carrot, minced

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1/4 cup fruity olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, pressed or minced

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, combine lentils, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, 15 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still crunchy. Stir occasionally.

Pour into a colander and discard the bay leaf. Drain the lentils well for 5 minutes to be certain all the water has drained away.

Place the lentils in a serving bowl and gently stir in the celery, carrot, onion and parsley.

Mix olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, cumin, salt and pepper. Pour over lentil mixture and carefully toss. Serve at room temperature.

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