​The history of black beans in the human diet goes back at least 7,000 years, and there are good reasons for modern humans to keep eating them. Studies have linked black bean consumption with protection from inflammation, heart disease and common nutrient deficiencies, according to draxe.com.

Black beans are high in fiber, which lowers cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of colon cancer and helps you feel full. They are rich in folate, quercetin and saponins - natural anti-inflammatories that protect blood vessels. Folate and saponins also prevent cancer cells from forming and multiplying.

And black beans contain selenium, an antioxidant which supports liver function, reduces inflammation and slows the growth of tumors.

As if that weren't enough, a cup of black beans also provides 15 grams of protein, and they are inexpensive and convenient.

Here's a summery dish that features canned black beans. This is my version of a recipe from Ellen Vaagen, who shared it at a recent Vegan Cookbook Club meeting. It pairs nutritious black beans with sweet potatoes (rich in beta carotene), corn (high fiber), bell pepper (great source of vitamin C), and cilantro (good source of vitamin K plus many other phytonutrients). The result is a visually stunning rainbow of goodness! (Check out more of Vaagen's recipes at vaagensvegansauce.com.)

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Summer Black Bean & Sweet Potato Salad

Serves 4-6


2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 or 2 15-oz. cans of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 sweet bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 medium red onion, diced, or 3-4 green onions, chopped

1 cup sweet corn (fresh or frozen)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons mustard

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons lemon juice

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Handful of cilantro, chopped (substitute parsley, if you don't care for cilantro)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper


Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 425 for 30 minutes. If using frozen corn, cook and drain.

Mix olive oil, mustard, maple syrup and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl.

Combine baked sweet potatoes, black beans, bell pepper, onion and corn in a large bowl.

Stir in dressing and cilantro. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve chilled or room temperature.

Note: The salad gets even more delicious when it's had time to sit.