Sunday, 20 February 2011

Best Beans

You know me, I love playing with data:  collecting it, analysing it, displaying it.  Weird hobby, I know, but there it is; I once had a job that paid me to do this and that's when I discovered how much fun it was.

I've kept a price book off and on since Sept 1995 when I first came to England.  How else was I going to know whether I was paying a reasonable price?  It was also instrumental in selling me on the advantages over metric.  Once you get used to just moving the decimal point over, you'll never again want to divide by 16 or whatever.  That said, I still know that a pound is about 454 grams and an ounce is about 30 millilitres but after that I'm pretty lost without a calculator or, better yet, the internet.

You may also remember I'm quite interested in nutrition; in food, really, but also in good-for-you food.  I'm not going to live on seaweed or anything, but I will eat the occasional vegetable that isn't my favourite.

I was wondering how to combine these two interests to make sure we got the best nutrition for the money spent.  Have you met  Well, if not, consider this an introduction.  There are loads of wonderful tools and articles there, and it's easy to look things up.  You don't have to register and login unless you want to.

One thing they've done is to rate foods by two criteria:  how full they make one feel (FF, for fullness factor) and how nutritionally dense (ND) they are.  The put everything on a graphic called the Nutritional Target Map (look on the 'Tools' menu on the grey bar).  The idea is that for the best in fullness and nutrition, stick to foods in the upper right quadrant:  fruit, veg and lean meats.  

Candy, cakes and cooking oils give you neither nutrition nor satisfaction.  Enriched cereals, nuts and seeds provide nutrition, but not fullness.  Coffee, tea and the like may fill you up a bit but they have no nutritional value. Just out of curiosity I looked for the highest rated food and found that the leafy tips of cowpeas (AKA black eyed peas) rate 4.6 (of 5) on fullness and 5.0 on nutrition density.  Guess I need to figure out how to grow black eyed peas, cause I've sure never seen these in any store.  Have you?

Anyhow, I took my price book and looked at all the legumes we bought in 2010.  We like our legumes in this house.  If I just looked at price per kilogram (that's 2.2 pounds), dry weight, they would rank:
  1. Blackeyed peas & kidney beans (£1.63)
  2. Red lentils (£1.78)
  3. Chickpeas (£2.14)
  4. Broad beans (£2.90)
  5. Butter beans  (£3.09)
The serving size provided by for these foods varies between 164 and 198 g (maybe about a cup).  Given that dried beans nearly double in size (I'm guessing, I've not measured), the price per serving changes the order a bit:

  1. Blackeyed peas (13 pence)
  2. Kidney (14 p)
  3. Chickpeas (18 p)
  4. Broad beans (25 p)
  5. Butter beans (26 p)
  6. Red lentils (35 p)
So, what about nutrition?  With regard to fullness factor, they all have a value of 2.something (out of 5).  For nutrition they are all champions rated between 3.8 and 4.9 (out of 5).  For my purposes I added the two together and came up with these scores (out of a possible 10 - or more likely 9.6)
  1. Blackeyed peas :  7.4
  2. Butter beans:  7.0
  3. Red lentils:  7.0
  4. Kidney beans:  6.8
  5. Broad beans:  6.5
  6. Chickpeas:  6.3
When I divide the nutritional score by the cost per serving, I get:
  1. Blackeyed peas - 55.2
  2. Kidney beans - 47.3
  3. Chickpeas - 35.9
  4. Butter beans - 26.7
  5. Broad beans - 26.4
  6. Red lentils - 19.9
What does this tell me?  That they are all pretty good deals, but that my Mom was really smart in liking her blackeyed peas.  Red lentils are brilliant for throwing into soups, but I'm going to make sure we always have blackeyed peas on hand.

What does this tell you?  That I have too much leisure and should spend more of it on housework or exercise.  Or maybe I'll go soak some beans and do some measuring...


Jg. for FatScribe said...

THE most original post of the year or any year that i've ever read. awesome.

Rick Stone said...

Black Eyed Peas are sold in most all the stores on this side of the Pond. Many people believe eating them on New Year's Day will bring you good fortune. Personally I would never know about the good fortune since I can't stand Black Eyed Peas.