eat beans, live longer; Chickpea Puree with Fennel Salad

Italy's Bean Cuisine

Dried beans are not only phenomenally healthful, they're the inspiration for some fantastic, rustic cooking. On a tour of southern Italy's Campania region, for instance, chef Christophe Hille discovered the cannellini and escarole soup on his menu at A16 in San Francisco. DETAILS 2355 Chestnut St.; 415-771-2216.

Health: Eat Beans, Live Longer

Dried beans aren't just hearty—they're also good for your heart. According to a 2002 report by James Anderson and Amy Major of the Metabolic Research Group at the University of Kentucky, dried beans—such as black beans, cannellini beans and chickpeas—can reduce cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease because of their high levels of soluble fiber. Their high-fiber content can also help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension, and their low glycemic index (a ranking of carbohydrates and their effect on blood sugar levels) has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes. Eating dried beans can also help you lose weight, because they stimulate hormones that decrease hunger. A recent Australian study even found a positive correlation between eating dried beans and longevity.
—Ratha Tep

Beauty: Power of Soybean

Fresh Soy Shampoo includes soy protein to increase elasticity and strengthen normal, dry and color-treated hair. DETAILS $22 for 10 fl oz; 800-FRESH-20.

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Visibly Even Foaming Cleanser combines soybean seed extract with vitamin C to even out skin tone. DETAILS $8 for 5.1 fl oz; 800-480-4812.

Paula Dorf Simple Skin Soy + Nettle Lotion softens skin with soy amino acids. DETAILS $40 for 4 fl oz; 888-4-PAULAD.

Aveeno Positively Radiant Anti-Wrinkle Cream contains moisturizing and protein-rich soybean seed extract to smooth fine lines. DETAILS $14 for 1.7 fl oz; 877-298-2525.
—Jennifer Laing

Quick-Soaking for Dried Beans

Rinse the beans, then transfer to a saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour; drain.