Today is May 4th, and that can only mean one thing- tomorrow is May 5th, also known as Cinco de Mayo! I love Cinco de Mayo for various reasons; one, the copious amounts of beer that will be consumed and the justification that I must drink in celebration; and, two, tacos of course! Tomorrow will be indulgent, of this I am sure; which is why I find it essential to eat healthy in the days leading up to a booze and taco soaked fiesta! And this, for me, undoubtedly means fiber.

Bean are legendary for being one of the best sources on fiber on the planet; and considering many of us don’t get enough fiber, this is information that benefits us all. Fiber protects us in so many ways; as high fiber diets are now being associated with lower risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity; which makes sense to me considering all those illnesses are the rise and as a whole we are deficient in fiber.

Coincidence? I think not!

Beans, or rather the fiber within them, are the ultimate regulator of blood sugar; as the soluble fiber found in abundance influences the rate at which glucose is absorbed. And for those who endeavor to eat a low glycemic diet, beans are the foremost in low glycemic foods; due in large part to their high fiber (again with the fiber, noticing a trend?), which raises the blood sugar very, very slowly.

And then there is the BIG C, cancer; a research study found a significant reduction in the frequency of breast cancer in women who consumed a higher amount of common beans or lentils; what’s more, is that these benefits did not take long to record. Eating beans or lentils two or more times a week resulted in a 24% reduced risk. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough for me to get on the bean bandwagon.

So in light of the indulgence that is sure to follow cloaked as the aforementioned Cinco celebration, I decided to make a large family sized portion of black bean soup to ensure my blood sugar and digestion are ready. For me, black beans always bring about thoughts of Mexican food, likely due to them being found plentifully in tacos and other Mayan dishes.

I decided to tailor this soup to the occasion and garnish it with a spicy homemade salsa. A word on salsa, if I may; fresh salsa is heads and above better than anything found on the shelves of your local grocery store, it’s meant to be prepared and eaten within a day or so. So please do not ruin this velvety smooth culinary experience with jars of fraudulent salsa. In addition to garnishing with fresh salsa, one day I supercharged it with sautéed corn kernels, and WOW! I wasn’t even able to take a picture because I greedily slurped it up in the moment- but I’m sure you get the idea!

Black Bean Soup with Fresh Pico de Gallo

1 red onion, diced

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 cup canned tomatoes and their juice

¼ tsp chili powder

½ tsp cumin

3 ½ cups canned or soaked, par cooked black beans

½ tsp salt

4 cups vegetable stock

Pico De Gallo (salsa)

About 4 cups of diced tomatoes

1 jalapeno chili, chopped finely (remove seeds to reduce spice or omit altogether)

1 small red onion, chopped finely

1-2 small garlic cloves, minced

1 lime

2 sprigs of cilantro

Salt to taste

Pinch of sugar to taste

For the soup, heat oil in a large soup pot on medium heat; add the onion, chili powder and cumin and cook until onions become fragrant and transparent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and beans and season with salt; cook for 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the chopped tomatoes in a colander. Now place the colander on top of a bowl and let it sit for 30-45 minutes. Half way through, add the onions, jalapeno, garlic and cilantro and give it a light toss. This allows the flavors mingle. After 45 minutes, shake the colander to drain off the excess tomato juice.  You will see the drained juice in the bowl below the colander. Discard it. Take the same bowl, wipe it dry and toss the contents of the colander to the bowl. Add salt, lime juice and sugar. Give it a toss and taste. You can add more lime juice if needed; and set aside.

Once the soup has simmer and the beans begin to break apart;blend the soup with an immersion or traditionalblender until smooth and creamy. Garnish with fresh Pico de Gallo.