Mexican chicken tortilla soup with corn, beans and avocado.

Easy recipe for Tex-Mex Chicken, Black Bean and Corn Soup is a bowl full of comfort.

I've always been a firm believer in the power of a well-stocked pantry, and one of the main staples in my pantry has always been a variety of canned beans. Although researchers haven't come up with a foolproof way to avoid the more "musical" and indelicate side effect of beans, they have found yet another reason why you should eat more of them. In addition to their high protein and fiber content, a new study finds that beans, particularly black beans, are a rich but overlooked source of antioxidants and may provide health benefits similar to some common fruits, including grapes, apples and cranberries.

In a study that appeared in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers tested the antioxidant activity of flavonoids -- plant pigments -- found in the skin of 12 common varieties of dry beans. Antioxidants destroy free radicals, which are highly active chemicals whose excess has been linked to heart disease, cancer and aging.

Black beans came out on top, having more antioxidant activity, gram for gram, than other beans, followed by red, brown, yellow and white beans, in that order. In general, darker-colored seed coats were associated with higher levels of flavonoids, and therefore higher antioxidant activity, says Dr. Clifford W. Beninger, who has done research for the USDA's Sugarbeet and Bean Research Unit.

"Black beans are really loaded with antioxidant compounds. We didn't know they were that potent until now," says Beninger.

Beninger acknowledges that some of the healthy antioxidants in beans will be lost in water upon cooking, but says antioxidant levels will still remain high. Although dry beans were used in this study, frozen or canned beans may have similar antioxidant activity, he adds.

The study adds antioxidants to a growing list of healthy chemicals found in beans, which also are rich in protein, carbohydrates, folate, calcium and fiber. Researchers hope to use information gleaned from this study to help develop new varieties of beans that pack even more disease-fighting power.

Meanwhile, U.S. consumers gobble up an estimated 8 pounds of beans per person each year, with pinto beans and navy beans being the most popular. Red beans also enjoy immense popularity, particularly during colder months, as a staple of chili. Although not as popular in the U.S. as other varieties, black beans are a main ingredient in many international dishes.

Try using canned black beans for dinner to create this easy recipe for Tex-Mex Chicken, Black Bean and Corn Soup. It's a bowl full of comfort during this stressful time. Stay safe!

TEX-MEX CHICKEN, BLACK BEAN AND CORN SOUP

You can use leftover cooked chicken or purchase a rotisserie chicken (skin and bones removed, and the white and/or dark meat cut into 1-inch cubes) in this recipe. Just skip the instructions for seasoning and searing the raw chicken for 1 minute. Instead, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot. Add the cooked chicken and spices to the oil over medium heat, stirring for 1 minute to allow the spices to bloom. Then, proceed with the rest of the recipe as directed.

3 to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cubed into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) chicken broth

1 3/4 cups water

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen corn

2 cups salsa, mild, medium or hot

1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese or Pepper Jack cheese, optional

Garnish -- tortilla chips, avocado slices or sour cream, optional

1. Coat the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season the chicken with the poultry seasoning, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

2. Place the remaining tablespoon of the oil in a large pot. Turn the heat to medium high. Sear the chicken for 1 minute, and then turn the pieces over to sear for 1 minute on the other side.

3. Stir in the broth and water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the beans, corn and salsa; return heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink on the inside and the corn is tender.

4. Stir in the fresh lime juice. Garnish with the cheese, tortilla chips, avocado slices and sour cream, if desired. Serves 6.

***

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children's author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is "The Kitchen Diva's Diabetic Cookbook." Her website is www.divapro.com. To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.

(c) 2020 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis

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