Benefits of Beans

bean4There are over 50 different types of bean which have over 400,000 different varieties. The most common consumed beans are legumes which include kidney, black, great northern, chickpeas, edamame, fava, lentils, lima, and soy. Beans can be dried or canned to store them for later use. Other bean types include coffee and vanilla beans. In many countries, beans are considered to be a necessary form of nutrition due to the ease of storing and growing the plants which produce the bean.

ADZUKI (or Aduki) – A small deep red bean. Somewhat sweet, with a delicate texture. An excellent source of fiber, folate and a good source of iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. It is usually sold in a dried form, but can also be purchased as a paste or flour. It has a sweet taste and is used in many Asian dishes, but is especially useful and flavorful in desserts.

ANASAZI – A dried bean considered to have originated in New Mexico as a traditional Native American food for over a thousand years. This bean, which has a dark red and white color, is a relative to the pinto bean. When cooked, the bean becomes light beige or pink colored and provides a meaty texture with a mild flavor that is somewhat sweet tasting. Uncooked beans can be stored in glass containers for up to a year, while cooked beans should be refrigerated and can last for up to a week. This bean may also be referred to as a cave bean, a New Mexico cave bean, a New Mexico appaloosa, the Aztec bean, and Jacob’s cattle bean.

BLACK BEANS – A small, oval, black bean. They have an earthy flavor with a soft texture. An excellent sour of folate and a good source of fiber and iron. Black beans are available dried or precooked. They are also known as Turtle Beans. You might find them in stores that carry Spanish or Oriental foods. They are popular throughout Latin America and are most often used in thick soups or with rice; basic for many Mexican, Caribbean and Latin American soups and side dishes.


BLACK-EYED PEAS (or Cowpea) – A oval, creamy white bean with a black “eye.” Soft textured. An excellent source of fiber and folate and a good source of iron. This bean is available as a fresh or dried bean to be used in soups, side dishes, and casseroles.

CANNELLINI BEANS – A white oval dried bean with a thin skin and mild flavor. It is also known as the white kidney bean and is available canned or dried. If Cannellini beans are unavailable, white Navy Beans or Great Northern beans can be substituted.

CHICKPEAS (Garbanzo Beans) – Large, round, cream-colored bean with a nutty flavor and crunchy texture. An excellent source of folate and a good source of fiber and iron. It is used as an ingredient in soups, salads, side dishes, pasta dishes, and dips as a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern, Indian, Italian, Spanish, and Latin-American cuisine. Dried or canned chickpeas are availabe in most supermarkets. The most common dish made of these beans is hummus.

CORONA BEAN – A large, broad white bean, common to Italy, but not commonly grown in many regions throughout the world. Similar in appearance to a large lima bean, it is a very meaty bean that becomes much larger when cooked. As a dried bean it is used in soups, stews, and served as a side dish.

CRANBERRY BEAN- A dusty pink bean, streaked or marked with red strips. An excellent source of fiber and folate and a good source of iron. Cranberry beans must be shelled before cooking. They are also known as an Italian Borlotti. Pinto Beans can be used as substitutes or if necessary, Red Kidney Beans.

FAVA (or Broad Bean) – Oval-shaped light brown beans with an earthy flavor and creamy texture. An excellent source of folate and a good source of fiber. Fava Beans can be purchased fresh or dried. When using dried beans, it is best to use beans that have been split so that the very tough skin is easier to remove and the cooking time will be faster. As with any dried bean, soaking is required to re-hydrate the beans before they are cooked.  These are great in soups and salads. Puréed for tasty dips.

FLAGEOLET BEANS – A popular French shell bean, the flageolet has an inedible green pod about 3-inches long and small, light-green, kidney-shaped seeds. Fresh flageolets are occasionally available in the summer; look for well-filled, pliable pods that contain even-sized beans and do not show evidence of drying. Dried flageolets are packaged in plastic bags or boxes or sold in bulk. Canned French flageolets are available in specialty food markets. Dried beans must be soaked before they are prepared.

GREAT NORTHERN BEANS – Medium-size, oval white bean with a delicate taste with a firm texture and tender creamy flesh. An excellent source of fiber and folate and a good source of iron. They are available canned or dried. They are used in baked bean dishes and soups. When Great Northern beans are not available, White Kidney Beans or Navy Beans are good substitutes. They have a delicate flavor which makes them a good choice for salads. You may find canned Great Northerns.

KIDNEY BEAN, RED OR WHITE (Cannellini) – A large, kidney-shaped, deep reddish brown or white bean that has a bland taste with a soft texture. A good source of folate, fiber and iron. They are available fresh in the shell, dried, frozen, and canned. The beans can be cooked as their own dish or can be added into other dishes, such as chili, casseroles, refried beans, and salads. Dried beans require soaking before cooking.

LENTILS – Small green, brown, or red legumes with a round, flat shape. Flavorful, with a firm texture. An excellent source of fiber, folate and phosphorous and a good source of iron. There is no need to presoak lentils, just bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Tasty in soups and stews and a terrific addition to salads.

LIMA BEANS (Butter Beans) – Flat, oval, creamy white bean. The smallest dried ones have the mildest taste. Baby and regular size have a buttery, mushy texture. An excellent source of folate and fiber, and a good source of iron. They are available fresh in the shell, dried, frozen, and canned. This bean is commonly referred to as Calico, Madagascar, or Butter Beans, and are available as baby or mature beans. Do not to overcook these, as they disintegrate quickly. Good for soups and stews and taste great with butter and herbs.

LUPINI BEANS – A large dried bean that is round in shape, white in color and similar to a Fava Bean. Native to Italy, the bean is soaked overnight and often marinated to remove the bitter taste. It is also known as Albus Lupin, White Lupin, European White Lupin, or Tremmocos.

MARROW BEANS – A plump looking dried bean, common in Italian cooking, white in color and round in shape. When cooked, the bean has a creamy, meaty texture that provides a flavor that is somewhat similar to smoked bacon. It goes well with braised meats, soups, stews, or when served as a side dish. Great Northern Beans can be substituted if necessary, but, however, they do not provide the same size or flavor provided by Marrow Beans.

MUNG BEANS – A tiny, round dried bean with a thick outer skin that may be green, brown, or black in color. Originating in India, they are also known as Yellow Mung, Yellow Split Mung or Moong Dal, where it is often used to make curries and a dish called “Dal.” This bean is used to produce transparent bean sprouts, which become a crunchy and flavorful ingredients for salads, egg dishes, stir-fried dishes, and sandwiches.

NAVY BEANS – A small white bean with a mild flavor with powdery texture. An excellent source of folate and fiber and a good source of iron. It is also called the Yankee Bean, Boston Bean, Fagiloi, Haricot Blanc (white), or the Pearl Haricot Bean. It is a common ingredient used in soups, salads, bean dishes (canned pork and beans), and chili. They are also excellent for soups, chowders, and are most often called for in bean pot recipes.

ORCA BEANS – This unusual bean is an heirloom variety from Mexico and is vary rare in the United States. Most often used in thick soups or with rice. 

PINK BEANS (Habichuealas Rosadas) – A variety of legume that is small and oval-shaped, pale pink in color, and grown throughout the world. The bean pods are picked when they are young and tender and then dried for use in a variety of food dishes. The pink bean is most often used for soups, stews, rice dishes, refried bean dishes, and chili con carne.

PINTO BEANS – Medium-size beige-and-brown-speckled bean with an earthy flavor and a mealy texture. An excellent source of folate and fiber and a good source of iron. The oval-shaped bean makes a good refried bean and is used in other dishes, such as beans and rice, chili, soups, and stews. They are available dried or precooked in cans. Dried beans must be soaked to rehydrate before using.

RED BEANS – Small, dark red beans that have a slightly sweet taste and are similar to red kidney beans, only smaller. They are available canned or dried. The dried beans require soaking to rehydrate. These beans are popular to use in Mexican dishes, such as refried beans. They are also referred to as Small Red Beans and are most often used in soups, salads, chili and creole dishes.

RUNNER – (Includes Aztec, Giant Pinto, Madeira, Black, White and Scarlet) – Heirloom beans that are nearly an inch in length and swell to at least twice their size. Because of their impressive size and the difficulty and expense of obtaining them, they’re probably best used where they can be seen and appreciated.

SOYBEANS (Dried Yellow Soybean) – Medium-size oval, yellowish bean. Very bland flavor and firm texture. An excellent source of folate and a good source of calcium, fiber, iron, and phosphorus. Soybeans are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Black Soybeans, common in Asian cooking, have a slightly sweeter flavor than Yellow Soybeans, which have a bland bean flavor.

BLACK SOYBEANS – The dried or mature bean is used to make a variety of products, such as tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, and snack foods. Soybeans are not a popular cooking bean because of the bland flavor. It can be presoaked and then used as an ingredient for soups, stews, and casseroles. Soybeans are also referred to as Soya, Soya Bean, Soja, or Soi.  Soybeans are eaten mostly when processed with tofu, tempeh or soy dairy products.

SPLIT PEAS – Small green or yellow halved peas. Earthy flavor with a creamy texture. An excellent source of fiber and folate, and a good source of phosphorus and potassium.

WHITE (Small White or Pea) – A name given to a group of beans that are basically white in color and have similar textures and flavor. This group of beans includes navy, Great Northern, and Cannellini (white kidney) beans. Different varieties of white beans are interchangeable in recipes. An excellent source of fiber and folate, and a good source of iron and potassium.

Health Benefits of Beans:

bean3Beans (also known as legumes or pulses) belong to an extremely large category of vegetables, containing more than 13,000 species and are second only to grains in supplying calories and protein to the world’s population. Compared to grains, though, legumes supply about the same number of calories but usually two to four times as much proteins. Despite their small size, beans pack a surprisingly rich and varied array of substances that are vital for good health.

While condidered an ‘incomplete’ protein, they have many health benefits. The reason they are considered “incomplete” is because they don’t contain all the essential amino acids that we need in our diet, as opposed to ‘complete’ protein found in foods of animal origin, such as meat, fish, dairy products and eggs, which contain ample amounts of the essential amino acids. Although it’s important to get all the amino acids, both essential and non-essential, it’s not necessary to get them from meat. In fact, because of its high fat content, as well as the use of antibiotics and other chemicals in the raising of poultry and cattle, most of the animal protein should be eaten only in moderation.

The best way to go about it is to combine partial-protein foods to make complementary protein. For instance, although beans and brown rice are both rich in protein, each lack one or more of the necessary amino acids. Some health practitioners suggest to combine them together to form a complete protein that is a high quality substitute for meat. To make a complete protein they advise to combine beans with brown rice, corn, nuts, seeds, or wheat.

All soya products, such as tofu and soy milk, are complete proteins. They contain all the essential amino acids plus several other nutrients. Many legumes, especially soya beans, are demonstrating impressive health benefits. Diets rich in beans are being used to lower cholesterol levels, improve diabetics’ blood glucose control, reduce risk of many cancers, lower blood pressure, regulate functions of the colon, prevent and cure constipation, prevent piles and other bowel problems. In addition richly colored dried beans offer a high degree of antioxidant protection. Small red kidney beans rate even higher than blueberries.

A lesser-known benefit of beans, though, is their high levels of isoflavones, compounds that are similar in structure to estrogen produced by your body (which is why they are also called phytoestrogens). These isoflavones may ease the symptoms of menopause, prevent some form of cancer, reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your bone and prostate health, among other benefits.

Another reason the health benefits of beans are so good is because they contain a lot of  fiber. Depending on the type of legumes, they vary between 5 and 8.6 grams of fiber per 100 g (30 ounces) serving. When you eat dried beans, they are not entirely digested, so the undigested material lies around in the colon, where bacteria attack it and start to feed on it. In the process, lots of chemicals are released, which tell your liver to cut down its production of cholesterol and your blood to speed up clearing out dangerous LDL cholesterol. Plus, fiber can actually mop up cholesterol from the intestine and whisk it out of the system. Also, chemicals that block formation of cancer cells are released. In fact, beans are concentrated carriers of protease inhibitors, enzymes that can counteract the activation of cancer-causing compounds in the colon.

One of the downfalls of beans is the “gas” that is created when consuming them. This is caused by a type of fibre found in beans, called oligosaccharides, which is composed of three to five sugar molecules linked together in such a way that the body cannot digest or absorb them. They pass into the intestines, where the bacteria break them down and gas is produced. Haricot and lima beans are generally the most offensive, while peanuts are the least offensive because of their lower levels of oligosaccharides. The amount of oligosaccharides in legumes can be significantly reduced by properly cooking or sprouting them and as a consequence, the flatulence can be reduced as well allowing you to enjoy the health benefits of beans without causing offense.



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