Green beans are a common staple in households across the country. They go by several names, some of the most popular ones being snap beans and string beans. Despite their name, however, they’re not always green. The green bean is a type of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), and it can be yellow or purple, too.
Green beans are native to North, South, and Central America. Today, however, they grow all over the world. They grow year-round, meaning you’ll find them in grocery stores no matter what season it is. Their peak season is between May and October, though, which is when you’ll often find them at local farmer’s markets.
While they may be low in calories, green beans contain many important nutrients that provide several health benefits. The legumes are full of antioxidants, including vitamin C, flavonols, quercetin, and kaemferol. These antioxidants fight free radicals in the body, which helps to reduce cell damage and may help to lower your risk of certain health conditions.
Other health benefits of green beans include:
Improve Heart Health
Green beans are full of fiber, which is an important nutrient for many reasons. Soluble fiber, in particular, may help to improve the health of your heart by lowering your LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels.
Protect Gut Health
The fiber in green beans helps to keep your digestive system healthy and running smoothly. If you have a digestive disorder like irritable bowel syndrome, however, certain types of fiber can do more harm than good, leaving you with gas, bloating, and intestinal discomfort.
Those with irritable bowel syndrome (and other intestinal issues) often do better by avoiding high FODMAP foods. FODMAPs are carbohydrates that may not be digested or absorbed well. Green beans are a low FODMAP food, which can help to improve symptoms of digestive disorders.
Aid in a Healthy Pregnancy
A single cup of green beans has approximately one-third of your daily recommended intake of folate, a B vitamin that’s necessary for the growth and development of unborn babies. The vitamin helps to reduce the risk of certain birth defects. Women who are pregnant need to take in more folate than those who aren’t. Where most adults need 400mcg daily, women who are pregnant need 600mcg, and those who are nursing need 500mcg.
Protect Bone Health
Reduce Depression Symptoms
Getting enough folate isn’t just important during pregnancy. The B vitamin is also important for reducing depression. Getting enough folate helps to reduce the amount of homocysteine in your body. Too much homocysteine can interfere with your natural production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, hormones that regulate your mood as well as your sleep and appetite.
May Help with Anemia
Iron is an essential part of the red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to all of the other cells throughout your body. Insufficient iron intake can lead to anemia, which is characterized by fatigue, weakness, and lightheadedness. Green beans provide a decent source of plant-based iron that can help to ensure that you get the amount you need to avoid anemia.
May Help Prevent Cancer
Green beans contain chlorophyll, which may help to slow the growth of cancer tumors and reduce the risk of cancer. Many of the current studies, however, use animals. More research is needed to confirm the anti-cancer benefits of chlorophyll.
Green beans contain many essential vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
A single cup of fresh green beans contains approximately 25% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C. It also has around 15% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, a vitamin necessary for eye health, as well as 33% of your recommended daily intake of folate, which is vital for preventing neural tube defects.
Nutrients Per Serving
A half-cup serving of fresh green beans has:
- Calories: 16
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 3 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Sugar: 2 grams
Things to Watch Out For
Although green beans are a nutritious food, there are a few things to be aware of if you want to add them to your diet:
Vitamin K May Interfere with Blood Thinners
If you take blood thinners such as warfarin, you should speak with your doctor before adding green beans to your diet. The vitamin K content of the legumes may interfere with your medication, affecting how your blood clots.
They Contain Lectins
Lectins are a type of protein present in various types of beans, including green beans. While they do have some benefits, they can also cause digestive discomfort. To deactivate lectins, you need to cook green beans thoroughly.
They Contain Phytic Acid
Phytic acid can bind with certain minerals, preventing your body from absorbing them. If you have a mineral deficiency, you should speak with your doctor before adding green beans to your menu.
Canned Green Beans May Contain Added Salt
While green beans are a naturally low-sodium food, certain canned varieties have added salt. Too much salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart-related problems. If you do purchase canned beans, be sure to rinse them thoroughly to remove excess salt.
How to Prepare Green Beans
Green beans are a very versatile legume. You can find them fresh in the produce aisle, in the freezer section, or even in cans. Here are some popular ways to prepare them:
- Sauteed with garlic and olive oil or butter
- Cooking them into a green bean casserole
- Stir-fried with other vegetables