Are There Health Benefits of Runner Beans?

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on August 23, 2022
4 min read

Runner beans aren’t as popular as their cousin species, like green beans or kidney beans, but they’re a hardy plant with beautiful blossoms. They also offer many health benefits. This article will explain some of those benefits, giving you the rundown on runner beans.

Runner beans originated in Central America. With the scientific name Phaseolus coccineus, runner beans are members of the same species group as other common beans such as the green bean, black bean, pinto bean, and kidney bean.

Runner beans are also known as scarlet runner beans and multiflora beans thanks to the bright red flowers they produce. The flowers are so stunning that some gardeners in the United States plant these beans just for their beauty.

The bean pods of runner beans are green and can grow up to a foot long. The seeds inside are about an inch long and may come in many colors, although black with red mottling is most common.

While most runner seeds you can purchase are the standard type, you can also find other strains of runner beans that create different colored beans, leaves, and flowers. Some cultivations also have a different time frame for maturity.

Beans, and legumes in general, are nutrient-rich. This includes runner beans. A hundred grams of raw runner beans have:

  •  22 calories
  • 1.6 grams of protein
  • 3.2 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0.4 grams of fat
  • 2 grams of fiber

Runner beans are an excellent protein source, as 29% of their calories are from protein. Proteins are essential to healthy body function. They provide energy, carry oxygen throughout your body, and create antibodies and new cells.  

Runner beans are also high in fiber. Fiber is important because it helps digestion, prevents blood sugar from spiking, and reduces LDL (or “bad” cholesterol). Fiber may also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

You’ll also find high folate and vitamin C levels in runner beans. Folate is a B vitamin that aids in metabolism and cell growth. It’s also a key nutrient for those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, as folate reduces the risk of certain birth defects. 

Vitamin C, meanwhile, is water-soluble and aids in many body functions, including:

  • Growth and repair of body tissues
  • Forming collagen
  • Iron absorption
  • A properly functioning immune system
  • Healing injuries
  • Maintenance of bones, cartilage, and teeth

Generally speaking, runner beans are a safe and nutritious food. However, there are a few situations in which they should be avoided.

Raw, dried beans contain a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin, also called PHA. This chemical is most abundant in kidney beans but lingers in all beans to some degree. PHA poisoning may cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Some people may be more sensitive than others.

To avoid PHA poisoning, cook your beans rapidly to at least 176°F. If you’re using beans in a slow cooker, boil them on the stovetop first to ensure they reach the desired temperature.

If you have Crohn’s Disease, you may already know that you should avoid beans. Beans and other legumes are high in insoluble fiber and could cause a flare-up.

Runner beans are cooked the same way most other beans are. How you prepare them will depend on what you plan to do with them.

To eat runner beans like green beans, wash the bean and cut off the stalk. Remove the fibrous strings on the sides of the beans, then cut the beans into smaller, uniform pieces. Bring a pan of water to a boil, add the beans, and cook for three or four minutes. Strain and rinse under cold water.

Beans cooked in this way can be served as a side dish and in a salad. If you prefer a different texture, try steaming them or stir-frying them.

To use the bean seeds, don’t harvest your beans until the pods are dry and the seeds rattle inside. Then you can crack the pods open and dry the seeds for future use or incorporate them into a dish like chili. 

For an easy-to-grow plant that adds brilliant color, include runner beans in your garden. Planting runner beans doesn’t just create a food source for you. The flowers of runner beans are a favorite source of nectar for hummingbirds and bumble bees.

If you’re interested in growing runner beans, follow these tips for the best results:

  • Plant runner beans in full sunlight
  • Soil should be rich with average moisture and at least 50°F
  • Runner beans can’t withstand frost, so don’t plant too early in the season
  • Plant seeds 2- to 3-inches deep and 4- to 8-inches apart
  • Germination takes seven to 14 days, and you can start your plants indoors
  • Use supports like netting or poles
  • Ensure your plants have plenty of water while they are flowering and the pods are expanding
  • Vines may grow up to 15 feet

Runner beans can add many good nutrients to your diet, especially protein and fiber. However, they aren’t necessarily better for you than other types of legumes, and some people aren’t a fan of their tougher skins. If you already have a diet rich in protein and fiber, you don’t have to add runner beans.

This bean type is a good option for your diet if you’re trying to grow your own food. These crops are more tolerant to cold weather than other bean varieties and grow quickly. If you’re still unsure whether to add runner beans to your diet, it never hurts to check with your doctor.