Health benefits of Green beans
- Fresh green beans are very low in calories (31 caloriess per 100 g of raw bean pods) and contain no saturated fat. Nevertheless, these lean vegetables are a very good source of vitamins, minerals, and plant derived micronutrients.
- The beans are very rich source of dietary fiber (9% per 100g RDA) which acts as a bulk laxative. Fiber helps to protect mucous membrane in the colon by decreasing its exposure time to toxic substances as well as by binding to cancer-causing chemicals in the gut. Adequate amount of fiber has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels by decreasing reabsorption of cholesterol-binding bile acids in the colon.
- Green beans contain excellent levels of vitamin A, and health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and ß-carotene in good amounts. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
- Zea-xanthin, an important dietary carotenoid in the beans, selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eyes where it thought to provide antioxidant and protective UV light filtering functions. It is, therefore, green beans offer some protection in preventing age-related macular disease (ARMD) in the elderly.
- Snap beans are a good source of folates. 100 g fresh beans provide 37 µg or 9% of folates. Folate along with vitamin B-12 is one of the essential components of DNA synthesis and cell division. Good folate diet when given during preconception periods and during pregnancy helps prevent neural-tube defects in the newborn babies.
- They also contain good amounts of vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), and vitamin-C. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.
- In addition, beans contain healthy amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium, which are very essential for body metabolism. Manganese is a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which is a very powerful free radical scavenger. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
- Because of their rich green color, we don’t always think about green beans as providing us with important amounts of colorful pigments like carotenoids. But they do! Recent studies have confirmed the presence of lutein, beta-carotene, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin in green beans. In some cases, the presence of these carotenoids in green beans is comparable to their presence in other carotenoid-rich vegetables like carrots and tomatoes. The only reason we don’t see these carotenoids is because of the concentrated chlorophyll content of green beans and the amazing shades of green that it provides.
- You can enjoy green beans while supporting food sustainability! Recent surveys have shown that 60% of all commercially grown green beans are produced in the United States, with large amounts of green bean acreage found in the states of Illinois, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Although countries like France, Mexico, Iraq, and Argentina are large-scale producers of green beans, there is plenty of this delicious vegetable available in our own backyard.
- If you are unable to obtain fresh green beans, you can still get many valuable nutrients from green beans that have been frozen or canned. We like fresh greens the best! But we realize that access to them can sometimes be a problem. When first frozen and then cooked, retention of some B vitamins in green beans (like vitamins B6 and B2) can be as high as 90%. Recent studies have shown that canned green beans, on average, lose about one third of their phenolic compounds during the canning process. They lose B vitamins as well but in the case of some B vitamins like folic acid, as little as 10%.
- Green beans (referred to as “string beans” by the study authors) have recently been shown to have impressive antioxidant capacity. Research comparing the overall antioxidant capacity of green beans to other foods in the pea and bean families (for example, snow peas or winged beans) has found green beans to come out on top, even though green beans are not always highest in their concentration of specific antioxidant nutrients like phenolic acids or vitamin C. It’s not surprising to find recent studies highlighting the antioxidant capacity of green beans! Researchers now know that the list of antioxidant flavonoids found in green beans is not limited to quercetin and kaemferol but also includes flavonoids like catechins, epicatechins, and procyanidins. Researchers also know that the antioxidant carotenoids in this vegetable are diverse, and include lutein, beta-carotene, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin, as noted above.
- Green beans may be a particularly helpful food for providing us with the mineral silicon. This mineral—while less well known than minerals like calcium and magnesium—is very important for bone health and for healthy formation of connective tissue. Green beans have recently been shown to stack up quite well against other commonly-eaten foods as a good source of absorbable silicon.