Date: Tuesday, December 08 @ 12:39:49 EST
Topic: Green beans
Commonly referred to as string beans, the string that once was their trademark can seldom be found in modern varieties. Although these bright green and crunchy beans are available at your local market throughout the year, they are in season from summer through early fall when they are at their best and the least expensive.
Green beans are picked while still immature and the inner bean is just beginning to form. They are one of only a few varieties of beans that are eaten fresh. Although green beans vary in size they average about four inches in length. They are usually deep emerald green in color and come to a slight point at either end. They contain tiny seeds within their thin pods.
This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Green beans provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Green beans can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Green beans, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.
Green beans, while quite low in calories (just 43.75 calories in a whole cup), are loaded with enough nutrients to not only power up the Jolly Green Giant, but to put a big smile on his face. Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. Plus green beans are very good source of vitamin A (notably through their concentration of carotenoids including beta-carotene), dietary fiber, potassium, folate, and iron. And, green beans are a good source of magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and niacin.
Helping You Bone Up
The vitamin K provided by green beans-25% of the daily value in one cup-is important for maintaining strong bones. Vitamin K1 helps prevent excessive activation of osteoclasts, the cells responsible for breaking down bone. In addition, friendly bacteria in our intestines convert some K1 into K2, which activates osteocalcin, the major non-collagen protein in bone. Osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside of the bone.
Offer Cardiovascular Protection
For atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, few foods compare to green beans in their number of helpful nutrients. Green beans are a very good source of vitamin A, notably through their concentration of beta-carotene, and an excellent source of vitamin C. These two nutrients are important antioxidants that work to reduce the amounts of free radicals in the body, vitamin C as a water-soluble antioxidant and beta-carotene as a fat-soluble one. This water-and-fat-soluble antioxidant team helps to prevent cholesterol from becoming oxidized. Oxidized cholesterol is able to stick to and build up in blood vessel walls, where it can cause blocked arteries, heart attack or stroke. Getting plenty of beta-carotene and vitamin C can help prevent these complications, and a cup of green beans will provide you with 16.6% of the daily value for vitamin A along with 20.2% of the daily value for vitamin C.
Green beans are also a very good source of fiber, a very good source of potassium and folate, and a good source of magnesium and riboflavin. Each of these nutrients plays a significant cardio-protective role.
Magnesium and potassium work together to help lower high blood pressure, while folate is needed to convert a potentially dangerous molecule called homocysteine into other, benign molecules (the riboflavin in green beans may also serve to protect against the build up of homocysteine in certain individuals). Since homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls if not promptly converted, high levels are associated with a significantly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Lastly, fiber, which is also found in green beans, has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels. A cup of green beans supplies 16.0% of the daily value for fiber, 10.7% of the DV for potassium, 7.8% of the DV for magnesium, and 10.4% of the DV for folate. What this all adds up to is a greatly reduced risk of atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Promotes Colon Health
Green beans may also help prevent colon cancer. The vitamin C and beta-carotene in green beans help to protect the colon cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Green beans" folate helps to prevent DNA damage and mutations in colon cells, even when they are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals. Studies show that people who eat foods high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, and/or folate are at a much lower risk of getting colon cancer than those who don"t.
Green beans" fiber can help prevent colon cancer as well, as it has the ability to bind to cancer-causing toxins, removing them from the body before they can harm colon cells.
Beta-carotene and vitamin C both also have very strong anti-inflammatory effects. This may make green beans helpful for reducing the severity of diseases where inflammation plays a major role, such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Green beans are a good source of riboflavin, which has been shown to help reduce the frequency of migraine attacks in people who suffer from them. Riboflavin"s protective role in energy production may explain why. The oxygen-containing molecules the body uses to produce energy can be highly reactive and can inadvertently cause damage the mitochondria and even the cells themselves. In the mitochondria, such damage is largely prevented by a small, protein-like molecule called glutathione. Like many "antioxidant" molecules, glutathione must be constantly recycled, and it is vitamin B2 that allows this recycling to take place. (Technically, vitamin B2 is a cofactor for the enzyme glutathione reductase that reduces the oxidized form of glutathione back to its reduced version.) A cup of green beans supplies 7.1% of the DV for riboflavin.
Iron for Energy
Green beans are a very good source of iron, an especially important mineral for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency. Boosting iron stores with green beans is a good idea, especially because, in comparison to red meat, a well-known source of iron, green beans provide iron for a lot less calories and are totally fat-free. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. And, if you"re pregnant or lactating, your needs for iron increase. Growing children and adolescents also have increased needs for iron. In one cup of green beans, you"ll be provided with 8.9% of the daily value for iron.
Rich in Minerals for Energy and Antioxidant Protection
As noted above, green beans are a very good source of iron. Iron is as essential part of hemoglobin, a molecule essential to energy production since it is responsible for transporting and releasing oxygen throughout the body. But hemoglobin synthesis also relies on copper. Without copper, iron cannot be properly utilized in red blood cells. Fortunately, both minerals are supplied in green beans, which also contain 6.5% of the daily value for copper.
In addition to its role in hemoglobin synthesis, copper may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Copper, along with manganese (yet another trace mineral for which green beans are an excellent source), is an essential cofactor of a key oxidative enzyme called superoxide dismutase. Superoxide dismutase disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within our cells). Copper is also necessary for the activity of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme involved in cross-linking collagen and elastin, both of which provide the ground substance and flexibility in blood vessels, bones and joints. One cup of green beans provides 18.5% of the DV for manganese.
Vitamins C, A and Zinc for Optimal Immune Function
Green beans" vitamin A (through its concentration of beta-carotene) and vitamin C are part of the sine qua non of a healthy immune system. Beta-carotene and vitamin A are fat-soluble antioxidants, while vitamin C functions as an antioxidant in the water-soluble areas of the body. So, between their beta-carotene and vitamin C content, green beans have all areas covered against damage from oxygen free radicals.
In addition to its antioxidant activity, vitamin C is critical for good immune function. Vitamin C stimulates white cells to fight infection, directly kills many bacteria and viruses, and regenerates vitamin E after it has been inactivated by disarming free radicals.
While green beans are typically referred to as string beans, many varieties no longer actually feature the fibrous "string" that runs down the length of the earlier varieties. Green beans are also commonly known as snap beans. Haricots verts are French green beans that are very thin and very tender.
Green beans are in the same family as shell beans, such as pinto beans, black beans and kidney beans. Yet unlike their cousins, green beans" entire bean, pod and seed, can be eaten.
Green beans range in size, but they usually average four inches in length. They are usually deep emerald green in color and come to a slight point at either end. They contain tiny seeds within their thin pods.
The scientific name for green beans is Phaseolus vulgaris.
Green beans and other beans, such are kidney beans, navy beans and black beans are all known scientifically as Phaseolus vulgaris. They are all referred to as "common beans," probably owing to the fact that they all derived from a common bean ancestor that originated in Peru. From there, they were spread throughout South and Central America by migrating Indian tribes. They were introduced into Europe around the 16h century by Spanish explorers returning from their voyages to the New World, and subsequently were spread through many other parts of the world by Spanish and Portuguese traders. Today, the largest commercial producers of fresh green beans include the United States, China, Japan, Spain, Italy and France.
How to Select and Store
If possible, purchase green beans at a store or farmer"s market that sells them loose so that you can sort through them to choose the beans of best quality. Purchase beans that have smooth feel and a vibrant green color, and that are free from brown spots or bruises. They should have a firm texture and "snap" when broken.
Store unwashed fresh beans pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.
How to Enjoy
For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.
Tips for Preparing Green Beans:
Just prior to using the green beans, wash them under running water. Remove both ends of the beans by either snapping them off or cutting them with a knife.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Green beans are a classic ingredient in Salad Nicoise, a French cold salad dish that combines steamed green beans with tuna fish and potatoes.
Healthy sauté green beans with shiitake mushrooms.
Prepare the perennial favorite, green beans almondine, by sprinking slivered almonds on healthy sautéed beans.
Roast green beans, red peppers and garlic, and combine with olive oil and seasonings to make a delicious salad.
Add chopped green beans to breakfast frittatas.
Green Beans and Oxalates
Green beans are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating green beans. Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. Yet, in every peer-reviewed research study we"ve seen, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits - including absorption of calcium - from calcium-rich foods plant foods that also contain oxalic acid. Ordinarily, a healthcare practitioner would not discourage a person focused on ensuring that they are meeting their calcium requirements from eating these nutrient-rich foods because of their oxalate content. For more on this subject, please see "Can you tell me what oxalates are and in which foods they can be found?"
Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. They are also a very good source of vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium, folate and iron. In addition, green beans are a good source of magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids.
For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Green beans.
In-Depth Nutritional Profile
In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Green beans is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.