When you look into the history of beans facts, nutrition is a word that almost becomes synonymous with the crop. At various stages in history, particularly during bad economic times, beans have been called the “poor man’s meat”. Beans have been cultivated for many centuries all over the world. In the United States alone, somewhere between 1 and 2 million acres of edible dry beans are planted on an annual basis. In most every vegetable garden, beans of one type or another are planted, be they the bush or pole variety. The lowly bean has been with us as long as agriculture has been with us. One could write a history of the world from the viewpoint of growing beans. Probably not very exciting reading, but it could be done!
Beans Nutrition Facts
In almost any chart on beans, nutrition factors, no matter what the bean variety, are going to indicate healthy amounts of niacin, thiamine, B6 vitamins, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and many other elements that are good for every one of us. Beans are a good source of potassium, folate, iron and calcium. Cooking, as is the case with most any vegetables, reduces some of the nutrients on a percentage basis, but even with cooked beans nutrition factors remain high.
Anyone who watched the movie Forrest Gump will remember the scenes during which the various culinary uses for shrimp were outlined. One could do the same with beans, and the number of uses would probably be much greater. Besides all the different varieties, black beans, Lima beans, kidney beans, etc., we have baked beans, boiled beans, green beans, refried beans, chili beans, bean soup, 5-bean salad, and on and on. With each and every type or use of beans, nutrition is very much in the limelight. About the only drawback to eating beans is that they can often result in passing gas. This however, has much to do with how they are prepared.
Most Popular Beans Nutrition Value
We’ll take a look at the nutritional makeup of several of the more common varieties of the bean. It will be noted that the number of calories per serving (1 cup or 100 grams) can vary significantly from one variety to another. All beans contain some fat, including saturated fat, but the percentage of the latter is generally very low, and beans are a good choice for any fat-restricted diet. For persons watching their cholesterol intake, beans are an excellent food choice, as the percentage of cholesterol per serving is normally 0%. Sugars are also at or near the zero mark.
With beans, nutrition is greatest is in the percentage of recommended daily requirement for protein, dietary fiber, and carbohydrates. Percentage values for calcium and iron can vary quite a bit, but are quite significant for many of the varieties. In spite of the high amounts of protein present in almost every variety of beans, this protein generally does not contain all the amino acids our body needs. Therefore, some meat products are needed for a balanced diet, though for vegetarians, whole grains or corn will make up the difference. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the more well known or popular beans.
In the case of black beans, nutrition highlights are the usual high amounts of protein, carbs and fiber, along with a very low fat content and a low calorie count. Black beans are relatively new to the American diet, but have been a staple for centuries south of the border, from Mexico down to South America, where they have long been used in many stews and sauces. They are generally sold as dry beans, as they can be stored for long periods without appreciable degradation. Of particular interest with regards to black beans is what their color brings to the table. The black coat or skin of this bean has been found to contain several different flavonoids. These are color producing pigments which just happen to have anti-oxidant properties. As such, the flavonoids work together with some vitamins, such as vitamin C, to help the body fight oxygen-related damage.
While kidney beans provide a higher number of calories per serving that most other varieties of beans, nutrition factors show the fat content, including saturated fat, to be quite low. Kidney beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber and protein, and a serving will provide close to the minimum daily requirement for iron. Kidney-beans are also rich in calcium, niacin and a good source of Vitamin C. Kidney beans, when cooked, are virtually fat and sodium free, but other nutrient values drop as well, some quite significantly. It appears that cooked kidney beans do not have a great deal to offer nutritionally, at least as far as compared to other bean varieties is concerned.
Like kidney beans nutrition facts, the caloric value of navy beans is quite high, a bit higher in fact. Total fat content is nearly double that of most varieties of beans, at about 4% of the recommended daily requirement. With a serving of navy beans, nutrition focuses on protein and dietary fiber. A serving of navy beans will give you nearly the total daily requirement of protein, and twice what you normally require as far as dietary fiber is concerned. Navy beans also provide a high percentage of iron (74%) and calcium (32%). It should be noted however that these values drop when the beans are cooked, but with other foods, or in greater amounts, Navy beans still provide a good supply of essential nutrients. Navy beans, when cooked, remain significantly greater in nutrients than is the case with cooked kidney beans.
These are another variety with a fairly high caloric value per serving. The total fat content is about average across the bean spectrum, at just under 6% of the recommended daily requirement. As with the other bean varieties, French beans contain no cholesterol. They are somewhat lower in carbohydrates than other bean varieties, but as far as dietary fiber and protein are concern, the nutrition numbers for French beans are high indeed.
What About Baked Beans?
Baked beans are nearly as common as cooked green beans in many households. They usually come out of a can, although at times are prepared in the home. Baked beans are often are accompanied by bits of pork or bacon. With baked beans, nutrition values fall somewhat, which may be expected. Fat percentage is higher, at around 20% of the recommended daily value. Which probably isn’t too bad in those cases where baked beans make up the complete meal. The levels of dietary fiber are still reasonably high, but you’ll find lower percentages of carbohydrates and protein than is the case with other bean dishes. Baked beans are still a good source of iron.
It would appear, from the standpoint of nutrition in particular, and healthy eating in general. No matter what variety of bean you choose, you have a win-win situation. There are of course many more varieties than have been covered here. We’ve barely scratched the surface. It would appear that the only beans that are not nutritional powerhouses are baked beans, and they are still a very popular dish, giving you a good supply of calories and a decent supply of fiber. Most any of the beans will suffer nutritionally when cooked. Vegetables are generally like that. Rather than worry about all the good stuff that is drifting away when we cook beans. Nutrition is still there and still plentiful. Focus on what’s left in the pot. And you’ll see that it’s still a very healthy food to take to the dinner table.
There do not seem to be numbers readily available for such things as a 5-bean salad or a 3-bean soup. Trying to figure out the nutrition numbers for these combinations probably would not be particularly easy. There would be too many other food items present to tell just what the contribution of the beans might be. The results might not be terribly important anyhow. It would be expected that what the beans contribute in dishes. Like these would be little different than what has been describe here. Suffice it to say, bean salads and bean soups are delicious, and nutritious.