String beans. Green beans. Snap beans. Not only is this native vegetable healthier than you may realize, but also they give back to the soil! Here are 5 health benefits of green beans. Go green!
Whatever you call ‘em, green beans are the immature form of the common kidney-shaped bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, harvested before beans begin forming inside the pods.
While you can find green beans in the grocery store most any time, their peak season in the U.S. starts in May and lasts through October in most regions.
Modern varieties of this native American vegetable no longer have “strings” down the sides of the pods that need to be pulled off before eating.
5 Health Benefits of Green Beans
Not only is this legume a low-calorie food, it also has zero fat.
Green beans are full of antioxidants to reduce illness and cell damage, including vitamin C, flavonols, quercetin, and kaemferol. Just one cup fulfills 25% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
They’re also a good source of fiber which helps your digestive system run smoothly and lower your cholesterol for heart health.
High in vitamin K (almost 20% daily recommended intake), green beans improves bone health by improving calcium absorption and reduce risk of bone fractures.
Finally, green beans contain an impressive 33% of folate which is important during pregnancy but also important for reducing depression.
A Couple Cautions
If you take blood thinners or you have a digestive disorder, take care not to overdo it with green beans. To lessen issues, you need to cook green beans thoroughly.
Avoid canned green beans; you’re just taking a low-sodium vegetable and turning it into a high-sodium food; too much salt is not good for the blood pressure or heart. Fresh green beans are usually available all-year round in the grocery store, even if they’re not local. Or, purchase frozen green beans.
Green Beans Are Good for the Garden, Too!
Like all legumes, green beans improve the soil that they grow in because of their ability to “fix” nitrogen from the air in nodules attached to the bean roots. When the nodulated bean roots decompose, they liberate the nitrogen to become available for the next year’s crop planted in that spot.
Most of green beans’ energy is stored within the seed! Without even using fertilizer, green beans have enough food to nourish them until their first true leaves appear.
Fresh, locally grown green beans are easy to find in the summer. A green bean at its peak should have vivid color, a firm texture, and make that unmistakable “snap” when broken.
If you have a surplus or find them sold in bulk at a farmers’ market, they also freeze well, especially if you harvest them while slender and freeze them whole.
For around $25, you can buy a neat little hand-cranked gadget called a “bean frencher” that slices fatter beans lengthwise. I think the frenched beans taste better fresh or frozen than those chopped into short lengths.
Green beans go into just about any kind of salad, soup, stir-fry or casserole. As a side dish, I especially like them sauteed with garlic in a little olive oil or butter. Top with toasted walnuts, almonds, sesame, or pumpkin seeds.
Pickled “dilly beans” are an old-timey favorite. Some people like them more than dilled cucumber pickles.
Green Bean Recipes
Here are some more ways to use those fresh green beans!