Whether in a Thanksgiving casserole or served alongside a steak, green beans are a popular vegetable in the U.S. But are green beans good for you?
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Absolutely! Registered dietitian, Lara Whitson, RD, LD, explains why green beans belong in your shopping basket on your next grocery trip.
Are green beans healthy?
Green beans — which can also be yellow or purple — are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. They might seem like an average vegetable, but their nutritional content is exceptional. One cup of green beans contains:
- 31 calories.
- 0 grams of fat.
- 3.4 grams of fiber.
If you’re looking to get some key vitamins and minerals, green beans can help. In terms of your daily value (DV) of specific nutrients, they contain:
Health benefits of green beans
Although they’re not labeled as a “superfood,” string beans have some super health benefits. Green beans, as part of a healthy diet, can:
Green beans contain plenty of fiber, the indigestible part of plant foods. This nutrient is key to keeping your digestion moving as it should.
“Fiber helps soften stool, making it easier to pass,” says Whitson. “But fiber is not just about avoiding constipation. It also helps balance your gut microbiome — the microscopic organisms that help you digest food and absorb nutrients.”
Help control hunger
Eating foods high in sugar and low in fiber causes a spike, followed by a drop, in blood sugar. When your blood sugar drops, you tend to feel hungry again. You might notice you feel famished soon after eating cookies, chips or other processed foods. But if you reach for some crunchy green beans instead of chips, you could sidestep that hangry feeling.
“High-fiber vegetables are slower to digest, helping you feel fuller, longer,” says Whitson. “Green beans contain almost the exact same amount of fiber and natural sugar, which offers a better nutritional balance than most processed foods. So, you won’t experience that rise and fall in blood sugar that makes you feel famished and sluggish.”
Promote better bone health
Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin K, which is an important nutrient for healthy bones. “Calcium gets all the attention when it comes to bone health, but you need other nutrients, too,” Whitson states. “Studies show that not getting enough vitamin K in your diet can harm your bone health.”
But don’t start taking a vitamin K supplement yet. “We don’t have evidence to show that supplements are the answer,” she adds. “Plus, vitamin K supplements can interact with blood thinners. Always talk to your provider before you take any supplements.”
In general, it’s best to get your vitamins and minerals from food.
Boost your immune system
Your immune system is your defense against illnesses and infections. And eating green beans (and other fresh produce) is a good way to keep your immune system in top shape.
“Green beans contain a high amount of vitamin C, which is important for immune function,” shares Whitson. “Green beans won’t necessarily keep you from catching a cold, but eating nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables can help your immune system work more efficiently. When you do encounter an illness, your immune system will have the support it needs to fight the invader off.”
Promote heart health
High cholesterol and blood pressure are two risk factors for heart disease. They’re also very common among adults in the U.S. But eating more fruits and veggies — like green beans — could help you avoid these heart risks.
“Green beans contain folate and potassium, two nutrients that may boost your heart health,” says Whitson. “These nutrients can help regulate your blood pressure when combined with other healthy lifestyle choices like diet and exercise.”
And the fiber in green beans can help you achieve a healthier cholesterol balance. “Eating enough soluble fiber — like the kind in green beans — can lower your LDL cholesterol,” notes Whitson. “It acts like a sponge, soaking up the cholesterol in your colon before it can reach your blood.”
Fresh, frozen or canned: Does it matter?
It’s not always easy to get fresh produce when you want it. Maybe you’re too busy to hit the store, or the veggies you want aren’t in season. Frozen or canned vegetables can fill in for fresh ones, but are they as nutritious?
“Frozen green beans can be just as healthy as fresh,” clarifies Whitson. “Usually, the beans are frozen soon after harvest, which preserves their nutrients. But don’t overcook them, which could destroy some vitamins and minerals.”
Frozen beans don’t have to be mushy and bland. To prepare frozen green beans, Whitson recommends:
- Microwaving them with a small amount of water, stopping when they’re hot but still firm.
- Roasting them on a baking sheet in the oven, tossed with some olive oil and seasonings.
- Sautéing them with olive oil and finely diced onion or herbs.
Only have canned on hand? Don’t worry — they’re still nutritious. “Canned green beans have a similar nutrient content to fresh or frozen,” says Whitson. “But choose low-sodium varieties, or rinse them before cooking to remove any added salt.”
Canned beans are already soft, so they don’t require much cooking. Just heat them up in the microwave before serving or toss them into a stir-fry or soup.
The humble bean has mighty benefits
You don’t have to go for exotic or expensive produce to get important vitamins, minerals and fiber. Green beans are chock-full of health benefits and are readily available at most stores.
“Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy,” encourages Whitson. “Green beans are an old favorite that easily fits right into a healthy diet.”