Green-beans

Green-beans ~ Super Beans / Super Legumes

Commonly referred to as string, the so-called string that once was their trademark can seldom be found in modern varieties.

Although these bright colored and crunchy legumes are available at your local market throughout the year, they're in season from summer through early fall when they are at their best and the least expensive.

They're picked while still immature and the inner bean is just beginning to form.

They're 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're usually deep emerald green in color and come to a slight point at either end.

They contain tiny seeds within their thin pods.

Health Benefits

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, they're a very good source of vitamin-A (notably through their concentration of carotenoids including beta-carotene), dietary fiber, potassium, folate, and iron.

And, these legumes 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 these super legumes, 25% of the daily value in one cup, is important for maintaining strong bones.

Vitamin-K1 activates osteocalcin, the major non-collagen protein in bone.

Osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside of the bone.

Therefore, without enough vitamin-K1, osteocalcin levels are inadequate, and bone mineralization is impaired.

Offering Cardiovascular Protection

For atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease, few foods compare to these super 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 these legumes 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 these legumes, has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels.

A cup 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 helps to protect the colon cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.

Their folate helps to prevent DNA damage and mutations in colon cells, even when they're 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.

Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients

Beta-carotene and vitamin-C both also have very strong anti-inflammatory effects.

This may make these super legumes 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 co-factor for the enzyme glutathione reductase that reduces the oxidized form of glutathione back to its reduced version.)

A cup of these super 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 these 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, they're a very good source of iron.

Iron is as essential part of hemoglobin, a molecule essential to energy production since it's 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 co-factor of a key oxidative enzyme called super-oxide dismutase.

Super-oxide 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 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, these super legumes 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.

Description

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're 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.

How to Select and Store

If possible, purchase them 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 pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper.

Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.

Tips for Preparing Green Beans:

Just prior to using them, 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 sprinkling 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.

Safety

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 them.

Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body.

Yet, in every 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.

Nutritional Profile

Green-beans are an excellent source of vitamin-C, vitamin-K and manganese.

They're also a very good source of vitamin-A, dietary fiber, potassium, folate and iron.

In addition, they're are a good source of magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Green Beans with Almonds and Thyme


This simple preparation of green beans, with butter, thyme, and toasted almonds, over the years has become one of my favorites.

Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients:

2 lbs. of (fresh or frozen) green beans, trimmed

1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter

1 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. garlic salt

2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme

1/3 c. slivered almonds, lightly toasted

Preparation;

1. Cook the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until just crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

Drain the beans and transfer them to a large bowl of ice water, cooling them completely.

(The ice water will shock the beans into a vibrant green color.)

Drain the beans well.

At this point you can make the beans a day ahead and store in refrigerator.

Alternatively you can steam the beans for 5 minutes and proceed directly to the skillet.

2. Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat.

Whisk in half of the fresh thyme (1 Tbs.), the Dijon mustard and garlic salt into the butter.

Add the beans to the skillet and toss until heated through, about 4 minutes.

Transfer to a serving bowl.

Sprinkle with toasted almonds and the remaining 1 Tbs. of thyme.

Make sure the beans are well drained or your salad will taste flat and weak.

Also, be sure to use fresh herbs for the best flavor.

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