Are beans a vegetable?
Beans are not vegetables, they are legumes. Legumes are plants that produce a pod with seeds inside it. These seeds include lentils, peas, beans and peanuts. The seeds, like the plants, are also called legumes.
Even though they are technically not a vegetable, the USDA states that beans may be counted as one. Individuals who regularly eat animal based protein rich foods can count beans as vegetables, whereas those who hardly eat meat or fish can count some of the beans that they eat as protein and some as vegetables.
There are many different types of beans to choose form, including black, cannellini, kidney, lima, pinto and adzuki beans. Beans have impressive nutrition profiles and are a rich source of a variety of nutrients.
For example, 1 cup (177 g) of cooked kidney beans provides:
29% of your daily value (DV) of iron – an essential mineral that is needed for the transport of oxygen throughout the body. It is a component of hemoglobin, the protein molecule found in red blood cells. Iron is also needed for muscle & brain function and maintains the health of your skin, hair and nails.
20% DV of magnesium – there are many foods that are rich in magnesium, but beans such as lima and black turtle are some of the best sources. Magnesium benefits cardiovascular health, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, is required for bone formation and could help prevent migraines.
20% DV of potassium – like magnesium, there are many foods that are rich in potassium, but beans such as lima, black turtle, kidney and adzuki rank at the very top. Potassium reduces the risk of stroke, lowers blood pressure, protects against osteoporosis and decreases muscle cramps.
25% DV of phosphorus – a mineral that is involved in many cellular processes that keep the body functioning optimally. Phosphorus helps maintain strong bones, detoxes the body, balances pH level, improves digestion and maintains dental health.
42% DV of manganese – a less well known mineral, it is required for enzyme & antioxidant function, supports lung & respiratory health, speeds up wound healing and helps maintain cognitive function.
19% DV of vitamin K – leafy greens such as Swiss chard, kale and spinach are some of the best sources of vitamin K, but beans can also help to increase your overall intake. Vitamin K promotes heart health, reduces the risk of some types of cancer and maintains the health of your bones.
Other nutrients that beans provide are thiamin, folate, zinc, copper and calcium.
Beans are also rich in protein and fiber, both of which are highly satiating. This is one of the reasons why beans are so filling and can be a great food to eat if you are trying to lose weight.
Protein also helps to build muscle tissue & boosts metabolism, and beans are an excellent source for vegetarians and vegans.
Fiber keeps the digestive system running smoothly, helps control blood sugar levels and may lower cholesterol levels.
All in all, beans are highly nutritious and eating them can bring certain health benefits.
The potential problems with beans
Despite the large number of vitamins & minerals that beans provide, they are also a source of anti-nutrients, which are substances that can negatively affect the absorption of other nutrients. Examples of these anti-nutrients are phytic acid, lectins and saponins.
This is a major reason why some people avoid eating beans and other legumes entirely. However, strategies such as soaking and sprouting have been devised to help reduce the levels of these anti-nutrients. If you don’t already, consider soaking beans before consuming them.
As a general rule, beans should only be eaten once they are fully prepared. This is because they contain toxins that may cause food poisoning. This is especially true for kidney beans, which contains a toxin known as phytohaemagglutinin and has resulted in poisoning. Soaking beans overnight and boiling them at 100°C for 10 – 15 minutes can help reduce the levels of these toxins.
Beans are well known for being a gassy food. Their consumption may cause flatulence and bloating in some people.
Ways to enjoy beans
Because of their versatility, beans can be enjoyed in many different ways. They can be used in soups and salads, added to jacket potatoes, filled in wraps, eaten together with eggs and even used to prepare desserts such as brownies and cakes. Below are some example recipes, you can find many more all over the web.
This salad made using white beans, cauliflower, vinegar, lemon, thyme, olive oil, parsley, chives and feta cheese can be eaten as an appetizer or main meal, depending on how hungry you are.
These burritos made using yams, black beans, cilantro, sour cream and spices are a filling lunch. In place of vegetable oil, use coconut oil if you can.
This soup made with kale, cannellini beans, tomatoes, parsley, cheese, herbs and spices is ideal to have for dinner if you want to eat something that is light but satisfying.
Beans are not technically vegetables, they are legumes. They can serve as vegetables however, if you already get plenty of protein in your diet. Beans should be cooked and prepared thoroughly before being consumed.