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Bean Food Facts

Bean food facts

Dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas are low in fat and good sources of protein, starch, fiber, iron, calcium and minerals. Beans and lentils provide an economical source of vegetable protein, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber and vitamins.

Dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas are low in fat and good sources of protein, starch, fiber, iron, calcium and minerals.

Beans (edible pods)
These may be green, purple or yellow in color. They should have no scars or discolorization. When broken, they should have a crisp snap. Available year round, but are best from May through August. Store without slicing and refrigerate to retain vitamin content. Do not soak in water.

Varieties Include: Different types of beans

  • Chinese long beans.
  • Italian beans.
  • Snap beans.
  • Purple wax beans.
  • Haricots verts.
  • Scarlet runners.

Beans (Shell)
Higher in vitamin C than snap beans varieties. Varieties include cranberry beans, fava beans, and lima beans.

Shell beans should have a bulge and a tightly closed pod. If the pods are not opened they should last for two to three days.

Lima Beans
Pods should be dark green and bright in color. Best May through October. When shelled, should appear green or greenish white. Very perishable and should be used as soon as purchased.

Pinto Beans
Pinto beans should have a bright uniform color. Fading is a sign of aging and long storage. Small beans cook faster and should not be mixed with large ones or they will get mushy. Do not buy if they are cracked or if too much foreign material is found in the bin, especially small stones.

Quick Bean Facts

  • Snap beans are found in green and yellow varieties.
  • Purple wax beans turn green when cooked.
  • Haricot verts are also called French Beans.
  • Chinese long beans may be up to 18 inches long.
  • Cooked beans will stay fresh in the refrigerator for approximately five days.
  • For a different taste, add celery soup to the green beans.
  • Boiling whole green beans instead of cut up ones will retain 50 percent more of the nutrients.
  • Chickpeas have the most calories; however, beans for the most part are low in calories and contain hardly any fat. The only exception is soybeans which are high in polyunsaturated fat.
  • Beans contain 22 percent protein. Beef contains only 18 percent and eggs 13 percent protein.
  • To prevent beans from becoming mushy, try adding a small amount of baking soda to the water while they are cooking.
  • Cooked beans will store for up to six months in the freezer, but only four to six days in the refrigerator.
  • If beans get too salty, try using a small amount of brown sugar.
  • You can also eliminate gas producing from beans by adding a teaspoon of fennel seed to the water you soak the beans in.
  • To eliminate gas in beans, try using Beano. It really works! It neutralizes the sugar in the beans that cause gas production in your body.

Beans are one of the best sources of protein. The following gives their quality of nutritional content on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best.

Bean Varieties

  1. Kidney beans:  10
  2. Navy beans: 9
  3. Lima beans:  8.5
  4. Tofu:  4.0
  5. Lentils:  7.0
  6. Chickpeas:  6.5
  7. Split peas:  5.5

Miscellany Bean Facts

  • The screw bean grows pods that look like spirally twisted wire.
  • The four most prominent families in ancient Rome - Lentulus, Fabius, Ciceros and Piso - named themselves after beans. Lentulus means lentils. Fabius means favas. Ciceros means chickpeas. Pisos means peas.
  • The asparagus bean can grow bean pods up to three feet long.
  • The ancient Greeks and Romans used beans to cast their votes in political elections and legal trials.
  • In the sixteenth century, peasants in England relied on dried peas to survive a famine.
  • In the seventeenth century, people incorrectly believed that eating beans cured baldness.
  • During World War II, the United States Army floated waterproof bags filled with beans from ships to beachheads to feed American troops.
  • Soy beans, a mainstay of Asian cuisine, are the beans processed into bean curd, better known as tofu.

Tidbit About Lentils

Fresh ground ginger

Housewives in India add a little minced ginger and a few fresh spinach leaves to their lentils to make them creamy.

What occurs is, there is a single enzyme in ginger that attacks both muscle fiber and gelatin. This is why ginger is a tenderizer and why it prevents gelatin from setting. It was reasonable to think that ginger could have some effect on the proteins in the lentils. However, the spinach was a question cooking experts found a bit perplexing. Possibly, some oxalic acid in the spinach reacts with and removes any calcium in the water. Calcium, like sugar, allows fruits and vegetables to remain firmer when cooking because it prevents the pectin glue between the cells from changing to water-soluble pectin. Molasses in Boston Baked Beans contain both calcium and sugar to help them retain their shape even when cooked for days.

Next time you are cooking any kind of dried beans or lentils, throw in a little minced ginger and along with a few fresh spinach leaves. Go with your favorite recipe or try some of the following recipes.

Greek Lentil Salad

Mix 1/2 cup canned lentils, rinsed and drained, with 1/4 cup each chopped tomato, chopped cucumber and chopped red onion. Add 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon canola oil. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese and 2 teaspoons dried oregano. Total calories are 383.

Bean Snack: Oregano Roasted Fava Beans

3 /4 cup shelled fava beans (start with 3/4 pound)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek Oregano

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or with parchment paper. Place all the ingredients in a small bowl, toss well and spill onto the baking sheet. Bake until they are just starting to color and are dried out, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

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