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French Beans: Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Introduction

Green beans are unripe, young fruits of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). They are referred to by many names, such as French beans (French- haricot vert), snap beans or string beans (modern varieties happen to be stringless). In the Philippines, Green beans are known as Baguio beans/ habichuelas to differentiate them from yardlong beans.


Green beans are different from other varieties of beans because the green beans are consumed and harvested while the enclosing pods are still intact and the bean seeds haven’t yet fully matured within. Originally, green beans were found in South and Central America, where there has been evidence of cultivation in Peru and Mexico for many years. The three common types of green beans come under the species category Phaseolus vulgaris. These three are snap or string beans with a round, flat pod; French or stringless beans that lack a fibrous, tough string running along the side of the pod; runner beans belonging to the separate species, Phaseolus coccineus. 

Nutritional Value of French Beans

Looking at the nutritional profile of French beans, raw green beans contain 90% water, 2% protein, 7% carbohydrates and negligible fat. In a 100-gram quantity of French beans, one is provided 31 calories and a moderate amount of vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese and vitamin B with other micronutrients in low quantity. Green beans are also a good source of thiamin, folate, riboflavin, potassium and magnesium.

NutrientValue
Calories28
Fat0.55 grams (g)
Carbohydrate5.66 g
Sugar1.94 g
Fibre2.6 g
Protein1.42 g
Calcium17 milligrams
Magnesium18 mg
Iron1.2 mg
Phosphorus39 mg
Potassium130 mg
Vitamin A24 micrograms (mcg)
Vitamin K52.5 mcg
Folate32 mcg

The above table indicates the nutritional breakdown of about 150 grams of snap beans [1].

According to Harvard Medical School, increasing the amount of iron a woman of childbearing age consumes from plant sources including spinach, beans, pumpkin, and green beans may help with fertility. I read in an article and it said that, a woman’s degree of fertility and the amount of nutrients, particularly iron, she consumes, are related. Iron absorption can be enhanced by consuming foods high in vitamin C, such as tomatoes, bell peppers, or berries, together with meals high in iron.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Also Read: Are Beans Vegetables? Exploring the Nutritional Value of Beans

Properties of French Beans

  • French beans are low in fat and calorie content.
  • French beans are best consumed boiled, steamed, baked or grilled.
  • The vegetable contains the molecule chlorophyll, which can reduce cancer risk.
  • French beans contain a significant amount of B9 and folate.
  • French beans contain a group of compounds known as retinoids which support good immunity.
  • Cooked French beans are high in antioxidants.

Potential Uses of French Beans

French beans may have the following uses for human health:

  • Can Lower the Risk of Cancer

Green beans or French beans can contain significant amounts of chlorophyll, which can impede the carcinogenic effects of the heterocyclic amines that are created when meat is grilled at high temperatures. So, it is recommended that those who like to have their grilled meat a little bit charred should balance the negative effects of their meal with boiled French beans.

  • French Beans do Contain Protein

The body needs protein in order to maintain hair, healthy bones, muscles and organs. Protein is also key in order to maintaining a healthy immune system. Although plant proteins lack one of the amino acids needed by the body, when combined with other protein sources, they can turn out to become complete proteins and still prove to be beneficial for the body.

  • Good Source of Minerals and Vitamins

`French beans contain essential vitamins that include folate. A cup of raw green beans contains about 33 mcg of folate, which is almost 10% of the daily recommended dietary intake. Folate is a B vitamin that prevents birth defects and other neural tube defects.

A cup of raw green beans contains 12.2 mg of vitamin C, which is about 25% of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that maintains the immune system and plays an integral role in collagen production, protecting the skin from oxidative stress.

 A cup of raw French beans offers about 690 IU of vitamin A, which is a group of compounds referred to as retinoids. Vitamin A is important because it aids in healthy immunity, healthy vision and reproduction.

French beans are a good source of minerals such as manganese which has antioxidant properties and supports metabolism. Manganese also promotes the quick healing of wounds and supports bone health.

  • French Beans are good for mental health 

One of the primary causes of depression is the imbalance of neurotransmitters and chemicals in the brain. Dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine are essential for maintaining good brain health. At times, when their levels drop within the brain, it can lead to symptoms of depression. The chemical homocysteine hampers the production of norepinephrine and serotonin. French beans contain a decent amount of B9 or folate, which can help lower levels of homocysteine in the body. Thus, consuming French beans can be beneficial for brain health..

  • Good Source of Iron

Iron is an essential mineral required by the body in order to produce new red blood cells. The cells help in oxygen transportation in the body. A person suffering from anaemia or iron deficiency will feel fatigued most of the time, along with weakness and slow metabolism. So, someone suffering from anaemia can benefit from consuming French beans. One hundred grams of French beans is equivalent to a person’s 25% of daily iron intake.

  •  Supports Heart Health

High cholesterol leads to a build-up of fat deposits within the arteries and decreases blood flow to the brain and heart, causing stroke or heart attack. French beans support good heart health because they don’t contain cholesterol. A cup of raw French beans contains 2.7 g of fibre, whereas the boiled variant contains 4.0 g of fibre along with soluble fibre. Soluble fibre can help reduce total cholesterol or bad cholesterol levels. French beans help to reduce inflammation and blood pressure, so consuming a cup of it daily can prove to be very healthy for you.

When fat builds up in the liver, it may result in fatty liver. It may emerge together with metabolic syndrome symptoms such as obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and others. Losing weight, managing blood sugar levels, and lowering blood levels of fats like triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol are the mainstays of medical practitioners’ treatments for fatty liver disease. From my experience, beans are a wonderful alternative to animal proteins that are richer in fat for improving liver function.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Also Read: Exploring the Health Benefits of Cannellini Beans: A Comprehensive Review

How to Use French Beans?

· Fresh green beans

· Frozen green beans

· Canned green beans

· Can be consumed boiled/steamed, baked or stir-fried

Also Read: Are Pinto Beans Healthy? Exploring Their Research-Based Benefits

Side Effects of French Beans

French beans are extremely healthy, but there are certain side effects that people need to know about. Those who are on blood thinners should refrain from eating excessive French beans since they contain significant amounts of vitamin K. This vitamin can speed up the blood clotting process in wounds and counteract the effects of blood-thinning medications.

Excess consumption of French beans can give rise to digestive issues such as gas, flatulence and bloating. Aside from vitamin K, French beans also contain lectin, which can cause a number of gut-related problems. So, the ideal recommended daily intake for French beans is 1-2 cups daily.

Another factor is that French beans are best consumed cooked in some form. If you are buying canned French beans from the store, then cooking the French beans can also lower the sodium levels.

Also Read: Velvet Beans: A Closer Look at Their Health Benefits and Uses

Precautions to Take with French Beans

While eating French beans, it is advised that you eat them cooked because raw beans contain lectin, which is a protein that acts as a natural insecticide or antifungal for plants. So, when French beans are consumed raw, the lectin present can bind to the surface cells of the digestive system and cause symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea and bloating.

If you do experience side effects, it is recommended that you consult a doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the benefits of eating cooked French beans?

Ans: Consuming cooked French beans is always better than eating them raw. Although cooking the beans can decrease the nutritional value of some vitamins, it increases the levels of antioxidants such as isoflavones and carotenoids on the other hand. Cooking also inactivates the presence of harmful lectins that upset the digestive system.

Q2. Can consuming French beans promote weight loss?

Ans: French beans are highly nutritious with little fat and calorie content. Additionally, they have high dietary fibre and protein content, which helps one feel fuller for longer, negating the need to eat snacks in between meals.

Q3. Can French beans be consumed by diabetics?

Ans: Yes, French beans can be safely consumed by diabetics because they have a low glycemic index. They don’t increase the glucose levels in the blood and provide energy, nutrients and minerals while maintaining blood sugar.

Q4. How do French beans lower the risk of cancer?

Ans: A study conducted has revealed that French beans contain the molecule known as chlorophyll which lowers the risk of cancer. Chlorophyll imparts the green colour to French beans and contains anti-cancerous properties. It blocks carcinogens which are responsible for causing cancer.

Q5. Is eating French beans advisable for pregnant women?

Ans: Yes, French beans contain a good amount of vitamin B9 or folate, which is beneficial for pregnant women. It lowers the risk of developing congenital diseases in a foetus and reduces the chances of neural tube defects.

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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