Common Bean – Properties and Medicinal uses

Green bean, Common bean, or Phaseolus vulgaris, is a herbaceous annual plant that has many therapeutic uses. It has been linked with regulating blood cholesterol level, keeping the skin in good condition, relieving constipation, fighting cancer, and regulating diabetes.

Scientific Name – Phaseolus vulgaris

Family – Fabaceae

French Name – Haricot

Spanish Name – Judia, Judia seca, Frijol, Alubia, Alubia seca

Origin – Americas

Common bean is the seed of Phaseolus vulgaris, a herbaceous plant that is grown worldwide for its pods, which contain bean seeds. The pods are eaten as vegetables prior to ripening (as green beans), or left to ripe and mature completely to yield dry edible bean seeds.

Nutritional value / Properties of beans

According to USDA, beans per 100 g contain a staggering 21 g of protein, supplying more than 40% of daily protein needed (although protein need may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs). It contains 63 g of carbohydrates, and just 1.2 g of fats. Potassium is also present in high amounts, at 1393 mg.

  • The protein in beans varies from variety to variety. In some varieties, it may reach as high as 24 g, which is equal or even higher than animal based foods such as beef, or chicken. The proteins in most animal foods range from 18% – 21% by weight. The protein in beans however lacks an essential amino acid known as methionine, this makes it incomplete. Nevetheless, the issue of incomplete amino acids can be rectified by the process of supplementation, which involves combining beans with other foods rich in methionine such as grains. Also, the digestibility of beans protein is peaked at about 83%, which is significantly less than most animal-based proteins with values ranging between 95% – 99%.
  • According to USDA, beans per 100 g contain 16 g of vegetable fiber. That’s more than half (about 64%) the daily recommended dietary allowance for an adult. This fiber content has been linked with lowering cholesterol levels and preventing constipation.
  • In terms of vitamins, beans contain significant amounts of folates, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Folates in the form of folic acid is used to treat anemia caused by folic acid deficiency. It is also used as an important supplement for pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects. Niacin or vitamin B3 is involved in regulating high blood pressure and in treating disease called pellagra (niacin deficiency). Pantothenic acid is actively involved in cellular metabolism. Its deficiency has been associated with hair fragility and several skin conditions.
  • As for minerals, beans are quite a good source of iron. Just 100 grams provides more than 5 mg of iron. Potassium is also present in beans in rich amounts, with 100 grams providing up to 1,393 mg of potassium.

Common Bean medicinal uses

Here is a short list of the impressive health benefits that a bean carries:

  • Fights Heart diseases
  • Cut Cancer risk
  • Prevents Constipation
  • Regulates Diabetes
  • Improve bone health
  • Maintaining healthy eyes
  • Improves digestive system
  • Boost immunity
  • Pre-natal care

  • Fights Heart diseases

High levels of blood cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol, are an important contributing factor in heart diseases. Green beans can help reduce the risk of heart diseases due to their richness in flavonoids which prevents clotting of the blood in the arteries. Their richness in vegetable fiber also helps them absorb excess cholesterol from the body. Additional contents of beans that assist in fighting heart diseases are vitmain K and lutein. Vitamin K helps remove calcium out of the arteries, hence, preventing the occurrence of large calcified deposits in the arteries. Addition of vitamin K in your diet can help protect the lining of your arteries, and also reduce inflammation, all of which are essential in maintaining a healthy blood pressure and reduced risk of heart diseases.

A journal on the nutrition and health benefits of dried beans (1) emphasized the effect of beans in reducing cholesterol level, thus, reducing the risk of heart diseases.

  • Cuts Cancer risk

Green beans effect in reducing cancer risk has recently gained more attention. Several studies have shown that eating beans can reduce the risk of several types of cancers due to the contribution of their rich bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, phenolic compounds, tannins, and other antioxidants. The richness of beans in antioxidants is an important factor here. These antioxidants help fight free radicals in the body which are responsible for initiating cancerous growths.

A study conducted in 2006 (2) evaluated the intake of dry bean against colorectal cancer. Their results suggest that a high level of dry bean intake reduces the risk of colorectal cancer, which is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Another interesting research carried out in 2015 (3) showed how peptides present in the non-digestible fraction of common beans can help stop or slow the growth and proliferation of cancer cells.

  • Prevents Constipation

The high fiber of beans is responsible for this effect. Adding enough fiber to our diets can help prevent most gastrointestinal conditions including constipation, acid reflux disease, ulcers, and even hemorrhoids. Most of these conditions are mild irritants and may only cause a certain level of upset. However, in some cases, these conditions can be as well life threatening, and thus, must be treated with care.

  • Regulates Diabetes

It’s no longer news that diabetes is one of the most deadly diseases in the world. On the basis of death certificates, GBDC reported mortality rates in 2013 due to diabetes as 1.3 million. This figure alone is enough to show you how ravaging this disease can be, and why you should do all that’s in your power to prevent it. Many researches have shown how eating legumes including beans can help prevent diabetes and regulate blood sugar level. Beans are one of those legumes that produce a great feeling of satiety which helps regulates blood glucose and insulin levels after meals. This is because the sugars present in beans are in the form of complex carbohydrates which are digested and released into the blood stream more slowly than simple sugars.

A particular study (4) showed how regular consumption of beans as part of a low-glycemic-index-diet improved glucose management, reduced systolic blood pressure and decreased risk of coronary heart disease.

  • Improve Bone health

Green beans contain significant amounts of calcium, which is integral to the development of stronger bones. Vitamin K present in beans also helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis by maintaining bone density, and reducing the risk of bone fracture. They also contain silicon, which has been associated with increased bone strength and durability. Although silicon is found in rare amounts in foods, it is present in significant quantities in beans and serves a key role in the overall bone health.

A research (5) published in the international journal of Endocrinology, showed the potential role of silicon in the prevention and treatment of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis.

  • Maintains healthy Eyes

Green beans contains important carotenoids such as lutein and Zeaxanthin which constitute the main pigment in the yellow spot of the human retina. These carotenoids have been linked with improving eye health, thus, making now the right time to increase their proportion in your diet, with beans.

A research carried out in 2013 (6) evaluated the role of these carotenoids in eye health. Many researchers have linked them with reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.

  • Boost immunity

This is due to beans richness in antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that fight off free radicals in our body. As said earlier, these free radicals in our body are capable of causing cancerous growths, and must be eliminated.

  • Pre-natal care

As we have seen above, beans are a great source of folic acid, which plays an important role in preventing neural tube defects. To protect your baby from birth defects, folic acid is necessary, and of course, your common beans can provide the required folates in your diet.

By Abbati

Abbati studied Biological sciences at Ahmadu Bello Univeristy, Zaria. He loves learning about the medicinal properties of foods, and the need to explore them!