When it comes to stocking up on vitamins and minerals, green beans might not be an obvious choice - but think again.
Green beans get two thumbs up for their vitamin K content. One-half cup (125 ml) of cooked green beans (a Food Guide serving) provides 15 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. This nutrient plays a vital role in blood clotting but may also help keep your bones strong as you age. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that low dietary vitamin K intakes increased the incidence of hip fractures in elderly men and women. Another study revealed that women who consumed the least vitamin K had an increased risk of hip fracture than their peers who consumed the most.
Green beans are also a source of vitamins A and C, manganese and fibre. Any they're low in calories - one half cup delivers less than 25 calories and only one gram of fat.
Nutrient information per 1/2 cup (125 ml) serving of cooked green beans:
Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b
Green beans are known by a few different names, including string beans, snap beans and French beans. Haricots verts, the French name for green beans, may also be used to describe a variety of the bean that's longer and more slender than the typical North American green bean.
While they don't look anything alike, green beans are from the same family as shell beans, including kidney beans and black beans. The most obvious difference is that the green bean's entire pod and seed can be eaten, unlike its cousins.
There are over 130 varieties of green beans which are differentiated into two main groups: bush beans and pole beans. Bush beans grow on short, low-growing bushes, while pole beans climb as they grow. Pod colour can range from green, yellow to purple, while shape can range from long and thin, to short and wide.
Regardless of their name, the most common varieties of green beans are known for their long, thin shape and vibrant emerald green colour.
Gone are the days that you could only buy fresh green beans. Now you can also enjoy them canned or frozen year-round.
According to Foodland Ontario, fresh green beans are at their peak in Ontario from June to October.
When buying fresh green beans look for those that are brightly coloured with unblemished skin. Fresh green beans should be crisp enough that when you bend them in half they snap apart.
Avoid beans with pods that are bulging out of the side of the bean. This is an indication that the beans were picked too late and, as a result, they will be tough. If possible, buy green beans that are sold loosely so you can sort through them and choose beans with the best quality. Pass on beans that are brown, bruised or blemished.
Store unwashed green beans in a loose plastic bag in the crisper of the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Avoid washing or rinsing the beans before storing them as this will cause them to spoil more quickly.
Green beans can also be frozen, which means you can stock up on them in the summer and fall when they're at their peak and least expensive. To freeze green beans, drop them in boiling water for a minute or two, drain and then rinse under cold water. Store in an airtight freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Green beans require little preparation. Simply rinse beans under cool running water to remove any dirt or grit and then snap or cut off the ends of the bean before cooking.
Whether you prefer to steam, boil, microwave or stir-fry green beans, you can't go wrong. Depending on how crisp you like them, they need only to be cooked for a few minutes.
Keep in mind that cooking green beans with acidic ingredients, such as lemon juice or tomatoes, may cause them to lose their vibrant green colour and turn a drab, pale green. You can avoid this by adding beans to such dishes near the end of cooking time.
If boiled green beans are the only way you've enjoyed this vegetable, it's time to broaden your horizons. From soups and stews to salads and casseroles, green beans can wear many different hats in the kitchen. They pair well with nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, and are delicious with a hint of ground nutmeg.
Healthy ways to enjoy
- Add colour to a breakfast omelet by including a handful of chopped, blanched green beans.
- Make a delicious breakfast quiche with fresh green beans, sliced red bell peppers, spinach leaves, grated cheese and shredded cooked chicken.
- Make your own Salad Nicoise - toss lettuce with blanched or raw green beans, black olives, sliced tomatoes, water packed tuna and anchovies. Drizzle with a red wine vinaigrette.
- Prepare a delicious cold salad by tossing cooked green beans, crushed garlic, sliced water chestnuts, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.
- Enjoy green beans with dash of flavour. Steam beans until tender-crisp and sprinkle with slivered almonds, a drizzle of olive oil and a touch of ground nutmeg.
- Add variety to a vegetable stir-fry by adding a handful of sliced green beans.
- Don't forget green beans when it comes making your veggie tray. Green beans dipped in hummus (chickpea dip) is a crunchy snack that's high in protein and fibre.
The World's Healthiest Foods - http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=134
Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_bean
Did you know?
- Green beans are known scientifically as Phaseolus vulgaris.
- The largest commercial producers of green beans in the world include the U.S., Japan, Spain, Italy and France.
- The long string that ran the length of some varieties of green beans (hence the name string bean), that was once their trademark trait can no longer be found in modern varieties.