Green Beans Health Benefits

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My roommate just came back from the farmers’ market with a bag of fresh Ontario green beans and promptly cooked them up with some garlic and slivered almonds – really simple. She asked if I wanted some to which I responded “no thanks” as I’d just eaten. They smelled really good, though, so I rethought my position. “I’ll try one,” I said. And that lead to another and another and soon I was feasting on the poor woman’s dinner. They were just too good to pass up.

We’re right at the beginning of green bean season — a season that should last through until October, depending on the weather. You can usually get them all year, but this is when they’re at their best and least expensive, so take advantage over the next few months.

Green beans are a great source of vitamin K, vitamin C and manganese. They’re also a very good source of beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, and they also contain a variety of other important carotenoid phytonutrients. You can tell by their crunch that green beans are a good source of dietary fiber. They also contain zinc, potassium, the all important folate, are a decent source of iron, magnesium, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), copper, calcium, phosphorus and niacin (B3), all of which is to say they’re quite a nutrient-dense little veggie.

Speaking of folate, researchers out of South Korea’s National Cancer Center found that eating a diet rich in folate can lower a woman’s risk of colon cancer by two thirds. The same effect wasn’t seen in men, however. The researchers believe this observation is due to folate’s ability to heal DNA damage in the cells. Along with spinach, peppers and citrus fruits, green beans are a great source of folate. The vitamin C and beta-carotene in green beans also help to protect against colon cancer by guarding the cells against the onslaught of free radical damage. And of course, the fiber in green beans binds cancer causing agents and removes them from the colon before they can do any damage.

Green beans are also known for their diuretic properties, cleaning out the blood and possibly helping with kidney stones. They also stimulate the production of white blood cells. As a source of silica and zinc, green beans may also be helpful for the health of the skin. String beans, as they’re also called, contain three of the important nutrients for the immune system: vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, vitamin C and zinc are all integral to a properly functioning immune system.

The great thing about green beans is that they’re so uncomplicated and easy to prepare. Steam them and serve them with butter or ghee (don’t skip the fat or you won’t be able to take advantage of those fat soluble carotenoid phytonutrients), stir fry them with garlic, add them to soups or casseroles – they’re hearty and delicious in any application. So enjoy the fresh ones while they’re here!

The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale, Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef, living in Toronto.

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