Green beans, also known as string beans or snap beans, are in the same family as shell beans, such as pinto beans, black beans and kidney beans. Yet unlike their cousins, green beans’ entire bean, pod and seed, can be eaten.
Green beans are the immature form of the common kidney-shaped bean. They are harvested before beans begin forming inside the pods. Most of green beans’ energy is stored within the seed. Without using fertilizer, green beans have enough food to nourish them until their first true leaves appear.
One cup of raw green beans has just 31 calories, no fat, and only 3.6 grams of sugar. Green beans contain no cholesterol.
Green beans contain protein. Plant proteins are not complete proteins; that is, they lack at least one of the amino acids your body needs. But plant proteins are still beneficial. They can be combined with other proteins throughout the day to make complete proteins. One cup of raw green beans has almost 2 g of protein.
Green beans contain many essential vitamins, including folate. One cup of raw green beans contains 33 micrograms (mcg) of folate, almost 10 percent of the daily recommended value. Folate is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects and other birth defects.
Raw green beans are also a good source of vitamin C. One cup contains 12.2 mg, around 25 percent of the daily recommended value. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps boost your immune system. It’s also integral for the production of collagen and helps protect your skin from oxidative stress.
One cup of raw green beans provides 690 IU of Vitamin A, a little less than 15 percent of the daily recommended value. Vitamin A isn’t a single vitamin. It’s a group of compounds known as retinoids. Vitamin A is important to immune health, reproduction, and healthy vision.
Some other vitamins in one cup of raw green beans include:
- vitamin K: 43 mcg
- thiamin: 0.1 mg
- niacin: 0.7 mg
- vitamin B-6: 0.14 mg
- vitamin E: 0.41 mg
Green beans are a good source of minerals, especially manganese. This essential mineral supports your metabolism and has antioxidant abilities. It also supports bone health and promotes wound healing.
Other minerals in one cup of raw green beans include:
- calcium: 37 mg
- iron: 1.03 mg
- magnesium: 25 mg
- phosphorous: 38 mg
- potassium: 211 mg
- zinc: 0.24 mg
One cup of raw green beans has 2.7 g of fiber. Cooked (boiled) green beans have 4.0 g of fiber, some of it soluble fiber. Soluble fiber may help lower LDL and total cholesterol levels. It may also support heart health by lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation.
FODMAPs are undigested carbohydrates that are metabolized by bacteria in your gut leading to gas, belly pain, diarrhea, and constipation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Eating foods high in FODMAPs may worsen digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and acid reflux. Eating low FODMAP foods may bring considerable relief. Green beans are a low FODMAP food.
They’re also easy to grow, with the added bonus of improving the soil they grow in because of their ability to “fix” nitrogen from the air in nodules attached to the bean roots. When the nodulated bean roots decompose, they liberate the nitrogen to become available for the next year’s crop planted in that spot.
How to Buy
Fresh, locally grown green beans are easy to find in the summer. A green bean at its peak should have vivid color, a firm texture, and “snap” when broken. If possible, purchase green beans at a store or farmer’s market that sells them loose so that you can sort through them to choose the beans of best quality.
If you have a surplus or find them sold in bulk at a farmers’ market, they also freeze well, especially if you harvest them while slender and freeze them whole.
How to Store
Store unwashed fresh beans pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.
Green beans are definitely a vegetable that can be frozen. Research studies on the nutritional consequences of freezing green beans show the ability of green beans to retain valuable amounts of nutrients for 3-6 months after freezing. If you don’t have fresh green beans available on a year-round basis, purchasing frozen green beans can definitely provide you with a nutritionally valuable option.
Store unwashed fresh beans in a reusable glass container or wrapped in a cotton tea towel in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.
Freezing Green Beans: Rinse your green beans in cool water and then drain. Cut the ends of the beans off and then cut the beans to whatever length you prefer.
Put the green beans into rapidly boiling water, cover the pot and boil them for 3 minutes. (You can re-use this water three to five times – but make sure it’s brought back to a rolling boil).
Use a large slotted spoon to remove the green beans from the boiling water and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Keep them in the ice water for 3 minutes. Drain them well.
Put the green beans into a reusable airtight freezer container. Make sure you get as much air out of the container or ziplock bag as possible to help prevent freezer burn.
How to Cook
Just prior to using the green beans, wash them under running water. Remove both ends of the beans by either snapping them off or cutting them with a knife. Modern varieties of this native American vegetable no longer have “strings” down the sides of the pods that need to be pulled off before eating
If you are snapping the ends off, pull the end down the side of the bean to remove any possible string. Do the same thing with the other tip, pulling it down the other side of the bean.
Boiling Green Beans: Boil a medium to large pot of water. Wash the green beans (see above) and throw them in the pot and boil for about 4 minutes. They’ll turn a bright green color in the process. This will make a nice, crunchy bean. If you prefer yours mushy, boil them a little longer. Empty the beans into a colander to drain the water.
Steaming Green Beans: The fastest method for cooking fresh green beans is to steam them (because it’s faster to bring an inch of water to a boil than a whole pot of water.) Set a steamer basket in a saucepan with an inch of water in it and add the fresh green beans to the basket. When the water comes to a boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat a little, and steam about 4 minutes.