Beans: Properties and Benefits


Beans are one of the most versatile and most consumed foods in the world. They have very good nutritional properties that can bring health benefits. They are ideal for vegetarians and vegans to replace meat proteins

The beans , scientific name Phaseolus vulgaris, are legumes with excellent properties nutrients. The plant belongs to the Leguminosae family and is native to countries with a warm climate such as Central America.

Beans: properties and benefits
Beans: properties and benefits

Beans have a long history with regard to their use worldwide, both food and medicine. The common bean apparently originates from Peru and was later introduced to Europe in the 16th century. To date, some of the major producer countries of this legume are India, China, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, the United States, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, Argentina and the Thailand.

Beans, because of their low price and easy availability, in the past were considered the food of the poor. In reality the bean is a noble and very nutritious food and according to historical sources it is thanks to their consumption that in the Middle Ages terrible famines were faced and overcome.


The variety of beans is very numerous, there are at least 300 different types, of which about 60 are edible. These legumes have shapes and colors of all types: white, black, variegated, red, large, small, round or flattened.

The most common varieties are represented by the Borlotti, the Cannellini, Mexican, Bianchi di Spagna, Lamon, Vigevano and Scottish beans.

The benefits that these legumes have on health, their versatility in the kitchen and their high content of nutrients, make them an excellent choice for both vegetarians and omnivores.

Chemical Composition

Chemical composition for 100 g of beans
Water g 63,1
Protein g 9,7
Carbohydrates g 25,1
Fibers g 6,3
Sugars g 0,3
Ashes g 1,8
Omega 3 mg 69
Omega 6 mg 83
Calcium mg 90
Iron mg 3,7
Magnesium mg 63
Phosphorus mg 113
Potassium mg 561
Sodium mg 6
Zinc mg 1,4
Copper mg 0,3
Manganese mg 0,6
Selenium mcg 1,3
B1 mg 0,1
B2 mg 0,0
B3 mg 0,1
B5 mg 0,2
B6 mg 0,1
Vitamin E mg 0,9
Vitamin J mg 35,1
Vitamin K mcg 3,5
Folate mcg 81

Source: Nutritiondata

Amino acids: aspartic acid and glutamic acid, alanine, arginine, cystine, glycine, phenylalanine, histidine,isoleucine, leucine, lysine, proline, methionine, serine, tyrosine, tryptophan, valine and threonine.


The calories supplied by 100 grams of edible portion of beans is 139 kcal.

Beans: Properties and Benefits

They Replace the Meat

First of all, it should be noted that beans represent, from the point of view of protein intake, a valid alternative to meat consumption. They are a food that thanks to its properties is able to balance the diet from the point of view of the proportion between glucides, lipids and proteins.

It must however be said that to have a protein intake similar to that of meat and fish, legumes  should be combined with other foods, always of vegetable origin. For example cornbrown ricewalnutshazelnutsalmonds and wheat.

Type 2 Diabetes

There is much evidence that these legumes are a good choice for diabetics. The beans are high in fiber and have a low glycemic index. This type of food gradually increases blood sugar, a very important factor for diabetics.

A diet rich in legumes can reduce blood sugar and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels. The latter is used to identify blood sugar values.

A 2015 study examined the values of subjects who replaced red meat with beans. The results confirmed that the patients reduced their blood sugar and triglycerides. ( 1 )

The bean pods are among the most popular folk remedies for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. According to a study conducted in Germany, thanks to their fiber content and an alpha-amylase inhibitory effect, could be useful in preventing or improving diabetes 2 symptoms. (2)

The University of Colorado has conducted research on the effects that the consumption of beans (the Phaseolus vulgaris species) has on chronic diseases. The results suggest that regular consumption of these legumes has a positive effect on conditions that are favored by an increase in glycemic stress, such as diabetes. (3)

Beans: properties and benefits

They are Good for Heart

The heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.

According to recent studies, even the heart and the circulatory system would benefit not negligible from the consumption of these legumes. A study published in the  Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrates the benefits of beans on heart. Those who consume pulses 4 times in a week reduce  the risk of developing heart disease by 22% compared to those who only eat them once.

A 2014 study suggests that eating pulses regularly greatly reduces the risk of heart disease. ( 4 )

Another scientific study suggests that regular consumption of these legumes reduces other factors risk for the cardiovascular system. The benefits are the reduction of blood pressure, the increase of good cholesterol and the reduction of inflammation. ( 56 )

Lower Cholesterol

According to a 2014 study, regular consumption of beans is able to lower the presence of fat and cholesterol in the blood. ( 7 )

A study conducted in Brazil suggests that consumption of black beans is useful for reducing LDL cholesterol. Another very recent study on hamsters found that the consumption of green beans is effective in reducing cholesterol levels. ( 89 )

After 28 days of taking these legumes, hamsters, in addition to having reduced cholesterol levels, showed increased protection in the liver. The results showed that part of the cholesterol was excreted via the faeces.

Finally, a Japanese study examined the effects of resistant bean starches on metabolism lipid of rats. For the experiment, different varieties of beans have been used, including azuki (Vigna angularis). The rats were fed for 4 weeks with 25 g of corn starch and 50 g of bean starch. At the end of the experiment the results showed a reduction in total cholesterol. ( 10 )

series of studies conducted by  Colorado State University claims that consuming legumes regularly could help prevent breast cancer. At the moment there is still nothing certain but the first findings from the studies give hope for future developments.

The beans are rich in compounds with antioxidant properties. These substances protect cells from free radicals and therefore from oxidative stress, a condition that can cause tumors to develop. A study on the International Journal of Cancer has been published on this topic. The study examined about 90.000 women who consumed legumes at least twice a week for a period of 8 years. The data showed that these women were less likely to develop breast cancer than those who ate beans only once a month. ( 11 )

There is also another study that supports the anticancer properties of these fabulous plant foods. The research is from 2006 and was published in the  Journal of Cancer Research. The study suggests that women who consume pulses 4 or more times a week have a lower incidence of colorectal polyps. This kind of polyps are precursors of colon and rectal tumors. ( 12 )

A study published in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules found that white bean lecithin has anti-proliferative effects and induces apoptotic death of cells of different types of cancer. ( 13 )

Finally, beans also contain natural compounds called saponins. These seem to be able to stop the reproduction of cancer cells and thus slow down the growth of the tumor. Another valid reason to include beans in our diet.


Beans, the white ones in particular, have a high molybdenum content. Molybdenum is a mineral that activates a series of detoxifying enzymes including sulfite oxidase and aldehyde oxidase.

Weight Loss

Borlotti, Cotti A Vapore - pacco da 3x150g


Tasto Amazon

According to statistics published by the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity has almost tripled worldwide since 1975. In 2016, over 1,9 billion adults worldwide were overweight. Also in 2016, 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight. ( 14 )

Studies inform us that alpha-amylase inhibitors are useful for weight loss. This is due to their ability to prevent starch breaking and absorption. Alpha-amylase inhibitors are present in beans and cereals. ( 15 )

A 2011 study examined the effects of alpha-amylase inhibitors extracted from white beans. In the texts, 60 slightly overweight people were involved who for 30 days received one tablet of active extracts before each carbohydrate-rich meal. At the end of the study the participants had a reduction in adipose tissue, body weight and fat mass. ( 16 )

Other research shows that these legumes can be a very useful food for weight loss. This is thanks to the abundance of protein and dietary fiber, two of the most effective nutrients for weight loss. A study examined the effects of a diet rich in legumes and fiber on some patients. At the end of the test the patients reported an increase in satiety and a loss of  3 kg in 4 weeks. ( 17 )

There is also another study that shows that the consumption of these legumes is associated with a reduction in weight and fat in the belly. ( 18 )

Group B Vitamins

They are rich in B vitamins that help the body convert food into energy. Not only that, these vitamins are also useful for increasing good cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation. Scientific research has also shown that vitamin B6 and folate are useful for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A Japanese study found that increased consumption of folate and B6 vitamin had different effects on men and women. In men, legume consumption was associated with fewer deaths from heart failure. In women, deaths due to stroke and heart disease were reduced.

So if you still have doubts about putting beans in your diet I think it’s time to do it.

They do not Contain Gluten

People suffering from celiac disease, due to gluten, cannot consume a wide variety of cereal-based foods. This increases the risk of deficiency of B vitamins and other nutrients present in cereals.

The beans do not contain gluten but their chemical composition is rich in all the nutrients necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Reason for this to include them in the diet if you have problems with gluten.

Other Properties

Another property probably not known by most, is the high level of isoflavones that beans contain. These substances offer different benefits to our body, in particular they reduce the risk of heart disease, improve bone and prostate health.

Slimming Properties of Bean Pods

They don’t lose weight, but their pods can help with diets. Thanks to the presence of cellulose containing fiber, pectins and flavonoids, the absorption of sugars is slowed down.

Thanks to this property, the bean pod is recommended when, at the end of a diet, you want to make the weight stable and avoid a sudden return of the fat mass.

Canned Beans

The canned beans from the nutritional point are almost equal to those cooked at home, the only difference is that they contain a little more salt. The salt content can already be reduced by eliminating the water contained in the can and can be further reduced by rinsing.

The research has calculated that the drainage of the liquid eliminates 36% of salt while rinsing eliminates 41%.

However, it should be pointed out that rinsing canned beans can reduce the amount of some nutrients. For example, after rinsing, vitamin C decreases by 10%.


The raw beans contain a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin that often cause poisoning in children, recognizing them as food, eat them raw. The toxin can cause liver damage. For this reason, before consuming these pulses it is necessary to keep them to soak for at least 12 hours and then throw the water before cooking them.

Within three hours of their raw consumption, symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain may occur.


Legumes in the pod

The intake of beans  for some people can cause the unpleasant side effect of intestinal gas formation. To limit this drawback you can be seasoned with an aromatic herb called savory (Satureja or) or, alternatively, one can add a teaspoon of ginger ground to a small amount of seaweed.

Other herbs and spices that bind well with beans and can help prevent flatulence are garlic anise, cuminturmericlemongrass and coriander.

The cause of gas formation, according to scientific research, is the presence of sugars called oligosaccharides that can create digestive problems. ( 19 )

A study by the University of Arizona found that people’s perception of flatulence is exaggerated. Only half of the people who eat beans have the symptoms of flatulence. ( 20 )


Since ancient times the so-called eyed beans that came from Africa and Asia were widespread throughout Europe. In America we find the common bean and the bean from Lima.

According to ancient medical studies, along with fava beans and chickpeas, they were considered aphrodisiac foods.

The first known bean recipe dates back to the first century after Christ. In one of his literary works of culinary subjects Marco Gaio Apici wrote that besides being eaten boiled or cooked in a pan with the addition of aromas, they can also be eaten alone without seasoning.

Maybe not Everyone Knows That

There is reliable evidence, dating back to Roman times, which testify to the use of these precious legumes by the Greek and Egyptian population.

As evidence of the excellent nutritional properties of this food there are two proverbs: “the beans are the meat of the poor” and “rice and beans make the children grow”.

As we have seen, they contain many nutrients and low fat. For this reason, nutritionists recommend placing them at least 2 or 3 times a week in the children’s diet. Instead, they should be avoided by those with colitis or meteorism problems.

Even canned beans can be an excellent food for our well-being. When you buy them, however, make sure they don’t have added sugar and salts and that they possibly come from organic farming.

Beans: Properties and Benefits

Italian language version


This is not a medical newspaper, the information provided by this site is for informational purposes only and is of a general nature, it cannot in any way replace the prescriptions of a doctor or other health professionals authorized by law. The notions of dosage, medical procedures and product descriptions on this site have an illustrative purpose and do not allow to acquire the necessary experience and manual skills for their practice or their use. If you have been prescribed medical care I urge you not to interrupt or modify them, because all the suggestions you find on  must always and in any case be compared with the opinion of your doctor.

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