Saturday, January 15, 2011

Green Beans

Commonly known as the string bean, the green bean apparently has many other aliases - French bean, Runner bean and Snap bean. Green bean varieties have been bred especially for the fleshiness, flavor, or sweetness of their pods.

Green beans belong to the same family as shell beans such as pinto beans, black beans and kidney beans.

Although a dull familiar green color, green beans have been shown to contain a good amount of antioxidants. Research has shown that the list of antioxidants flavonoids found in green beans include quercetin, kaemferol, catechins, epicatechins and procyanidins. Green beans also contain a nice suite of carotenoids such as lutein, beta-carotene, violaxanthin and neoxanthin. These antioxidants give this vegetable some potentially unique anti-inflammatory benefits.

Besides being a great source of antioxidants, green beans are also a great friend of your heart. Green bean intake in rats has been shown to improve the levels of blood fats and protection of these fats from oxygen damage. Green beans also contain a decent amount of silicon, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, indicating it benefits for bone health.

To retain the maximum amount of nutrients in green beans, steam or lightly blanch them for a few minutes. These cooking methods also bring out green beans' best flavors, color and crunch.

Purchase green beans fresh in bulk if possible so that you can sort through them to  choose the best ones. Look for beans that have a smooth feel and a vibrant green color with no bruises and blemishes. Fresh beans have a firm texture and "snap" when broken. Store beans unwashed in a plastic bag and keep them in the crisper in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Green beans are also available frozen. Like fruits, frozen vegetables some times contain more nutrients than their fresh counterparts if they are picked and frozen at the time of harvest. Research studies have shown that frozen green beans are able to retain valuable amounts of nutrients for 3 to 6 months after freezing.

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