If you are trying to eat healthier, eating more beans is definitely a good way to go. But while beans are great overall, white beans have specific health benefits. So, what are the potential benefits of eating white beans?
What are white beans?
White beans aren’t a specific kind of bean. Instead the category of “white beans” encapsulates several different types of beans. These beans include the following:
- Cannellini beans (White kidney beans)
- Navy beans
- Great northern beans
- Butter beans (Lima beans)
Some may even categorize pinto beans as white beans, though they have more of a beige hue to them. Overall, white beans is a category that includes four distinct kinds of beans.
Cannellini beans or white kidney beans originated in Argentina in South America. But later the crop was brought over to Italy and is now commonly used in Italian cuisine.
Navy beans originated in Peru, also in South America. Despite this, the name “Navy” came from their popular use in the U.S. Military and are now commonly consumed in North America.
Great northern beans also originated in South America, cultivated by the native population.
Butter beans or lima beans originate from, you guessed it, Lima, the capital of Peru. As you can see, beans (for the most part) all originated from South America.
White beans are used in a wide variety of recipes across many cultures. One of the most iconic recipes that use white beans is pasta e fagioli, an Italian dish featuring great northern beans.
Another popular dish is succotash, a South America dish using lima beans, corn and bacon.
White beans in general are also used commonly in Southern United States recipes such as butter bean soup and southern-style butter beans with ham hock.
Where to buy
You should be able to find all four varieties of white beans at your local grocery store in either dried form or canned form.
If you are unable to find them at your local grocery store, try an international grocery store. They typically have a large selection of beans there.
How to cook
Cooking dry beans from scratch is actually pretty easy. First, start by adding two cups of dry beans to a large pot. Add cold water, covering the beans about two to three inches.
Bring to a bowl, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about two hours, occasionally skimming the foam from the top of the boiling water.
Check the beans every thirty minutes to check for doneness. Once the beans are easily mushed, they are done. They simply let cool and eat some right away or store in the refrigerator for later.
5 Health Benefits of White Beans
Let’s go over a few health benefits of eating white beans. If you have any medical conditions, please speak to your primary care physician before adding any new foods to your diet.
They are good for heart health
Along with this, a high fiber diet can help lower blood pressure, especially for those with hypertension and older individuals.
Both of these factors, lowered LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, can contribute to an overall lower risk of heart disease.
They are good for gut health
As mentioned earlier, white beans are high in fiber. Because of this, they are also great for your overall gut health.
Not only can a healthy amount of fiber in your diet help improve your bowel movements, they also feed the good bacteria in your gut, leading to a healthier gut microbiome.
When your good gut bacteria is fed, they release short chain fatty acids, which have multiple benefits including improved gut barrier function and glucose regulation.
They can help you lose weight
White beans are high in dietary fiber and protein, meaning they can potentially help with weight loss.
Both fiber and protein increase sensations of fullness, meaning they keep you fuller for longer which can potentially lead to weight loss. That being said, you must be in a caloric deficit to lose weight.
This means you will need to eat less than you expend daily. White beans can help with this because they can help reduce feelings of hunger that make a caloric deficit hard to maintain.
They can reduce risk of anemia
White beans are high in iron. One cup of great northern beans contains about 6.5 milligrams of iron. The average adult requires 8-18 milligrams of iron daily, depending on their age if they menstruate.
Iron-deficiency anemia occurs when your body doesn’t have enough iron to produce red blood cells. It can be caused by multiple factors, but you can help prevent it by regularly consuming enough iron and vitamin C (which aids in iron absorption).
Overall, iron is an important mineral and it’s important for everyone, not just those at risk for iron-deficiency anemia to include high iron foods in their diet, like white beans.
They can help build muscle
White beans are a good source of protein, meaning they can aid in building lean muscle mass. One cup of great northern beans contains about 17 grams of protein.
That being said, white beans are not a complete protein, like most plant-based protein sources. This means they don’t contain adequate amounts of all essential amino acids.
This doesn’t mean the protein from white beans are inferior, it just means that you will need to pair it with other protein sources to make it “complete”. For example, adding rice to your white beans will create a complete protein.
Along with this, it’s important to note that you will not build muscle by just sitting around and eating beans. A high protein diet must be paired with some sort of progressive resistance training.
This could be weight lifting, using resistance bands, doing bodyweight exercises or doing some form of manual labor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which beans are the healthiest?
There is no such thing as the “healthiest” kind of bean. All beans are high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. Instead of focusing on eating the most nutritious bean, try varying the beans you consume on a regular basis.
For example, one week try black beans and great northern beans and another week try lima beans and pinto beans. Eating a variety of beans is always better than sticking to one kind, despite one kind being marginally more nutritious.
Are white beans anti-inflammatory?
This is another question that is hard to answer plainly. In a sense, all foods are inflammatory because blood will rush to your gut to initiate and execute the digestion process.
If you have any digestive problems like IBS or IBD, white beans can cause even more inflammation due to their high fiber and fermentable carbohydrate content.
But when people say inflammation, they are typically referring to the chronic inflammation that is associated with disease and reduced health.
In that sense, white beans do have some anti-inflammatory properties like antioxidants and polyphenols. So that can be considered anti-inflammatory foods.
Which bean is highest in protein?
White beans aren’t too far off though. Here is a look at how much protein is contained in one cup of each kind of white bean:
- Great northern beans: 17 grams
- Navy beans: 15 grams
- Butter beans: 15 grams
- Cannellini beans: 12 grams
Protein amounts may vary slightly depending on the brand, so be sure to check the nutrition label for more accurate numbers.
Is it ok to eat beans daily?
Yes, beans are completely fine to consume daily. In fact, I would encourage everyone to consume beans in their various forms on the daily. They are a great source of fiber, protein and micronutrients.
What are the side effects of white beans?
White beans are high in fiber and oligosaccharides, a kind of fermentable carbohydrate. This means that they can cause gas and abdominal pain in those who are sensitive. If you aren’t used to a high fiber diet, start low and slow. Even a spoonful of beans in a good place to start.
Overall, white beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They are a great addition to a vegan diet, vegetarian diet or a mixed balanced diet. They are a versatile ingredient with many health benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease, improved weight management and increased muscle mass.