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18 Interesting Facts About Beans

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Beans are one of the most versatile, nutritious, and commonly consumed foods in the world. From kidney beans to soybeans to lentils, beans have been an important part of diets globally for thousands of years. Read on to learn 18 fascinating facts about these nutritional powerhouses.

Introduction

Beans come in all different shapes, sizes, colors and flavors. They are packed with protein, fiber, and key micronutrients like iron, zinc, folate, and magnesium. Beans have well-established health benefits – they can improve cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar, promote digestive health, and support weight management. Culturally, beans play a major role in cuisines across Asia, Africa, Europe, and Central and South America. Their long shelf life also makes them an important staple food.

18 Interesting Facts About Beans

assorted-colored bean lot
  1. The average American consumes around 7.9 pounds of beans per year. Pinto, navy, and black beans are the most popular varieties. Refried beans and baked beans are common bean dishes.
  2. There are over 40,000 identified varieties of beans around the world, from lentils and peas to soybeans to scarlet runner beans. Different varieties thrive in certain climates and soils.
  3. Bean plants take nitrogen from the air and convert it into ammonia, which fertilizes the soil. This makes them ideal for crop rotations to naturally fertilize fields.
  4. Archaeologists found traces of beans at ancient sites in Peru dating back nearly 9,000 years. Beans are one of humanity’s longest-cultivated crops.
  5. Soybeans are used to produce a highly protein-rich curd called tofu, which likely originated in China over 2,000 years ago. Tofu is a staple ingredient in many Asian cuisines.
  6. Beans expand during cooking as they absorb water. One pound of dried beans can grow to up to three times their dried size.
  7. Eating just 1/2 cup of beans daily can significantly lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. This is due to soluble fiber and phytochemicals in beans.
  8. Beans are naturally low in fat and high in fiber, with one cup containing around 15 grams of fiber. This promotes fullness and digestive health.
  9. The USDA recommends adults consume between 21-38 grams of fiber daily, meaning beans are an excellent source to meet daily needs.
  10. Fermenting soybeans produces a salty, umami-rich paste called miso that is essential to Japanese cuisine. It also contains probiotics.
  11. Bean sprouts are crunchy, nutrient-rich sprouts produced from mung beans or soybeans. Bean sprouts add texture and freshness to many Asian noodle and stir-fry dishes.
  12. Lima beans (or butter beans) got their name from Lima, Peru, where European explorers first discovered them. They consist of a buttery, starchy interior.
  13. Fava beans may trigger hemolytic anemia in those with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD). This genetic condition primarily affects those of African, Asian or Mediterranean descent.
  14. Jelly beans were first created in 1861 and later became an Easter tradition. The average American consumes around 16 billion jelly beans around Easter.
  15. Beans expand during cooking as they absorb water. One pound of dried beans can grow to up to three times their dried size.
  16. The world’s largest producers of dry beans are Myanmar, India and Brazil, which together account for over 20 million metric tons annually.
  17. Beans are rich in antioxidants, which are linked to anti-inflammatory benefits and reduced risk of chronic diseases. Different bean varieties contain differing antioxidant profiles.
  18. Baked beans are a beloved side dish in the UK and a staple at the classic English breakfast. Heinz baked beans are the most popular commercial variety.

Conclusion

From the Americas to Asia to Europe and Africa, beans have nourished civilizations globally thanks to their incredible versatility, shelf life, and nutrition. Their fiber, plant-based protein, antioxidants, and minerals offer well-researched health benefits for cholesterol, blood sugar, digestion, and even weight management. Beans will likely continue to be a dietary staple for generations to come.


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