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All about “Dried beans”

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Health profile

Beans or beans?
The essential dish of “baked beans” from Quebec is not made of beans, but white beans. There are many varieties of beans: kidneys, red, pinto, adzuki, white, black, etc. From a botanical point of view, the word “bean” only applies to legumes of the genus Vicia, of which the gourd is a part.

Dried beans are part of the traditional diet of many people around the world. Canada produces many varieties: in 2004 it became the third largest exporter of dry beans in the world.

In addition to being important sources of vegetable proteins and dietary fiber, these legumes are full of minerals and vitamins. There are several varieties of dried beans. This sheet only presents four: white, black, red and Lima.

Active ingredients and properties

Studies have linked regular consumption of legumes to various benefits such as better control of diabetes 1 , and lower risk of cardiovascular disease , 3 and colorectal cancer 4 . The Canada Food Guide recommends also often eat legumes in place of meat. In addition, the American Institute for Cancer Research, an organization that works to prevent cancer, recommends that the population consume as a priority plant-based foods, including a variety of vegetables and fruits, legumes and underprocessed cereal products 5 .

The consumption of these legumes provides several health benefits. For example, a study in humans showed that dry bean consumption improved some parameters associated with diseases cardiovascular 6 . Another study was conducted with a group of approximately 2,000 people who had previously suffered from large bowel tumors. Researchers found that among those subjects who had most increased their dry bean consumption during the study had 65% fewer tumor recurrences advanced compared to those with the least increase their intake of these legumes 7. In addition, several scientists have analyzed various compounds in dried beans, which may contribute to the health effects of these legumes.

Antioxidants . Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals . These are very reactive molecules that are implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging 8 . The antioxidant content of dry beans differs depending on the variety. Some stand out for their high content, notably red bean 9 and black bean 10 . In animals, the consumption of black beans, as well as its antioxidant compounds studied in vitro, have moreover demonstrated protective effects against certain cancers 11-14. These results must, however, be confirmed in humans.

  • Catechins . Data are not available for all varieties of beans, but one thing is certain, the pinto bean contains a significant amount of catechins, antioxidant compounds 15 . Research into foods other than beans indicates that high catechin consumption is associated with beneficial effects in humans, such as reduced blood levels and the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. cholesterol) 16 and a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease 17 . However, more studies are needed to verify the specific effect of catechins from the consumption of beans in humans.
  • Anthocyanins . Some dark-colored beans (like reds and blacks) contain anthocyanins 18 , 19 , another class of antioxidants, which may contribute to the potential benefits of beans in preventing certain cancers 19 , 20 . However, the effect of anthocyanins in beans has not yet been specifically evaluated in humans.
  • Saponins . Dried beans contain saponins 21 , 22 , compounds naturally present in several plants, which have antioxidant activity. In the scientific literature, saponins are credited with the ability to lower blood cholesterol in humans 22 . In vitro and animal studies suggest that they also help protect against certain cancers . 22 These results remain preliminary, however, and should be evaluated in humans.

Phytosterols . Several legumes contain a significant amount of phytosterols. These compounds, which have a structure similar to that of cholesterol, have been shown to be beneficial for cardiovascular health 23 , 24 . White beans, for example, contain more than 100 mg per 125 ml (1/2 cup) serving 25 . A meta-analysis of 41 clinical trials has shown that taking 2 g per day of phytosterols reduces LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) by 10% . This reduction could reach 20% as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol 26. This amount of 2 g per day is practically impossible to achieve only through food. Health Canada does not currently allow the marketing of foods enriched with phytosterols as authorities in the United States and France do. However, phytosterols found naturally in food, such as dried beans, remain interesting for cardiovascular health.

Dietary fiber . Dry beans are a very high source of fiber: their various varieties all contain more than 6 g per 125 ml (1/2 cup) serving. Dietary fiber, which is found only in plants, is a collection of substances that are not digested by the body. A high fiber diet is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. It also has a more filling effect 27 than a diet low in fiber. Dried beans contain the two main types of fiber (soluble and insoluble) which have different beneficial effects in the body. Insoluble fiber is credited with the ability to prevent constipation by increasing stool volume 27. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, can contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases by notably reducing the absorption of bile acids 27 . They can also help control type 2 diabetes, among other things, by slowing the digestion of glucose in food 27 . It is recommended to consume 25 g of fiber per day for women from 19 to 50 years old, and 38 g per day for men of the same age group 28 .

Intestinal bacterial flora . Certain carbohydrates from dry beans, such as oligosaccharides and resistant starch , are said to have intestinal health benefits. Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates that cause flatulence 29 in people who are not used to consuming legumes. Resistant starch, on the other hand, constitutes part of the total starch of cooked dry beans 30  : in the same way as dietary fiber, it can resist digestion and thus avoids being entirely absorbed by the small intestine 31 . In white beans, for example, it would make up about 17% of the total starch 32. Oligosaccharides and resistant starch are fermented in the large intestine. These compounds would have the advantage of promoting the development of beneficial intestinal bacteria and of limiting that of harmful bacteria.

Other properties

Is dry common bean antioxidant? Canned Lima beans: a little , with a TAC index of 241 μmol per 99 g serving.

Dry white beans: moderately , with a TAC index of 816 μmol per 33 g * serving.

Black beans and dry red beans: very strong , with a TAC index of 2492 μmol per serving of 31 g * and 4324 μmol per serving of 30 g *, respectively.

Is dry common bean acidifying? Data not available.
Does dry common bean have a high glycemic load? A little . The glycemic load of 125 ml (1/2 cup) of cooked beans is 3 (black beans), 4 (red beans), 6 (lima beans) and 7 (white beans), respectively.

* Required amount of dry beans to make 125 ml (1/2 cup) when cooked.

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

 Iron . White , lima and red beans are excellent sources of iron for men only, with the needs of women being greater. White beans and red beans are good sources of iron for women, however . Black beans are a good source for humans. Finally, lima beans and black beans are a source of iron for women. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in food of vegetable origin is less absorbed by the organism than the iron contained in food of animal origin. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored when it is consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.

 Manganese . White beans are an excellent source of manganese. The Lima bean is an excellent source for women and a good source for men , the needs of men being greater. As for black beans and red beans , they are good sources of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals .

 Copper . White , lima and red beans are excellent sources of copper. For its part, black beans are a good source . As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation in the body of hemoglobin and collagen, a protein used for the structure and repair of tissues. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.

 Folate . The bean black and bean red are excellent sources of folate. White beans are a good source , while lima beans are a source. Folate (vitamin B9) is involved in the production of all cells in the body, including red blood cells. This vitamin plays an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA), in the functioning of the nervous system and the immune system, as well as in the healing of wounds and wounds. As it is necessary for the production of new cells, adequate consumption is essential during periods of growth and for the development of the fetus.

 Phosphorus . Dried beans are good sources of phosphorus. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH . Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.

 Magnesium . Black beans are a good source of magnesium. The white bean is a good source for women and a source for men, the needs of men being greater. Finally, lima beans and kidney beans are sources of magnesium. This mineral participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.

 Zinc . The white bean is a good source of zinc for women and a source for men, the needs of men being greater. Lima, black and red beans are sources. Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the production, storage and release of insulin.

 Vitamin B1 . Black beans are a good source of vitamin B1, while red, white and lima beans are sources. Also called thiamine , vitamin B1 is part of a coenzyme necessary for the production of energy mainly from the carbohydrates that we eat. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth.

 Calcium . White beans are a source of calcium. Calcium is by far the most abundant mineral in the body. It is mainly stored in the bones, of which it is an integral part. It contributes to the formation of bones and teeth, as well as to the maintenance of their health. Calcium also plays an essential role in blood clotting, maintenance of blood pressure and contraction of muscles, including the heart.

 Potassium . Dried beans are sources of potassium. In the body, it is used to balance the pH of the blood and to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach, thus promoting digestion. In addition, it facilitates the contraction of muscles, including the heart, and participates in the transmission of nerve impulses

 Selenium . The bean Lima is a source of selenium. This mineral works with one of the main antioxidant enzymes, thus preventing the formation of free radicals in the body. It also helps to convert thyroid hormones to their active form.

 Vitamin B2 . The bean Lima is a source of vitamin B2 for the woman only, human needs are higher. Vitamin B2 is also known as riboflavin . Like vitamin B1, it plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to tissue growth and repair, hormone production and the formation of red blood cells.

 Pantothenic acid . Bean Lima is a source of pantothenic acid. Also called vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is part of a key coenzyme that allows us to adequately use the energy from the food we eat. It is also involved in several stages of the production of steroid hormones, neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses) and hemoglobin.

 Vitamin B6 . White , lima and red beans are sources of vitamin B6. Also called pyridoxine , vitamin B6 is part of coenzymes that participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the manufacture of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also contributes to the production of red blood cells and allows them to carry more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells.

 Vitamin E . Beans white and beans red are sources of vitamin E. Antioxidant major, vitamin E protects the membrane that surrounds the body cells, especially red blood cells and white blood cells (immune cells).

What is a “portion” of common bean worth?
Weight / volume Red beans, boiled, 125 ml (94 g) White beans, boiled, 125 ml (95 g) Black beans, boiled, 125 ml (91 g) Lima beans, dry, large, boiled, 125 ml (99 g)
Calories 119 131 120 114
Protein 8.1 g 9.2g 8.1 g 7.8 g
Carbohydrates 21.3 g 23.7 g 21.6g 20.7 g
Fat 0.5 g 0.3 g 0.5 g 0.4 g
Dietary fiber 6.2g 6.5g 6.3 g 7.0 g

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005.

Protein complementarity: not that complicated!
Legumes are among the most protein-rich plant-based foods. Unlike animal proteins, legumes usually have a low content of methionine (an essential amino acid in the body), which makes their proteins incomplete. However, it is possible for people who eat little or no animal protein to combine legumes with grain products or nuts. We then obtain complete proteins (which contain all the essential amino acids). In adults, it is not necessary to seek this complementarity within the same meal, since the fact of obtaining it in the same day is usually sufficient 33. On the other hand, in children, adolescents and pregnant women, it is preferable to achieve protein complementarity at the same meal 33 .

Compounds that are both harmful and beneficial in legumes …
Legumes contain phytochemicals such as saponins 21 , 22 and certain flavonoids 34 . These compounds can decrease the bioavailability of certain nutrients. However, researchers agree that in a North American context, where there is an abundance and diversity of food and where nutritional deficiency is rather rare, this effect has little impact on health. In recent years, research has even associated the consumption of these compounds with certain benefits: flavonoids and saponins have antioxidant activity, and saponins are believed to help lower blood cholesterol 22.

Dried beans over time

We are not sure of the origin of the term “bean” . It could come from the old French harigoter , which meant “cut into pieces” and which, by deformation, gave hericoq , a word designating a sheep stew with beans (it is the Old World bean and not the bean, who is originally from America). Unless it was borrowed from the Aztec Ayacolt , which designated a small legume harvested in South America.

Already during prehistoric times, women from Central and South America, where the plant comes from, harvested various varieties of wild beans. Thanks to excavations carried out in Peru , we know that it was cultivated 7000 or 8000 years ago. However, it was not until the great explorations and the conquest of the New World that the first beans reached the coasts of Europe . Christopher Columbus first noticed them in Cuba and Jacques Cartier, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence in 1535.

An evolution not so happy
during the XIX th  century and the first half of the XX th , legumes play an important role in Quebec’s food: pea soup or fava beans and baked beans were part of the ordinary, as the city ​​than in the countryside. With the material ease that followed World War II, these cheap foods were pushed aside a little too radically.

Food concentrated in nutrients, easy to transport and store, dry beans will be quickly adopted by explorers: they will buy them in whole barrels from the Amerindians who cultivate several local varieties. Soon, they will spread them in Europe, Africa, India, the Philippines …

Until the beginning of XX th  century, the majority of Europeans believe that the beans come from Asia, reference books still unwittingly spread this falsehood. Not until the turn of the XX th  century that light be shed on the origins of this legume grown today worldwide.

The name bean of Limacomes from the fact that it is in this city of Peru that the Spaniards saw this type of bean for the first time. But new excavations have concluded that its center of origin was Guatemala, from where it spread to Mexico, the American southwest and Florida. He followed the “trade” routes followed by the Amerindians, and took characteristic features at each of these stations. In Central America and Peru, coarse-grained types have been produced. In the East, the bean took the Antilles route to return to the continent, this time taking the appearance of small, round, very colorful grains: the grains of these varieties are not sold in our markets, because they contain principles toxic that only prolonged cooking can eliminate.

Semi-dry beans (or shelled
beans) Semi-dry beans are those that are picked before maturity: not yet ripe, the seeds are much more tender. Seed houses have also produced varieties better suited to this use. In France as in Japan, the end of summer is a great moment of celebration, the markets offering a whole range of these grains, to be tasted preferably the same day. Note that it is not necessary to soak them and that their cooking time is generally shorter than that of dry beans. They are cooked in a little butter and water, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Culinary uses

Choose well

Did you know that red beans go well with chocolate? This is the case with this chocolate cake and red bean recipe .

There are more than 30,000 different varieties of Phaseolus vulgaris and several hundred of them are widely consumed around the world. The difference in flavor between the beans is subtle and you can easily substitute one variety for another in any recipe.

After picking, the skin of the beans hardens and certain chemical transformations occur in the grain, which loses digestibility there. The longer they are kept, the longer they have to soak before being cooked. It is a fact known to gardeners: dried beans eaten soon after harvesting cause significantly less “winds” than those that have been stored longer. So buy the beans in a store where there is a good turnover of stocks.


Most varieties of dry beans, with the exception of flageolet beans, gain by soaking a few hours before cooking.

Culinary dishes

  • In the Western world, everyone has their version of what, in Quebec, is the  traditional ” baked bean ” dish  : cassoulet in France, fabada asturiana in northern Spain, feijoada in Portugal and Brazil, etc. Despite the great differences in the choice of meats and cold cuts that will go into the pan – this ranges from goose confit to ears, feet and pork tails – and bean varieties – black in Brazil, white Tarbais in Languedoc, del cura in Spain, these dishes all have in common that they are cooked in an earthen pot and cooked for a long time over low heat: in the oven, in the embers or on the corner of the wood stove.
  • The succotash , a dish that was created by the US Native Americans and of which there are many variations, is composed mainly of beans and fresh corn kernels cooked together in a little butter. At the end of cooking, add milk or cream.
  • In Mexico , it is traditional to cook black beans or pintos for a long time in water to which a little sugar has been added, then let them stand overnight before frying them. We add to them, to taste, grated cheese, hot peppers, roasted peanuts, onions, green and red peppers and spices: ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander seeds … Serve them in tortillas with, if desired, grated cheese.
  • All varieties of beans can be prepared well in salads , with various finely cut vegetables: celery, tomatoes, green, yellow or red peppers, cucumber, green onions. Add herbs and a good vinaigrette. The small red bean, a smaller kidney, is well suited for vegetable salads, while the white bean goes wonderfully with tuna in oil with slices of sweet onion.
  • In the southern United States, traditional chili con carne is made with kidney beans and ground beef. On the other hand, in Louisiana, red kidneys are served with rice.
  • The ribollita (literally “boiled again”) is the most popular soup of Tuscany. It is made up of a local variety of borecole with very dark leaves, stale bread and white beans. The first cooking on the stove is followed, the next day, by a long baking in the oven during which a beautiful golden crust will form.
  • For a fine puree , the beans are cooked in a poultry stock with a carrot, an onion, thyme, bay leaf and a bouquet garni. Drain, remove the garnish and pass through a blender to remove the skins. Dilute with hot cream, salt and pepper. This puree can be modeled in dumplings that will nicely accompany roasted meat. Less fine: the mash seasoned with oil, garlic and lemon juice, but excellent as a spread on a slice of country bread.


Dried beans can be stored for one year in a sealed container, in a cool and dry place. At the end of this time, they lose digestibility.

Semi-dry beans keep for a week in their pods in the refrigerator. Do not shell them until you are ready to use them. Whitened for a few minutes, they freeze perfectly well. They can also be fermented with onions and herbs: add whey or the juice of another lactofermented vegetable to start fermentation.

Organic gardening

Unlike the snap bean (sometimes called green or yellow bean in Quebec), the varieties of dry and semi-dry beans are very often dwarf , the reason being that they give a grouped production rather than distributed over time . Be aware, however, that all varieties of beans can be harvested dry, including snap beans.

Although some people sometimes recommend soaking bean seeds before sowing them, most advise against it in our climates, as the seed may crack and rot if it is too wet.

Wait in early June before sowing (southern Quebec). The varieties with colored grains being more resistant to cold than the varieties with white grains, they will be sown first.

The slugs are a serious problem for young bean plants. Try to treat with garlic “herbal tea” by spraying the soil well, where the adults are hiding. Beer is quite effective, too. We fill it with small containers that we bury so that the edge is at ground level. Attracted by the smell of beer, the slugs drown there … If you have a large garden, you may be interested in making your own beer, because the operation ends up being expensive.

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