String Beans--- Top 7 Health Benefits
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String Beans --- Top 7 Health Benefits

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August 29, 2014

By NELS SEIFERT, Contributing Columnist

I don't know about you, but when I think of string beans, I think of delicious string bean casserole at just about every holiday or big family get together. Although, my family called it "green bean casserole," but come to find out, string beans, green beans, and snap beans are one in the same. I always wondered why they were called string beans, it just made more sense as a kid to call them green beans since they were green.

In Mexico they call them "ejotes" and in France, "haricot" beans, but whatever the name, I loved green bean casserole and had no idea how healthy it was for me. My mom may have had a clue about the health benefits associated with green beans, but she wouldn't have dared to tell me.

There are over 100 varieties of green beans and they are grown all over the world. China produces the largest quantity of green beans per year at well over 10 million metric tons (MT) and the United States produces approximately 55,000 metric tons (MT) per year according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Green beans contain so much good, healthy vitamins and minerals it would take two pages to list them all. Weighing in at 31 calories per 100 grams, the string bean has a low caloric density compared to the high daily values (DV) they pack in their punch.

String beans are high in fiber, high in protein, have low levels of sodium and saturated fat, and in some instances, very high levels of vitamin B, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, beta-carotene, lutein, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and so much more.

The list of health benefits that go hand in hand with string beans are as long, if not longer than the powerful vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients they contain.

String beans promote weight loss, helps reduce your risk of overall illnesses, maintains blood pressure, helps you look younger, longer, and again, so much more.

Here are our top 7 health benefits of string beans:

1.    Lower Your Risk for Cancer

String beans, despite their green color and alias "green beans," carry a large potential for helping you prevent cancer since they contain carotenoids --- the compounds that make carrots orange --- like beta-carotene and lutein.

Even though string beans are green, recent studies have shown comparable percentages of carotenoids that are as high as stereotypical carotenoid containing vegetables such as carrots.

A study by Dr. Jung Eun Lee at Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston (2009) concluded, "Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with decreasing risk of renal cell cancer; carotenoids present in fruit and vegetables may partly contribute to this protection."

Recently, carotenoids and cancer prevention have been researched widely across the globe and if an extra serving of string beans can help you prevent cancer, then I say pass the string beans please.

2.    Protect Yourself Against Neurodegenerative Diseases

String beans have an extremely high percentage of Vitamin K, with a serving size of 125 grams yielding 22% of your daily value (DV).

There have been a lot of studies on Vitamin K, mainly in the areas of bone health and blood clotting, however, recent studies have shown that vitamin K also can help improve your central and peripheral nervous system.

A study by Dr. Guylaine Ferland at the Department of Nutrition, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada (2012) concluded that, "vitamin K with respect to oxidative injury and inflammation because these could have wide-ranging implications, notably with respect to the aging state and a number of neurodegenerative diseases."

Keeping up on your daily value of vitamin K can possibly help you fight neurological diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's.

3.    Reduce Your Cholesterol Levels

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 71 American adults have high cholesterol levels, that's 33.5% of the population.

People with high cholesterol are twice as likely as getting heart disease and other health problems, so why not fight it with string beans?

String beans contain high levels of manganese, approximately 0.36 mg which is 17% of your daily value (DV).

Manganese offers many great health benefits including bone health, organ function, thyroid function, and blood sugar control. Manganese also helps to lower your cholesterol.

A 2011 study conducted by Dr. Bae at the Department of Food and Nutrition, Sookmyung Women's University, South Korea found that, "[Manganese] Mn supplementation results in reductions of the blood cholesterol levels." 

4.    Boost Your Immune System and Look Younger

String beans are not only beneficial for your overall health, they can also help you look younger and provide you with more energy to get through those long work days.

For every 125 grams of string beans you consume, you are taking in approximately 12 mg of vitamin C, 16.2% of your daily value (DV). Vitamin C, a powerful anti-oxidant, can help you prevent and recover from acute illnesses, give you a boost of energy, as well as improve your skin elasticity.

Vitamin C also provides your body with important nutrients which aid in the production of collagen, the key ingredient to healthier looking skin. Research conducted in 2004 by Dr. Lorencini at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology, Brazil discusses the benefits of vitamin C and the important role it plays in healthier, younger looking skin. The vitamin C in string beans can give you a little youthful boost in a natural way while improving your overall health at the same time.

5.   Lose Weight  and Fight Cardiovascular Disease

A diet rich in fiber helps you to lose weight control and improve your digestion function.

String beans offer about 16% of your daily value (DV) for fiber, supplying your body with the bacteria it needs to clean your digestive tract.

Fiber in your diet can also curb those "snack rages" that can come on at any moment, helping you feel fuller, for longer. And, while you are controlling your urges to snack, improving your digestion, you are also reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease as well.

Research conducted by Dr. Yikyung Park and colleagues in 2011 at the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, concluded that, "Dietary fiber may reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases. Making fiber-rich food choices more often may provide significant health benefits."

6.    Healthy Fetal Development

The importance and care that we put into a child's growth and development begins before the child is even born. Folate is one of those key nutrients that assists in brain development during fetal development.

String beans contain 41 mcg of folate per 125 g serving, 10.3% of your daily value (DV). The Mandatory Fortification of Staple Foods with Folic Acid (2011) was a study conducted by Dr. Herrmann and Dr. Obeid at the Klinische Chemie und Laboratoriumsmedizin, Universitätsklinikum des Saarlandes, Germany. The study concluded, "Mandatory folic acid fortification should be adopted, as it is a highly effective and inexpensive way to prevent [birth defects] NTDs." Folate is important during pregnancy and studies have found that a lack of folate could cause problems in spinal cord and brain development. String beans are one of many natural foods that can give you the folate you will need during pregnancy.

7.    Source of Natural Protein
String beans are not packed with as many grams of protein as some other natural food staples, but in combination with all the great health benefits mentioned, it's just icing on the cake.

String beans contain 2.36 grams of protein per 125 grams, just below 5% of your daily value (DV), offering a small yet effective compliment to the abundant vitamins and minerals naturally found. Protein, a macronutrient, gives your body the essential properties needed for growth, repair, and prevention. It's the mechanic that will boost the power and endurance in your engine, repairing what's broke, and preventing any future problems you may have later.

Studies have also shown that diets high in protein can help curb weight gain and improve overall cardiovascular health. One study by Dr. St. Jeor from the American Health Association Nutrition Committee (2001) discusses the importance of high protein diets in more detail.

String beans are delicious, whether you are eating green bean casserole or steamed string beans as a side dish. The natural health benefits that are associated with consuming string beans are undeniable. Just a few servings a week can make a big difference in the overall strength of your immune system and your ability to resist debilitating illnesses such as heart disease over the long term.

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