Once commonly known as string beans, green beans are a popular vegetable side dish on many dinner tables. Whether served with a little butter or as the main ingredient in a casserole, green beans are versatile, tasty and offer several nutritional benefits.
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Bean basics. Green beans may be grown as bush beans or pole beans. Bush beans, also known as snap beans, can stand on their own, growing in a bush-like plant that may stand as tall as two feet. Pole beans grow upward, requiring the support of a trellis or pole. Runner beans are a type of pole bean and taste most flavorful when harvested young.
Green bean goodness. Green beans of any variety are low in calories and contain good-for-you nutrients such as protein, dietary fiber, calcium and iron. One cup of raw green beans has more than 200 milligrams of potassium, plus beta carotene and vitamin A. Beta carotene may reduce the risk of certain cancers, while vitamin A can help your body maintain healthy vision and bone growth, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
Are canned green beans as nutritious? Canned green beans do contain important nutrients. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s nutrient database, one cup of canned green beans without added salt has almost the same amount of calories, dietary fiber and iron as fresh green beans. The canned variety contains only slightly lower levels of potassium, beta carotene and vitamin A.
Choosing fresh green beans. Fresh green beans are available year-round in most grocery stores. The vegetable can be found at your local farmer’s market as well. When choosing fresh green beans, look for beans sold loose, so you can handpick the best variety. Pick green beans that are about the same thickness as a pencil. If serving the beans as the star of their own side dish, choose beans with similar length, especially if you don’t plan to cut the beans. Make sure they’re a vibrant green without any brown or black spots. The beans should be firm and not feel rubbery or have wrinkled skin.
Green bean storage. Green beans can be stored unwashed in the refrigerator. Wrap the beans in a paper towel or place in a plastic bag that has several air holes. The unwashed green beans will stay fresh for about five days. When purchasing canned green beans, never buy cans that appear to be leaking or that have any bulges. Always store canned foods in a cool, dry place.