Navy beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), also known as haricot beans, are a highly nutritious food often associated with balanced and healthy eating. The beans are a popular staple in vegan diets and for those looking to increase their intake of plant-based foods. These beans are high in fiber, protein, and carbohydrates. Navy beans contain essential minerals, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and folate. In essence, a single serving of navy beans meets 18% of the daily recommended intake for potassium.
The carbohydrates found in navy beans offer a good source of slow-release energy that sustains optimal body function and performance throughout the day. Also, studies show navy beans contain high amounts of phytochemicals and essential nutrients that provide many health benefits. The United States navy has served navy beans to its sailors since the 1800s.
Navy beans are high in valuable nutrients, including proteins. The beans provide many health benefits, including lower diabetes risk, support heart health, muscle development and repair, improved memory, improved metabolic syndrome, reduced cancer risk, and aids weight loss.
Reduced Cancer Risk
It seems like eating beans, especially navy beans, can benefit some types of cancer. The phytochemicals might help reduce risks of colorectal polyps and pancreatic cancer. A few studies show they provide potential protection against prostate and stomach cancer.[i]
Help Lose Weight
Navy beans are high in fiber and low in calories, making them an excellent food for those looking to lose weight. The fiber content offers a satiety feeling, so you feel satisfied and full throughout the day. Also, navy beans contain resistant starch that provides a satiety feeling. It makes you feel full, and you only eat fewer calories.[ii]
Muscle Development And Repair
Navy beans are a great source of complex carbohydrates and protein essential for muscle development and repair. The primary function of proteins is building and repairing body cells, including the muscle cells damaged during exercises. The complex carbs found in navy beans help with muscle growth. Complex carbohydrates are high in minerals, vitamins, and fiber that helps with lean muscle mass.[iii]
Navy beans are high in folate, an essential B complex vitamin that helps degenerative brain disorders. Many studies show that folate positively impacts the levels of homocysteine in the bloodstream for improved cognitive performance, memory and help reduce risks of Alzheimer’s disease.[iv]
Supports Heart Health
Navy beans contain high amounts of fiber that has been found to significantly improve heart health. Most health benefits are attributed to a soluble fiber that reduces LDL cholesterol and ultimately increases HDL cholesterol.
Having healthy HDL cholesterol has been shown to lower risks of cardiovascular disease as well as heart disease. Also, magnesium and folate in navy beans are known to promote heart health. Folate works by reducing levels of homocysteine. Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps maintain normal blood pressure and a healthy heartbeat.[v]
The United States Department of Agriculture provides the following nutrition information for one cup serving of navy beans (cooked with no salt).[vi]
- Calories – 256
- Sugars – 0g
- Fiber – 19.2g
- Carbohydrates – 47.4g
- Sodium – 0mg
- Fat – 0.6g
- Potassium – 708mg
One cup serving contains 47.4g of complex carbs, trace sugar amounts and 19.2g of fiber. Complex carbohydrates are healthier than simple carbs since they contain fiber and other valuable nutrients.
Due to the high amounts of fiber, navy beans are slowly digested for sustained energy. Also, navy beans have a low GI (glycemic index) ranking ranging from 30 to 39.
Navy beans contain trace amounts of poly-and mono-unsaturated fats with fewer than 1g per one-cup serving. All unsaturated fats from fatty fish and plant sources are usually considered to be healthy fats.
According to the American Heart Association, about 25% – 35% of your daily calorie intake should be sourced from unsaturated fats. Preparing navy beans with no butter or added oil makes them fat-free.
One cup serving of boiled navy beans contains 15 grams of protein. There are two types of proteins. These include incomplete and complete proteins. Many plant-based foods like navy beans contain incomplete proteins, which means they lack some amino acids found in dairy and meat products.
Navy beans contain lysine, an essential amino acid that isn’t found in other plant-based diets. Lysine is essential for human development and growth, tissue repair and offers many other health benefits.
Minerals and Vitamins
Navy beans are a great source of essential micronutrients, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and folate (B-vitamins). One serving meets about 18% of the daily recommended intake of potassium. Potassium plays a significant role in muscle contraction, nerve function, heartbeat, and fluid balance regulation.
Legumes contain antinutrients – substances that interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Numerous plant foods contain antinutrients, but they are more common in beans and wheat. Although most consumers are worried about antinutrients in legumes and grains, soaking and cooking navy beans significantly reduce the compounds. Cooking navy beans increases their concentration and antioxidant activity.[vii]
- Overconsumption of navy beans in a single day can lead to stomach cramping.
- Also, you should not eat undercooked or raw navy beans because they are known to contain lectin, a toxic substance. Eating navy beans raw could also reduce your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Moreover, it’s important to note that people suffering from renal disease or having a weak urinary system should not eat them.
Navy beans are legumes, just like soybeans and peanuts, some of the most allergic foods. However, if you are allergic to soybeans or peanuts, it doesn’t mean you’ll be allergic to navy beans. So, the fact that you’re allergic to some types of beans doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take legumes. The most important thing you can do is exercise caution. If you suspect an allergic reaction to navy beans, consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Navy beans are a large vegetable that belongs to the family pea and thrives in central and South America. There are a few species that thrive in North America. Other common names for navy beans include pea bean, pole bean, kidney bean, haricot bean, garden bean, French bean, dwarf bean, common bean, bush beam, borletti bean and field bean.
Navy beans have alternate and trifoliolate leaves. Its petiole is 4-9cm long, and leaflets are 4-16cm long.
Navy beans possess papilionaceous and bisexual flowers with a cup-shaped calyx. The corolla are glabrous, purple, pale pink, white to yellow, and between 9mm and 12mm long.
Also called haricot beans, navy beans are popular beans that are native to Peru. Navy beans originated in Peru a few thousand years ago. Wondering why the name “navy,” is because of the low storage life, low cost, and incredible nutritional value. In the 19th century, the United States Army started issuing navy beans as the standard ration for service members on their warships.
Indigenous to Peru, the navy beans were then introduced to the South and Central American through the Indian trade routes. In the 15th century, the beans were introduced in Europe by Spanish explorers who returned from their voyage in the new world. The Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced navy beans to Africa and Asia.
As an affordable source of plant protein, navy beans have increasingly become popular in many cultures worldwide. It became a staple food in the US in the early 20th century. Today, Brazil, United States, China, Indonesia, and India are known as the biggest commercial growers of navy beans. The most common method of preparing navy beans is baking them. Canada, the UK, and the United States have an extensive history of baking beans.
How To Prepare
Navy beans are used in many popular dishes, such as baked beans cooked with ham hocks. Preparing navy beans at home is a healthy option to avoid added salt/sodium found in canned or baked beans.
There are different ways to prepare navy beans at home. The first thing you should do is inspecting the bag of beans to remove any stones, bad beans, or other debris. Also, thoroughly rinse the beans before moving onto the quick-cook or traditional method.
Cooking Navy Beans
- Soak for 4-6 hours
- Drain the water and add fresh water for cooking
- Put in a pot and boil
- Once the boiling starts, reduce heat to simmer and tilt the lid so that steam can escape
- Leave to cook for about 90 minutes
Navy Beans Storage Tips And Safety
Canned and dried beans remain fresh longer if you store them in a cool, dark place. With standard seed storage, the seeds will last from 1 – 4 years for replanting. You should avoid seeds that are discolored because they might have been poorly stored while drying.
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- [i] Borresen EC, Gundlach KA, Wdowik M, Rao S, Brown RJ, Ryan EP. Feasibility of increased navy bean powder consumption for primary and secondary colorectal cancer prevention. Curr Nutr Food Sci. 2014;10(2):112–119. doi:10.2174/1573401310666140306005934
- [ii] Li KJ, Borresen EC, Jenkins-Puccetti N, Luckasen G, Ryan EP. Navy bean and rice bran intake alters the plasma metabolome of children at risk for cardiovascular disease. Front Nutr. 2018;4:71. doi:10.3389/fnut.2017.00071
- [iii] Li KJ, Borresen EC, Jenkins-Puccetti N, Luckasen G, Ryan EP. Navy Bean and Rice Bran Intake Alters the Plasma Metabolome of Children at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease. Front Nutr. 2018 Jan 19;4:71. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2017.00071. PMID: 29404331; PMCID: PMC5786740.
- [iv] Smith AD, Refsum H, Bottiglieri T, et al. Homocysteine and dementia: An international consensus statement. J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;62(2):561-570. doi:10.3233/JAD-171042
- [v] Borresen EC, Jenkins-Puccetti N, Schmitz K, et al. A pilot randomized controlled clinical trial to assess tolerance and efficacy of navy bean and rice bran supplementation for lowering cholesterol in children. Glob Pediatr Health. 2017;4:2333794X17694231. doi:10.1177/2333794X17694231
- [vi] U.S. Department of Agriculture: FoodData Central. Beans, navy, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt. Published April 1, 2020.
- [vii] Baxter BA, Oppel RC, Ryan EP. Navy Beans Impact the Stool Metabolome and Metabolic Pathways for Colon Health in Cancer Survivors. Nutrients. 2018 Dec 22;11(1):28. doi: 10.3390/nu11010028. PMID: 30583518; PMCID: PMC6356708.