Power Plants: French Bean

via Bryce Wylde

Biohacks, Diet & Nutrition

Power Plants

FRENCH BEAN (Phaseolus vulgaris)
If you feel like being chi-chi, you could call this humble member of the Fabaceae family a “French bean.” But chances are you know it as the humble string bean, field bean, garden bean, haricot bean, or snap bean. It turns out, however, this common bean has some amazing and uncommon health benefits.
The common bean is widely cultivated around the world. Different cultivars vary in shape and come in many colours: navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and wax beans are all varieties of this species.
Beans are an economical source of protein and starch, and they’re high in fibre and low in fat. The common bean is loaded with micronutrients, including iron, potassium, beta-carotene, thiamine, riboflavin and other B-complex vitamins.
Beans have garnered attention recently as a potential weight loss aid. White kidney beans, in particular, have been promoted as “starch blockers” that can slow the absorption of carbohydrates, resulting in fewer calories entering the system. Starch blockers have also been suggested as an aid to managing blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
You know the saying, “Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart…”? It turns out research suggests beans really can reduce the risk of heart disease. As a source of dietary fibre, they reduce lipids. The French bean might also bind cholic acids and fat, which reduces fat absorption. The pods also contain compounds that can help manage cholesterol and improve immune balance.
Difficulty: Easy
Hardiness: Annual
Time to Plant: Late spring (after risk of frost)
Time to Harvest: Early summer
Location: Full sun
Soil Type: Well-drained soil, rich in organic compost
French beans are quick to germinate, fun to harvest, and in the right conditions very easy to grow. I often recommend beans as a starter plant for children who want to experience the growth of new seedlings, because they provide instant gratification! Space will determine the type of bean you grow: some need lots of space, and others need staking. If you have minimal space, some can even be grown in a pot.
Common Varieties: Phaseolus vulgaris is available in countless varieties, but the main categories are pole beans (climbing) and bush beans (mounding). Pole beans don’t have a large footprint, but they require a trellis or some other support as they will grow several metres tall. For small space gardens, I recommend bush beans: they need at least 1 m (3 feet) per plant, but require no staking.
Sow seeds in directly in the garden after all risk of frost. Prior to sowing, soak the bean seeds in warm water for 12 to 24 hours to help them germinate. Plant the seeds in well-drained, rich soil where they will get lots of sun. Sow seeds 5 cm (2 inches) deep, 10 cm (4 inches) apart, in rows separated by 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 inches). If you’re planting pole beans, you’ll need to make sure you have enough room to support them.
You can occasionally purchase transplants, but remember beans are frost-sensitive plants and cannot be placed in the garden until that risk has passed.
Experienced gardeners know the three S’s of germinating seeds: soaking, scarification and stratification. For seeds with hard shells like beans, a simple overnight soak will help speed the process of germination. Sometimes seeds also need to be “scarified,” which involves taking a file or sandpaper and rubbing the outer coating until you can see the inner part of the seed. Seeds that need “stratification” should be placed in a cold space (such as the fridge) for up to 3 months to mimic an outdoor dormancy period.
You will face a few challenges when growing beans. First, they hate low temperatures, so if you get a cold snap in late spring you must cover them at night to protect from frost.
Pole beans must also be secured to stakes, obelisks, wigwams or trellises. As they grow, you will need to train them around these supports.
Both bush and pole beans will be threatened early on by everything from slugs and snails to cutworms, squirrels, deer and rabbits. Consider placing a collar around the base of the young plants—this can be something as simple as a Styrofoam cup with the bottom removed. You may have to do some additional plantings if you lose some seedlings, so save some extra seed.
Monitor during the growing season for aphids, and apply insecticidal soap as a preventive. Water deeply and infrequently, never allowing plants to completely dry out, and keep the area weed-free. Mulch well and fertilize twice a month using an organic compost tea or water-soluble general-purpose fertilizer like 20-20-20.
Beans typically mature in about 60 days. Harvest them in early to mid-summer when pods reach a length of 10 cm (4 inches). They should be plump in appearance and should easily snap. Harvest in mid-morning while plants are cool. After harvest continue to water and fertilize: you may be rewarded with an additional harvest, though the yield will be reduced.
Wash beans only when needed. They will keep in the fridge in sealed bags for up to a week. Freeze young pods only: wash them in cold water, pat dry and immediately place in sealed bags into freezer.
Need to clear the air? Try this bean soup!
If you want to drop some weight or lower your cholesterol, try eating soup at least 3 times per week. Using healthy ingredients, soup is one of the best ways to get the necessary servings of vegetables you need to stay healthy. If you eat this homemade bean soup every day for lunch for 3 months and otherwise maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine, we promise you will see the results! (Feel free to switch up this recipe, so long as the major ingredient is French beans.)
4 cups                               water
1                                           chicken bouillon cube
1 tbsp                                extra-virgin olive oil
10                                        cloves of garlic, minced
1                                           sweet onion, chopped
4 cups                               French beans, chopped
4 egg                                  whites
1 tsp                                   salt
¼ tsp                                  pepper
½ tsp                                  Italian herbs
Bring water to a boil and add chicken bouillon. In a separate pan, sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add the beans. Sauté uncovered for 15 minutes or until beans are soft. Add the beans, garlic and onion to the broth and continue to boil for 10 minutes. Lower heat to a simmer and add the egg white. Season with salt, pepper, and Italian herbs. Pour the soup into a blender and purée.
On a diet? Here’s a snack!
If you’re trying to shed some pounds but getting cravings between meals, the solution is a snack that will provide energy and also aid in your weight-loss goal. That snack is green bean paste. The hot pepper will give you an additional metabolic boost. You can enjoy this high-protein, low-carbohydrate, spicy calorie-locking snack 3-4 crackers at a time.
1 cup                                  green beans
½                                           Spanish onion
1                                           garlic clove
10                                        black olives (pitted)
3 tbsp                                extra-virgin olive oil
6 sprigs                            tarragon, leaves only
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp                                finely diced red pepper
1                                           hot pepper
2 tbsp                                crushed walnuts
12                                        brown rice crackers
Cook the beans in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Purée the beans in a food processor with the onion, garlic, olives, hot pepper, olive oil and the tarragon leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spread the bean paste onto the rice crackers. Garnish with the diced red pepper, crushed walnuts, and a sprinkling of black pepper.
Bean Meaning to lose weight? Eat these on the side!
If you’re on a high-protein diet, it’s always a challenge to come up with a side dish that is low-carb, high- fibre and still tasty. This is it! Plus there’s additional protein, not to mention carb-blocking potential.
2 lb                                      green beans
1 tbsp                                extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp                                  garlic powder
½ cup                                 pine nuts
1 tsp                                   chillies (or to taste)
1 tbsp                                apple cider vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Boil a pot of water and steam the beans for 5 to 10 minutes, or until bright green but still crunchy. Drain and rinse with cold water.
In a frying pan, heat olive oil on medium. Add the beans and sauté for 5 minutess. Add garlic powder, chillies and salt and pepper to taste. Place into a serving bowl and toss in apple cider vinegar and pine nuts.
Fast forward to the health food store to purchase fresh, canned, or frozen French beans.
Beans are safe when used frequently for two or three months. Large amounts of fresh bean husks or its extract may not be safe, since the raw husks contain chemicals that can cause stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. Cooking, however, destroys these chemicals.
Many people who have trouble digesting beans simply eat too many at one time. This is usually not an intolerance: it just means enzymes need time to ramp up in your digestive system. If you haven’t been eating beans, you’ll want to begin by eating no more than ¼ cup per day for the first week to minimize gas, bloating, and digestive upset. Here’s a tip: always rinse beans really well. This may cut down on gas for many people.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease, ask your healthcare provider if significantly increasing beans in your diet is reasonable.
If you have diabetes and intend to incorporate large amounts of French bean in your diet, you need to monitor your blood sugar even more closely. The dose of your diabetes medications may also need to be adjusted by your healthcare provider.
There is some concern that beans may interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. If you are having major surgery, avoid at least 1 week prior.
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Birketvedt, G. S., Travis, A., Langbakk, B., and Florholmen, J. R. Dietary supplementation with bean extract improves lipid profile in overweight and obese subjects. Nutrition 2002;18(9):729-733.
Bo-Linn, G. W., Santa Ana, C. A., Morawski, S. G., and Fordtran, J. S. Starch blockers–their effect on calorie absorption from a high-starch meal. N Engl.J Med 12-2-1982;307(23):1413-1416.
Celleno, L., Tolaini, M. V., D’Amore, A., Perricone, N. V., and Preuss, H. G. A Dietary supplement containing standardized Phaseolus vulgaris extract influences body composition of overweight men and women. Int J Med Sci 2007;4(1):45-52.
Azinge, N. O. Use of beans diet for control of diabetes. Trop.Doct. 1985;15(3):139.
Barrett, M. L. and Udani, J. K. A proprietary alpha-amylase inhibitor from white bean (Phaseolus vulgaris): a review of clinical studies on weight loss and glycemic control. Nutr J 2011;10:24.
Preuss, H. G. Bean amylase inhibitor and other carbohydrate absorption blockers: effects on diabesity and general health. J Am Coll Nutr 2009;28(3):266-276.

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