Navy beans

The navy bean got its current popular name because it was a staple food of the United States Navy in the early 20th century. These small white beans are perfect for making baked beans. Dry navy beans are available year-round in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. Canned navy beans are also available year round at local markets.

Navy beans are small, pea-sized beans that are creamy white in color. They are mild-flavored beans that are dense and smooth. Like other common beans, navy beans are one of 13,000 species of the family of legumes, or plants that produce edible pods. Combined with whole grains such as rice, navy beans provide virtually fat-free high quality protein.

Navy Beans, cooked
1.00 cup
(182.00 grams)
Calories: 255
GI: low

NutrientDRI/DV

 fiber76%

 folate64%

 manganese48%

 copper42%

 phosphorus37%

 vitamin B136%

 protein30%

 iron24%

 magnesium24%

Health Benefits

Navy beans are an excellent source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other beans. In addition to lowering cholesterol, navy beans' high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as brown rice, navy beans provide virtually fat-free high quality protein. But this is far from all navy beans have to offer. Navy beans are a very good source of folate and manganese and a good source of protein and vitamin B1 as well as the minerals phosphorus, copper, magnesium and iron.

A Fiber All Star

Check a chart of the fiber content in foods and you'll see legumes leading the pack. Navy beans, like other beans, are rich in dietary fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that combines with bile (which contains cholesterol) and ferries it out of the body. Research studies have shown that insoluble fiber not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

Lower Your Heart Attack Risk

In a study that examined food intake patterns and risk of death from coronary heart disease, researchers followed more than 16,000 middle-aged men in the U.S., Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Japan for 25 years. Typical food patterns were: higher consumption of dairy products in Northern Europe; higher consumption of meat in the U.S.; higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, fish, and wine in Southern Europe; and higher consumption of cereals, soy products, and fish in Japan. When researchers analyzed this data in relation to the risk of death from heart disease, they found that higher legume consumption was associated with a whopping 82% reduction in heart attack risk!

Navy beans' contribution to heart health lies not just in their fiber, but in the significant amounts of folate and magnesium these beans supply. Folate helps lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is an intermediate product in an important metabolic process called the methylation cycle. Elevated blood levels of homocysteine are an independent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease, and are found in between 20-40% of patients with heart disease. It has been estimated that consumption of 100% of the daily value (DV) of folate would, by itself, reduce the number of heart attacks suffered by Americans each year by 10%. Just one cup of cooked navy beans provides 63.7% of the recommended daily intake for folate.

Navy beans' good supply of magnesium puts yet another plus in the column of its beneficial cardiovascular effects. Magnesium is Nature's own calcium channel blocker. When there is enough magnesium around, veins and arteries breathe a sigh of relief and relax, which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies show that a deficiency of magnesium is not only associated with heart attack but that immediately following a heart attack, lack of sufficient magnesium promotes free radical injury to the heart. Potassium, an important electrolyte involved in nerve transmission and the contraction of all muscles including the heart, is another mineral that is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. Navy beans are ready to promote your cardiovascular health by being a good source of this mineral, too. A one cup serving of navy beans provides over 700 mg of potassium, making these beans an especially good choice to protect against high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

Navy Beans Give You Energy to Burn While Stabilizing Blood Sugar

In addition to its beneficial effects on the digestive system and the heart, the dietary fiber found in navy beans helps stabilize blood sugar levels. If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, navy beans can really help you balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Studies of high fiber diets and blood sugar levels have shown the dramatic benefits provided by these high fiber foods. Researchers compared two groups of people with type 2 diabetes who were fed different amounts of high fiber foods. One group ate the standard American Diabetic diet, which contained 24 grams of fiber/day, while the other group ate a diet containing 50 grams of fiber/day. Those who ate the diet higher in fiber had lower levels of both plasma glucose (blood sugar) and insulin (the hormone that helps blood sugar get into cells). The high fiber group also reduced their total cholesterol by nearly 7%, their triglyceride levels by 10.2% and their VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoprotein—the most dangerous form of cholesterol) levels by 12.5%.

Iron for Energy

In addition to providing slow burning complex carbohydrates, navy beans can increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores. Particularly for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency, boosting iron stores with navy beans is a good idea—especially because, unlike red meat, another source of iron, navy beans are low in calories and virtually fat-free. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. And remember: If you're pregnant or lactating, your needs for iron increase. Growing children and adolescents also have increased needs for iron. A one cup serving of navy beans provides 24% of the daily recommended intake for iron.

Copper & Manganese—More Help with Energy Production Plus Antioxidant Defenses

Navy beans are a very good source of manganese and a good source of copper, trace minerals that are essential cofactors of a key oxidative enzyme called superoxide dismutase. Superoxide dismutase disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within our cells).

Copper is also necessary for the activity of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme involved in cross-linking collagen and elastin, both of which provide the ground substance and flexibility in blood vessels, bones and joints.

As explained above, iron is primarily used as part of hemoglobin, the molecule responsible for transporting and releasing oxygen throughout the body. But hemoglobin synthesis also relies on copper. Without copper, iron cannot be properly utilized in red blood cells. Fortunately, Mother Nature supplies both minerals in navy beans.

Maintain Your Memory with Thiamin (Vitamin B1)

Thiamin participates in enzymatic reactions central to energy production and is also critical for brain cell/cognitive function. This is because thiamin is needed for the synthesis of acetylcholine, the important neurotransmitter essential for memory and whose lack has been found to be a significant contributing factor in age-related impairment in mental function (senility) and Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is clinically characterized by a decrease in acetylcholine levels.

Protein Power Plus

If you're wondering how to replace red meat in your menus, become a fan of navy beans. These hearty beans are a good source of protein, and when combined with a whole grain such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice, provide protein comparable to that of meat or dairy foods without the high calories or saturated fat found in these foods. And, when you get your protein from navy beans, you also get the blood sugar stabilizing and heart health benefits of the soluble fiber provided by these versatile legumes. A cup of navy beans provides about 15 grams of protein.

Description

Navy beans are small, pea-sized beans that are creamy white in color. They are a mild-flavored bean that is dense and creamy.

History

Navy beans and other beans, such as pinto beans and black beans, are all known scientifically as Phaseolus vulgaris. They are referred to as "common beans" probably because they all derived from a common bean ancestor that originated in Peru.

From there, beans were spread throughout South and Central America by migrating Indian trades. Beans were introduced into Europe in the 15th century by Spanish explorers returning from their voyages to the New World. Spanish and Portuguese explorers brought them to Africa and Asia.

As beans are a very inexpensive form of good protein, they have become popular in many cultures throughout the world. The navy bean got its current popular name because it was a staple food of the United States Navy in the early 20th century. Today, the largest commercial producers of dried common beans, including the navy bean, are India, China, Indonesia, Brazil and the United States.

How to Select and Store

Dried navy beans are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins are covered and that the store has a good product turnover rate to ensure maximal freshness.

Whether purchasing navy beans in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage and that beans are whole and not cracked.

Canned navy beans can be found in most markets. Unlike canned vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritional value, there is little difference in the nutritional value of canned navy beans and those you cook yourself. Canning lowers vegetables' nutritional value since they are best lightly cooked for a short period of time, while their canning process requires a long cooking time at high temperatures. On the other hand, beans require a long time to cook whether they are canned or you cook them yourself. Therefore, if enjoying canned beans is more convenient for you, by all means go ahead and enjoy them. We would suggest looking for those that do not contain extra salt or additives. (One concern about canned foods is the potential for the can to include a liner made from bisphenol A/BPA. To learn more about reducing your exposure to this compound, please read our write-up on the subject).

Store dried navy beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep for up to 12 months. Cooked navy beans will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days if placed in a covered container.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

Safety

Oxalate Content

Navy beans consistently been determined to have high oxalate content. Oxalates are naturally occurring organic acids found in a wide variety of foods, and in the case of certain medical conditions, they must be greatly restricted in a meal plan to prevent over-accumulation inside the body. Our comprehensive article about oxalates will provide you with practical and detailed information about these organic acids, food, and health.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read detailed information on our
Food and Recipe Rating System.

Navy Beans, cooked
1.00 cup
182.00 grams
Calories: 255
GI: low
NutrientAmountDRI/DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
fiber19.11 g765.4excellent
folate254.80 mcg644.5very good
manganese0.96 mg483.4very good
copper0.38 mg423.0good
phosphorus262.08 mg372.6good
vitamin B10.43 mg362.5good
protein14.98 g302.1good
magnesium96.46 mg241.7good
iron4.30 mg241.7good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

References

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