Looking for a nutritious and delicious side dish to serve up with a light summer dinner? Next time you visit the grocery store or farmer’s market, don’t forget to add green beans to your shopping list – they come into peak season in our area in July and August. Green beans offer a variety of health benefits and are an extremely versatile vegetable to cook with. Green beans, despite their name, may also be yellow or purple. Although modern plant breeding has for the most part removed the inedible fibrous string down the seam of the bean pod when it’s snapped open, many still refer to green beans as “string” beans. Green beans originated in the Americas, and are thought to have been cultivated for thousands of years in Mexico and Peru prior to their popularization in the dishes we now know today such as green bean casserole.
One cup of cooked green beans contains only 45 calories, 10 grams of carbohydrates (which makes them a low carb vegetable), and 16% of the daily value for vitamin C and manganese, an important trace mineral for bone health and wound healing. Green beans are also packed with B vitamins and folate, which are necessary for heart health and maintaining cognitive function. They are also a rich source of the antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene, important nutrients for cancer prevention and reducing inflammation that is associated with chronic diseases like arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Look for crisp, vibrant green beans free of brown spots. The World’s Healthiest Foods organization recommends steaming green beans for 7 minutes for maximum flavor and nutrient retention, or blanching (quick steaming for two to three minutes and then immersing in an ice bath). Blanched green beans can be frozen for later use or enjoyed right away (such as in a salad), while steamed green beans make an excellent side dish or tossed into soups. You can also try sautéing fresh in olive oil and tossing with spices and flavors like garlic, parsley, lemon juice, or salt and pepper.
Southern Living put together a delicious collection of 31 green bean recipes (see green bean pasta recipe below). Check out the link here: https://www.southernliving.com/food/entertaining/green-bean-recipes
Article by Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN LDN. Natalie is a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator based in Coeur d’Alene, ID.
Penne with Green Beans and Tomatoes (recipe by Southern Living, July 2014)
Hands-on Time: 15 Mins
Total Time: 35 Mins
Yield : Makes 8 servings
1 (16-oz.) package whole wheat penne pasta
1 (8-oz.) package haricots verts (thin green beans), cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 pt. grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3/4 cup Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette (see below)
Cook pasta according to package directions, adding green beans to boiling water during last 2 minutes of cooking time; drain. Rinse pasta mixture under cold running water until cool; drain. Toss together pasta mixture, tomatoes, and vinaigrette. Cover and chill up to 24 hours, if desired. Just before serving, stir in dill, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 minced shallot
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Stir together lemon juice and minced shallot; let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in olive oil, parsley, honey, and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week.