At some point in the past, you’ve likely asked yourself – Are beans vegetable? – but the full answer is a bit more complicated.
Are Beans Vegetable, Fruit, Legume or Grain?
Beans are a unique food, and a very important one in our diet. Technically speaking, beans are a mature form of legumes and are closely related to lentils and peas. Legumes are seeds, pods or other edible parts of a member of the pea family (Fabaceae).
Interestingly enough, due to the unique nutrient composition of beans, they also fall into other classifications, particularly when discussing diet and nutrition. For vegetarians, beans often represent a meat-free protein alternative, since beans are famously high in amino acids and protein, as well as zinc and iron.
Beans are also commonly thought of as vegetables, because of their starchy nature and the ease with which they can be combined with other vegetables and greens in many dishes. Beyond that, beans are also rich in nutrients commonly found in vegetables, such as folate and potassium, and are a good source of complex carbohydrates. In some ways, this also makes them similar to grains.
Botanically, however, mature beans in the pod are considered fruits, because they are the seed-bearing organ grown from an ovary. While “fruit” is often the last group in which beans are placed, there is no denying botany!
As you can see, beans have a versatile nutrient profile that has earned it a unique status, and an important place in any healthy diet.