Navy beans may seem ordinary or unimpressive, but they hold a number of health benefits for us, including their ability to boost cognition and memory, protect your heart, optimize digestion, promote healthy circulation, reduce cancer risk, stimulate growth, and lower diabetes risk.
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If you’ve ever come across a small, white bean in a soup or bean salad that you can’t quite place, you may have heard it go by one of many names – navy bean, haricot bean, or pea bean. In fact, it is simply a different class of the most common beans found throughout the Americas, scientifically known as Phaseolus vulgaris. Growing on either bushes or vines, these beans are extremely popular throughout the world, and are not only praised for their versatility and ease of growth, but also their nutritive value. The name ‘Navy bean’ is derived from their widespread use by the United States navy, who used the beans as a staple part of a healthy diet for sailors. You can find navy beans across the world now, in a variety of cultivars, and they are notoriously easy to grow and hardy.
Due to their high nutritive value and protein content, they have become staple foods in many different cultures and can be stored for long periods of time or canned without losing their nutritional value, unlike many other vegetables or legumes. While it may seem like all beans are created equal, that isn’t exactly true, and navy beans do possess certain unique chemical components, such as phosphatidylserine.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at the many health benefits of navy beans.
Memory and Cognition
Folate is a key nutrient for many different reasons within the body, including the prevention of neural tube defects and anemia, but it also affects the nervous system in a meaningful way. A deficiency of folate has been directly linked to an increase in homocysteine levels, which can often lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore, one of the B vitamins found in navy beans, thiamin, can help to increase certain neurotransmitters we need for memory and cognition, so these little legumes can also keep our memory sharp as we age.
Magnesium and folate team up in navy beans to keep the heart strong and protected. Folate decreases levels of homocysteine, which is a dangerous precursor to heart disease, while magnesium functions in a similar way as potassium, reducing tension and stress in the blood vessels to lessen exertion and lower blood pressure, thus preventing heart attacks and strokes.
High-fiber foods have long been praised for its impact on diabetes, due to its ability to stabilize blood sugar levels and improve the absorption of nutrients from the gut. With glucose and insulin levels maintained at healthy levels, you are far less likely to develop diabetes, and if you are already suffering from this condition, the high fiber in navy beans can help you manage your symptoms.
As mentioned, navy beans are extremely high in fiber, which is a key component to good gastrointestinal health. Fiber is able to bulk up the stool and prevent symptoms of constipation and diarrhea. Furthermore, fiber makes bowel movements more normalized by stimulating peristaltic motion. A good fiber diet cleans the intestines and prevents more serious gastrointestinal issues, like colon cancer or gastric ulcers.
Manganese isn’t a mineral you often hear about, but it is a key cofactor in many antioxidant enzymes that can prevent the spread and impact of free radicals. This can help to lower your risk of cancer and chronic illness. Secondly, copper plays an important role as an enzyme cofactor as well and can help to stimulate blood flow, joint mobility, and overall flexibility by cutting back on oxidative stress in those areas.
Growth and Repair
One of the most notable and important aspects of navy beans is their high content of protein. Proteins are the building blocks of all life, and we need a steady stream for the growth of new cells, tissues, muscles, bones, blood vessels and every other part of our body. Protein is essential for normal development, but also in the function of repairing damaged areas of the body and speeding the healing process. For vegetarians, navy beans are an excellent alternative source of protein, with more than 15 grams of protein in a single cup!
Better Blood Circulation
Keeping the blood flowing normally in our body is obviously important for the oxygenation of our organ systems and normal overall function. Iron is a key component of red blood cells, and without proper iron intake, your circulation suffers, making you susceptible to anemia, weakness, bone mineral loss, fatigue, and poor circulation. Copper is also very important in this regard, as it is necessary for the synthesis of hemoglobin. In other words, without copper, iron is practically useless in the body. Navy beans, fortunately, contain high levels of both.