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Northern Beans – Health Benefits and Adverse Effects

Northern beans, also called great northern beans, are medium-sized beans having a nutty flavour and a firm texture. They are the cousins of cannellini beans and larger than navy beans. However, unlike navy beans, the northern beans hold their shape better. Since northern beans quickly take on the flavours of other ingredients while cooking, you can add them to soups, stews, and salads. Despite having slightly different flavours and sizes, northern beans can substitute cannellini beans in recipes. Moreover, you can use this bean in any recipe based on white beans.

Apart from the grainier-tasting nature, the northern beans are the powerhouse of low-fat, plant-based protein. Moreover, like all beans, northern beans are also an excellent source of fibre. Therefore, it is a healthy addition to the diet of vegans, vegetarians, and those trying to reduce their meat intake. 

Nutritional Profile of Northern Beans

According to USDA data, 100 grams of cooked or boiled northern beans contains the following nutrients.

Calories: 118 kcalProtein: 8.33 gCarbohydrates: 21.1 gFibre: 7 gFat: 0.45 gCalcium: 68 mgPotassium: 391 mgPhosphorous: 165 mgMagnesium: 50 mgIron: 2.13 mgFolate: 102 µg

According to USDA, 100 grams of dried northern beans contains the following nutrients.

Calories: 150 kcalProtein: 24.7 gCarbohydrates: 37.9 gFibre: 4.3 gFat: 1.24 gCalcium: 192 mgIron: 5.48 mgMagnesium: 176 mgPhosphorous: 519 mgPotassium: 1520 mgZinc: 3.45 mg

The HealthifyMe Note

Most people buy northern beans in the form of dry beans. Great Northern beans are available less commonly as fresh. The dried northern beans come in sealed bags and often require rehydration before cooking. The nutritional composition and calories of dried or canned northern beans vary according to the brand you purchase. 

Benefits of Northern Beans

Full of Fibre

Fibre is the indigestible part of plants that helps regulate blood sugar and makes you feel satiated for better weight management. Northern beans are one of the bean varieties with ample fibre. For example, one hundred grams of northern beans offers 7 grams of dietary fibre. Or eating just a cup of northern beans provides you with 12 grams of fibre, which is half of your daily needs. According to a study, a high-fibre diet might reduce your heart disease and diabetes risk. It also plays a role in maintaining regular digestion and preventing constipation. 

Low in Fat

They are a low-fat food at only 0.45 grams of fat per 100 grams of cooked northern beans. Adding low-fat and fibre-rich foods like northern beans to a healthy diet can help support weight management and heart health.

Combat Mineral Deficiency

Beans contain impressive amounts of minerals, and northern beans are no exception. One cup of cooked northern beans provides nearly 20% of an adult’s daily needs for potassium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. You also get 10% to 12% calcium and zinc from the same serving size. This healthy mix of minerals in northern beans is helpful for people with mineral deficiency. 

Protein-Packed

If you’re trying to build muscle or following a vegan diet, eating more northern beans will supply protein that you might be lacking. For 209 calories, a one-cup serving of northern beans offers 15 grams of protein with less than a gram of fat. In addition, they contain many of the essential amino acids to form a complete protein. So you can eat northern beans in place of animal protein. And when you eat enough protein along with proper exercise, they can help promote muscle growth.

Good for Anaemia

Most varieties of white beans contain 36% of the daily value of iron per cup. A one-cup serving of northern beans gives you 4 milligrams of iron. Though northern beans have a reputation for causing gas, regularly eating them in moderation is healthy for an anaemic person. These beans can give the same benefits as iron supplements and fortified foods.

Folate Source

Great northern beans contain rich amounts of folate. A 1-cup serving of northern beans gives you 181 micrograms of folate. Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin well-known for preventing congenital disabilities. Therefore, these beans are good for pregnant women. However, check for legume allergy and any pre-existing gastric issues before adding northern beans to the diet of expecting mothers. 

The HealthifyMe Note

Like other beans, northern beans are rich in several essential nutrients. As a result, they offer various health benefits. For example, northern beans improve digestion due to their high fibre content. In addition, they help lose weight and prevent muscle mass loss due to their proteins and fibre goodness. Northern beans also combat anaemia, making them all the more beneficial.

How to Prepare Northern Beans Before Consumption

While choosing northern beans, choose those that look plump, unwrinkled, and evenly coloured. Pick and remove any pebbles before cooking the dried beans. Then, thoroughly rinse and drain before using. 

Soaking the northern beans for at least four hours before cooking can reduce gas-causing tendencies and speed up the cooking time. 

There are two ways to soak dried northern beans. 

Overnight Soaking

Rinse the northern beans, ensuring there is no debris, rocks, or small pebbles. Next, transfer the beans to a pot and fill the water till two inches to the top. The dried northern beans will swell and rehydrate as they soak, so the extra water is essential. Let it soak overnight and drain the beans before cooking them. 

Quick Soak Method

Rinse the northern beans and put them in a saucepan. Cover beans with water and bring to a boil. Let the beans boil for a few minutes, then let them soak for an hour off the heat (preferably for four hours).

Healthy Recipes Using Northern Beans

Northern Beans Soup

Serves: 2

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

Northern beans (soaked overnight): 250gOlive oil: 1 tbspLarge onion, chopped finely: 1 Red bell pepper, chopped finely: ½ pieceGreen bell pepper, chopped finely: ½ pieceCarrots, sliced round: 2 carrotsGarlic cloves, minced: 6Freshly ground cumin or jeera powder: 10 gBay leaf: 1 leafVegetable broth or water: 200 mlPepper: As per tasteCoriander leaves, chopped finely: 3-4 stemsSalt: As per taste

Method of Preparation

Cook the pre-soaked northern beans in a pressure cooker for up to 6 whistles.In a pan, add olive oil. Saute bay leaf, chopped onions, bell peppers, carrot, and garlic cloves. Allow all vegetables to cook for 5 minutes.Add vegetable broth or water along with cooked beans.Stir in cumin powder, pepper, and salt. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot. 

Serves: 2

Preparation time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

Northern beans (soaked overnight): 400g Bay leaves: 2 leavesSalt: As per tasteRed onion: ½ piece (thinly sliced)Olive oil: 1-2 tbspLemon juice: 80mlGround cumin: 10gCayenne pepper: 15g

Method of Preparation

Drain the pre-soaked beans and add them to a large saucepan. Add bay leaves and enough cold water to cover by 2 inches; bring to boil. After simmering for 25 minutes, add salt and continue to simmer until beans are tender but still hold shape, about 10 minutes longer.Separate the northern bean from the bay leaf and place it in a large bowl. Add chopped onion to it.Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, salt, and pepper to make the dressing. Pour the dressing over the bean salad and toss gently to combine. 

Marinated Mixed Beans

Serves: 2

Preparation time: 10 minutes

1 cup: 100 g/ml

Ingredients

Northern beans (boiled): 1 cupCannellini beans (cooked): ½ cupChickpeas (cooked): ½ cupOnion, finely chopped: 1Lemon juice: 3 tbspOlive oil: 1-2 tbspFinely chopped herbs (such as mint, parsley, or chives): ½ cupSalt and pepper to taste

Method of Preparation

Combine onion and lemon juice in a small bowl and sit for 5 minutes.Meanwhile, mix herbs and oil. Add beans and toss to combine. Then, season with salt and pepper.Add the onion mixture to the bean mixture and toss gently to combine.

Storage and Food Safety Tips for Northern Beans

There are storage guidelines to remember when buying dried northern beans in bulk. The first thing to check is if the packets have a proper seal so that the beans have no dust and moisture exposure before buying. Next, store the dried northern beans in a cool, dry area to maximise the shelf life. Properly stored, they stay at the best quality for about 2 to 3 years at room temperature. In addition, to further maximise the shelf life of dried northern beans, transfer them to a covered airtight container after opening the package. You can also freeze the beans in a resealable plastic freezer bag.

Any changes in the texture, colour or flavour indicate compromised quality. Common spoilage signs include mouldy taste or appearance, developing foul odour, and appearance of insects. The commercially packaged dried northern beans will typically carry labels like ” Best By,” “Best if Used By,” “Best Before”, or “Best When Used By” dates. However, this is not a safety date. Instead, it shows the manufacturer’s estimate of how long the dried beans will remain at peak quality.

Side Effects of Northern Beans

Allergy

It is possible to be allergic to legumes. A study says that allergic responses to legumes can range from mild skin reactions to anaphylactic reactions. People allergic to cannellini beans, navy beans, lentils, chickpea, pea, and mung beans have an increased chance of northern bean allergy. Discontinue eating northern beans immediately if you experience hives and throat tightening. 

Digestive Discomfort

Northern beans can cause flatulence, stomach pain, or bloating in some people due to fermentable carbohydrates and high fibre. In addition, digestive problems mainly affect people who eat northern beans excessively. If you haven’t thoroughly cooked your beans, you might experience stomach aches, nausea and vomiting. If you’re using dried northern beans, soak them before cooking to reduce their quantity of fermentable carbohydrates.

Conclusion

Northern beans are just one of the bean varieties full of health-benefiting nutrition. They are larger than navy beans but slightly smaller than cannellini beans. With a nutty flavour, these beans are an excellent addition to salads, stews, and soups. Eating northern beans can supply iron you might be lacking if you’re anaemic. In addition, they are an excellent source of plant-based protein, calcium, fibre, magnesium, and potassium. You can also include northern beans as a part of the low-fat diet for weight management. However, if the carbs and calories in northern beans concern you, eat a smaller serving size. Despite having the potential risk of digestive discomfort, northern beans are full of nutrients and combat mineral deficiency. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q.Are Great Northern beans good for weight loss?

A. Northern Beans have plenty of fibre, which can help people looking for weight loss solutions. High protein content helps the stomach feel full and decreases the appetite. People, therefore, avoid overeating food and gaining too much weight. The dietary fibre in northern beans is also known to promote weight loss by keeping the stomach full and avoiding unnecessary snacking.

Q.Are Great Northern beans good for your heart?

A. High fibre diet usually boosts heart health. And just a cup serving of northern beans offers 12 grams of fibre with less than a gram of fat. Northern beans are also rich in potassium, which helps regulate fluids in the body and maintain blood pressure. However, it would be best if you ate them in moderation. 

Q. Is Northern bean soup good for you?

A.Yes, northern beans soup has high nutritional value and is healthy for you. Northern beans contain various nutrients and minerals that help the body combat diseases. People following vegan and vegetarian diets must consider having northern bean soup as it is a protein-based food with ample amounts of iron, calcium, zinc, and potassium. However, make sure to limit the salt you add to your soups. 

Q. Do northern beans cause gas?

A. Overeating fibre-rich foods like northern beans produce more gas in the digestive tract and cause bloating. In addition, it leads to indigestion because the digestive enzymes in your stomach take more time to break down the fibre and carbs. These undigested carbohydrates bypass digestion and remain relatively intact, eventually reaching your colon where resident bacteria digest them. These bacteria often create gas from the fermentation completed in the process. 

Q. Are Northern beans easy to digest?

A. Moderate amounts of northern beans are easy to digest. However, too many northern beans are not suitable for your digestion process. It is because northern beans contain high amounts of complex carbohydrates. These carbs and fibre cannot undergo quick digestion. When the undigested carb reaches the large intestine, the resident bacteria ferment them and cause gas. Therefore, you need to consume them in small amounts. Once your body gets used to the food, you can gradually increase your intake. You can also drink lots of water after meals to help digest the beans.

Q. Are Great northern beans suitable for a diet?

A.Yes, northern beans can be a nutritious addition to your diet. It is particularly beneficial for those following vegan and vegetarian diets. Nutrients like fibre and protein in northern beans effectively maintain healthy body weight. In addition, the mix of minerals in northern beans supports bodily functions.

Q.What is the nutritional value of Great Northern beans?

A. Northern beans provide low-fat, plant-based protein and fibre. It offers 8.33 grams of protein and 7 grams of fibre per 100 grams. A cup of cooked northern beans also provides 10% to 12% calcium and zinc. 

Eating one cup of cooked great northern beans provides the following nutrients:

Calories: 209 KcalFat: 0.8 grams Carbohydrates: 37.3 gramsProtein: 15 grams21% DV of iron

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