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.
This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Navy beans provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Navy beans can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Navy beans, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.
Navy beans are a good 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. A cup of cooked navy beans provides 46.6% of the recommended daily intake for 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 Risk Of Heart Attack
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. Want to literally keep your heart happy? Eat navy beans--a one cup serving provides over one-quarter 26.8%) of your daily needs for magnesium. 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 669.8 mg of potassium and only 1.82 mg of sodium, 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 25.1% 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. Just one cup of navy beans supplies 50.5% of the DV for manganese, 27.0% of the DV for copper, and 25.1% of the DV for iron.
Maintain Your Memory with Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Thiamine 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. Don't forget to make navy beans a staple in your healthy diet: a one cup serving of navy beans provides 24.7% of the daily value for thiamin.
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 15.8 grams of protein--that's 31.7% of the daily value for protein.
Navy beans are small, pea-sized beans that are creamy white in color. They are a mild-flavored bean that is dense and creamy.
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.