Navy Beans Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Navy beans

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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Navy beans, also called haricot beans, are a nutritious food associated with healthy eating. They are a popular staple in vegetarian diets and for those who want to increase their consumption of plant-based foods.

Navy beans are high in carbohydrates, fiber, and protein-rich. Studies also show numerous health benefits directly related to the high content of essential nutrients and phytochemicals found in navy beans.

Navy Beans Nutrition Facts

The following information is provided by the USDA for a half-cup serving of cooked navy beans (boiled without salt).

  • Calories: 128
  • Fat: 0.6g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 23.7g
  • Fiber: 9.6g
  • Sugars: 0.3g
  • Protein: 7.5g
  • Potassium: 354mg

Carbs

A half-cup serving of navy beans contains 23.7 grams of complex carbohydrates, 9.6 grams of fiber, and trace amounts of sugar. Complex carbs are healthier compared to simple carbohydrates because they contain fiber and other nutrients.

Because of the high fiber content, navy beans digest more slowly in the body for sustained energy. Navy beans also have a low glycemic index (GI) ranking between 29 and 39.

The GI score represents how fast a carbohydrate-rich food raises blood glucose. Meal planning with the glycemic index involves selecting carbs that have a low to medium GI rating to better maintain blood sugar levels.

Fats

Navy beans have trace amounts of mono and poly-unsaturated fats at less than 1 gram per half-cup serving. Unsaturated fats, which come from plant sources and fatty fish, are considered healthy fats.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that 20% to 35% of total daily calories come from fat, with most of this from unsaturated fat sources. Preparing navy beans without added oil or butter makes them virtually fat-free.

Protein

There are 7.5 grams of protein per half-cup serving of cooked navy beans. There are two forms of protein: complete and incomplete.

Most plant-based foods—including navy beans—contain incomplete proteins, meaning they lack some of the amino acids of complete proteins (found in meat and dairy products). However, a diet that includes a variety of plant foods satisfies the amino acid requirements for complete protein.

Navy beans also contain a good amount of lysine, an amino acid that may be lacking in plant-based diets unless beans or legumes are included. Lysine is important for human growth and development and tissue repair, and provides numerous other health benefits.

Vitamins and Minerals

Navy beans are a rich source of many important micronutrients, including folate, iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. One serving of navy beans also supplies approximately 16% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for potassium, a mineral required for proper body function.

Potassium is one of the electrolyte blood minerals that helps regulate fluid balance, heartbeat, nerve function, and muscle contraction.

Health Benefits

Like other legumes, navy beans have a superior nutrient profile and offer numerous health benefits. That makes them a valuable addition to your eating plan.

Lower Diabetes Risk

Navy beans are low on the glycemic index (GI), so they digest slowly. It is the high fiber content in navy beans that slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.

This helps reduce blood sugar spikes such as those that occur after consuming high-GI foods. Research further suggests that beans, including navy beans, are associated with a significantly decreased risk of developing diabetes.

Better Digestive Function

Navy beans contain almost 10 grams of fiber per half-cup serving. This fiber is both soluble and insoluble, each of which plays an important role in a healthy diet and proper body function.

Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance in the colon, which helps with digestion. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, so it adds bulk to stool and helps eliminate waste from the gastrointestinal tract.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend between 22 grams and 28 grams of fiber per day for women and 28 grams to 34 grams of fiber daily for men, depending on age.

Greater Gut Health

Navy beans are especially high in resistant starch, which resists digestion in the small intestine. This means it travels undigested to the large intestine where the fiber ferments and acts like a prebiotic, feeding good gut bacteria for improved gut health.

This slow fermentation process in the large intestine appears to cause less gas and bloating compared to other fibers. Resistant starch also doesn't raise blood glucose levels because it bypasses digestion in the small intestine.

Improved Heart Health

The high fiber content in navy beans can improve heart health. The soluble fiber reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases HDL (good) levels. Healthy HDL-to-LDL ratios can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and cardiovascular disease.

The folate and magnesium in navy beans also protect the heart. Folate lowers homocysteine, an amino acid found in the blood that, at elevated levels, is a risk factor for heart disease. Magnesium helps maintain a healthy heartbeat and normal blood pressure.

Better Memory and Cognition

Folate is a B-complex vitamin that is important for brain function. Numerous studies connect folate to improved memory and cognitive performance and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Enhanced Muscle Growth and Repair

Navy beans are a rich source of protein and complex carbohydrates. These two macronutrients are essential for muscle growth and repair.

The primary function of protein is to build and repair cells in the body, including muscle cells damaged during exercise. Lysine is one of the building blocks for protein and there is 473 mg of this amino acid in a half-cup serving of navy beans.

Lysine is vital for protein synthesis and plays an important role in the building and maintenance of muscle tissue.

The complex carbohydrates in navy beans also help with muscle development. Complex carbs are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, all of which contribute to lean muscle mass.

The carbs also provide sustainable energy to support muscle-building workouts. Replenish glycogen stores with nutritious foods (like navy beans) post-workout to help prevent protein breakdown and support muscle synthesis.

Weight Loss Support

Navy beans are low in calories and high in fiber, making them beneficial for weight loss. The fiber content provides a feeling of satiety, so there is a tendency to eat less throughout the day.

The resistant starch found in navy beans provides the same benefit. It increases the feeling of fullness so people tend to eat fewer calories.

Reduced Cancer Risk

Eating beans may lower the risk of some cancers. For example, the phytochemicals in beans have been found to help reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer and colorectal polyps. Some health experts further suggest that a diet that includes beans might also be an important part of cancer treatment.

Improved Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that include abdominal obesity, elevated triglyceride levels, low HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure, and elevated fasting glucose levels. These may all be improved by eating 2 to 5 cups of beans per week over a 12-week period.

Beans provide this benefit by reducing caloric intake, abdominal circumference, and blood pressure while, at the same time, increasing HDL cholesterol. Better blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity improvement were also associated with eating beans.

Better Blood Circulation

Navy beans contain a good amount of iron and copper, which both help with blood circulation. Iron is an important mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body. It also helps maintain healthy red blood cells essential for circulation.

Copper is another mineral that assists with hemoglobin formation and is necessary to make red blood cells. It also helps absorb iron from the intestines, making it easier to maintain healthy iron levels for improved blood circulation.

How to Prepare

Navy beans are small white beans used in popular dishes like baked beans or cooked with ham hocks. Cooking dried navy beans at home is a healthier choice to avoid the added sodium found in canned beans.

There are a couple of ways to prepare and cook navy beans at home. Measurements below are for a one-pound bag of dried beans.

First, inspect the beans to remove any bad beans, stones, or other debris. Rinse the beans thoroughly before moving on to the traditional or quick-cook method.

Traditional Cooking Method

  1. Place the rinsed beans in a large pot and cover with 8 cups of water.
  2. Allow the navy beans to soak overnight, at least eight to 12 hours.
  3. After soaking, drain off water.
  4. Place 8 cups of clean water into the large pot with the navy beans.
  5. Add any ingredients as per recipe directions.
  6. Bring beans to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for about 1.5 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  7. Continue to follow the recipe for additional ingredients.
  8. Beans will be tender when fully cooked.

Quick-Cooking Method

  1. Place the rinsed beans in a large pot and cover with 10 cups of water.
  2. Bring to a rapid boil.
  3. Reduce heat, cover, and boil for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally.
  4. Drain off the water.
  5. Place 8 cups of clean water into the large pot with the navy beans.
  6. Add any ingredients as per recipe directions.
  7. Bring beans to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for about 1.5 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  8. Continue to follow the recipe for additional ingredients.
  9. Beans will be tender when fully cooked.

Recipes

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