Navy Beans Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Navy beans

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

In This Article

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. They contain important minerals including folate, iron, magnesium, calcium, and lots of potassium. In fact, one serving of navy beans meets approximately 18% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for potassium.

The carbohydrates in navy beans provide a great source of slow-release energy to sustain optimal body function throughout the day. Navy beans are low in fat and contain a good amount of plant protein for a carbohydrate-rich food. 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 1 cup serving of cooked, boiled without salt, navy beans:

  • Calories: 255
  • Fat: 1.13g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 47.4g
  • Fiber: 19.1g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 15g
  • Potassium: 708mg

Carbs

A single serving of navy beans contains over 47 grams of complex carbohydrates, 19.1 grams of fiber, and trace amounts of sugar. Complex carbs are healthier compared to simple carbohydrates because they do 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 30-39, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). 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 with only 1.13 grams per serving. Unsaturated fats are considered ‘healthy fats’ coming from plant sources and fatty fish.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends between 25 to 35 percent of total daily calories come from unsaturated fats. And preparing navy beans without added oil or butter would make them virtually fat-free.

Protein

There are 15 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked serving of navy beans. There are two forms of protein: complete and incomplete. Most plant-based foods, including navy beans, contain incomplete protein meaning they lack some of the amino acids typical of the complete proteins found in meat and dairy products. However, eating whole grains sometime during the day along with navy beans is shown to satisfy the amino acid requirement for complete protein.

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

Vitamins and Minerals

Navy beans are a rich source of many important micronutrients including folate (B-vitamins), iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. In fact, one serving of navy beans meets approximately 18% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for potassium, a mineral required for your body to function properly. Potassium is also known as one of the electrolyte blood minerals that helps regulate fluid balance, heartbeat, nerve function, and muscle contraction.

Health Benefits

Navy beans have a superior nutrient profile and a good source of protein shown to offer numerous health benefits for disease prevention.

Lowers the Risk of Diabetes

Navy beans are shown to lower the risk of diabetes in several ways. First, navy beans are low on the glycemic index (GI) so digest slowly helping to reduce blood sugar levels. Studies indicate eating low-GI foods like navy beans promote good blood sugar control. You are less likely to develop diabetes and better able to manage an existing diabetic condition when blood sugar is maintained at healthy levels.

High Fiber Content

Navy beans contain over 19 grams of fiber per 1 cup serving. In fact, they are a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fiber important for digestive health.

The high-fiber content in navy beans is shown to help control blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance in the colon that may help with digestion and provide many other health benefits, like slowing glucose absorption. Slowing the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream can help reduce blood sugar levels. In fact, research suggests beans, including navy beans, to be associated with a significantly decreased risk of developing diabetes.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, so it adds bulk to stool and helps eliminate waste from the gastrointestinal tract. Both fiber types are essential nutrients having an important role in a healthy diet and proper body function.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend about 28 grams of fiber per day for women depending on age and about 34 grams of fiber for men depending on age.

High Resistant Starch

Navy beans are especially high in resistant starch, a carbohydrate that 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 the 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 is also shown not to raise blood glucose levels because it bypasses digestion in the small intestine.

Navy beans contain resistant starch (RS) which also functions like a soluble fiber passing through the stomach and small intestine undigested. Once in the large intestine, the resistant starch ferments and shown to have a positive effect on blood glucose and insulin concentrations. Several studies indicate that in addition to fiber, the RS in beans is also a key factor for improved insulin sensitivity and very effective at lowering blood sugar levels after meals.

Supports Heart Health

The high fiber content in navy beans is also shown to improve heart health. Most of the benefits are said to be attributed to the soluble fiber reducing the LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. Lowered LDL cholesterol levels and having a healthy HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio are shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) as well as cardiovascular disease.

The folate and magnesium in navy beans are also shown to protect the heart. Folate functions by lowering homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood and at elevated levels is a risk factor for heart disease. Magnesium is an important mineral that helps maintain a healthy heartbeat and normal blood pressure.

Improved Memory and Cognition

Navy beans contain folate, an important B-complex vitamin shown to help degenerative brain disorders. Numerous studies have shown folate to have a positive effect on homocysteine levels in the bloodstream for improved memory, cognitive performance, and helping to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Muscle Growth and Repair

Navy beans are a rich source of protein and complex carbohydrates 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 an exercise session. Lysine is one of the building blocks for protein and there is 743mg of this amino acid in a 1 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 can also help with muscle development. Complex carbs are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that contribute to lean muscle mass. They also provide sustainable energy through glycogen stores to support muscle building workouts. Replenishing glycogen stores with nutritious foods like navy beans post-workout is suggested to help prevent protein breakdown and muscle atrophy (wasting).

Weight Loss

Navy beans are low in calories and high in fiber 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 (RS) found in navy beans is also shown to provide the same benefit. It increases the feeling of fullness so people tend to eat fewer calories.

Lowers Cancer Risk

It appears eating beans, including navy beans may benefit some but not all cancers. The phytochemicals may help reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer and a lowered risk of colorectal polyps. And limited evidence suggests potential protection against stomach and prostate cancer.

Improved Metabolic Syndrome

A few studies have attributed bean consumption, including navy beans, to reduced metabolic syndrome risk factors. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic conditions that include abdominal obesity, elevated triglyceride levels, low HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure, and elevated fasting glucose levels. It appears these risk factors were improved by eating 2 to 5 cups of beans per week over a 12-week period.

Eating beans was shown to reduce caloric intake, reduce abdominal circumference, lower blood pressure, and increase HDL cholesterol levels. Better blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity improvement were also indicated by eating beans.

Improved Blood Circulation

Navy beans contain a good amount of iron and copper shown to 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 helps form hemoglobin and needed to make red blood cells. It also helps absorb iron from the intestines to maintain healthy iron levels in your blood for improved blood circulation.

How to Prepare

Navy beans are small white beans used in popular dishes like baked beans, or with a Southern flair 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 using the following steps:

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

Traditional Cooking Method (Navy Beans – 1lb bag)

  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 8 to 12 hours.
  3. After soaking, drain off water.
  4. Place 8 cups of clean water back into a large pot with 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 (Navy Beans – 1lb bag)

  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 back into a large pot with 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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Article Sources
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  1. Borresen EC, Jenkins-Puccetti N, Schmitz K, et al. A Pilot Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial to Assess Tolerance and Efficacy of Navy Bean and Rice Bran Supplementation for Lowering Cholesterol in ChildrenGlob Pediatr Health. 2017;4:2333794X17694231. doi:10.1177/2333794X17694231

  2. Li KJ, Borresen EC, Jenkins-Puccetti N, Luckasen G, Ryan EP. Navy Bean and Rice Bran Intake Alters the Plasma Metabolome of Children at Risk for Cardiovascular DiseaseFront Nutr. 2018;4:71. doi:10.3389/fnut.2017.00071

  3. Borresen EC, Gundlach KA, Wdowik M, Rao S, Brown RJ, Ryan EP. Feasibility of Increased Navy Bean Powder Consumption for Primary and Secondary Colorectal Cancer PreventionCurr Nutr Food Sci. 2014;10(2):112–119. doi:10.2174/1573401310666140306005934

  4. Baxter BA, Oppel RC, Ryan EP. Navy Beans Impact the Stool Metabolome and Metabolic Pathways for Colon Health in Cancer SurvivorsNutrients. 2018;11(1):28. doi:10.3390/nu11010028

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