From pinto to kidney and black beans, beans are nutrient-filled legumes consumed globally with varied preparation methods. Besides their immense health benefits, some species contain sugars the human body struggles to break down, leading to flatulence. Also, did you know that some can be toxic? Here are some interesting bean facts to make your day.
1. There Is a National Bean Day
Held every January 6, the National Bean Day is set aside to celebrate beans in all sizes, colors, and shapes. People worldwide use the opportunity to appreciate beans not only as a source of protein and exceptional snack choice but also for their excellent fiber supply.
It’s also a day to try new bean recipes, taste the ones never eaten before, and use the hashtag NationalBeanDay to spread awareness on social media. Coincidentally, January 6 is the day Gregor Mendel, a geneticist famous for using beans and peas to test his theories on inheritance, passed away.
2. There Are Multiple Guinness World Records Involving Beans
Over time, there have been numerous Guinness World Records involving beans, the latest being the heaviest broad bean pod assessed on September 23, 2003. Grown by James Brown from the UK, the bean pod weighed 192 g (6.77 oz.).
Other recognized records include the most baked beans eaten with chopsticks in a minute (72 by Chisato Tanaka), most baked beans eaten in five minutes with a cocktail stick (275 by David Rush), and most beans moved with chopsticks in 30 seconds (26 by Naoki Misumo).
3. Pythagoras Valued Beans Highly
A polymath, Ionian Greek philosopher, and the founder of Pythagoreanism, Pythagoras was famous for his religious teachings and political ideas. One of his well-known beliefs was that beans contained human souls; he went far and beyond to fight against their destruction or consumption. As one legendary account has it, the philosopher refused to enter a bean field even though he was trying to escape from his pursuers. He was eventually killed.
4. Beans Are Among the Longest-Cultivated Plants in History
Also referred to as fava beans, broad beans were first found in their wild state in the Himalayan foothills and Afghanistan; they were the size of a human’s small fingernail. However, the first domestic cultivation of beans was in the early seventh millennium BCE, grown in Thailand. The large-seeded broad beans were first cultivated in transalpine Europe and Liberia in the second millennium BCE, making them one of the longest-cultivated plants in history.
5. Refried Beans Are Only Fried Once
Contrary to their name, refried beans are only fried once! The confusion/misconception about them being “refried” arose from a poor “frijoles refritos” translation; the phrase translates to “well-fried beans.” In the United States, they are made from pinto beans and served as a side dish with the majority of Tex-Mex restaurant meals.
6. Most of Today’s Commonly-Eaten Beans Originated in the Americas
In the Americas, the oldest-known domesticated beans date back to around the second millennium BCE. They were originally from an archaeological site in Peru known as Guitarrero Cave. However, the beans from Phaseolus were first discovered in Mesoamerica and are the most commonly eaten today. Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer and navigator, is said to have encountered them in the Bahamas.
7. Some Types of Beans Contain Anti-nutrients
While beans are a reliable source of proteins and carbohydrates, some types contain significant anti-nutrients. For instance, kidney beans have phytic acid that, when ingested, can cause poor bone growth and inhibit vitamin D metabolism.
8. Beans Are Perfect Wedding Gifts in Some Parts of the World
In Nicaragua, it is customary to gift newlyweds with a bowl of beans; the legumes are thought to bring good luck and guarantee the marriage’s longevity. The same is true for traditional Chinese weddings.
9. Red Kidney Beans Can Be Toxic
When raw or undercooked, red kidney beans contain a toxin known as lectin phytohaemagglutinin that can cause food poisoning. While other types of beans have some level of this toxin, red kidney beans have the highest concentrations. There have been many cases of patients suffering diarrhea, stomachache, and vomiting after ingesting them.
10. Soaking Beans Before Boiling Can Help Remove Gas-Producing Compounds
Most bean species have gas-producing compounds that can cause flatulence and bloating. Apparently, soaking beans before boiling can help break down the oligosaccharide sugars into simpler forms the body can digest.
11. India Is the World’s Largest Dry Beans Producer
India is the world’s largest dry bean producer; it supplied more than 6 million tons in 2021/22. Other big cultivators include Myanmar, Brazil, the United States, China, Tanzania, Mexico, and Kenya.
12. Undercooked Beans Are More Toxic than Raw Ones
According to studies, undercooked beans are more toxic than raw ones. They are usually undercooked when an individual uses a slow cooker at a temperature low enough not to destroy the toxins. In one case, someone suffered food poisoning because the butter beans used to make the falafel they ate were soaked and ground without proper boiling.
13. North Dakota Is the Biggest Producer of Dry Beans in the United States
Research shows North Dakota contributes to about a third of the United States’ dry beans production. Other top cultivators include Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Idaho.
14. Hundreds of Bean Recipes Are Available
From boiling to frying and mashing, hundreds of bean recipes are available globally. The most common ones include mashed, bean burgers, spreads, sandwiches, and tacos & quesadillas.
15. President Ronald Reagan Ate Jelly Beans to Quit Smoking
Ronald Reagan, an American politician and the country’s 40th president, used to consume jelly beans to help him quit smoking. Every month, more than 300,000 jelly beans were taken to the White House, the majority of which the leader gave to his staff and visitors. Black licorice was his favorite flavor.