Navy beans don’t get their name for their color. Instead, the small white beans, similar in size to a pea, were branded as such because they were once a staple of sailors’ diets in the U.S. Navy. The little legumes were big on nutrition, cost little and stored well. But navy bean isn’t its only moniker. It’s also known as the Boston bean because it’s the star in Bean Town’s flagship dish, Boston baked beans. Pea bean, haricot, white pea bean — call it what you will. For as many names as the navy bean has, it offers even more health benefits for older adults.
Navy Bean Nutrition Facts & Health Benefits
1. Navy beans are complex carbohydrates.
Instead of providing an instant rush of energy like refined carbs, such as sugar, navy beans release their energy more slowly into the bloodstream while stabilizing blood sugar levels. In other words, navy beans keep us more even-keeled throughout the day.
2. Navy beans are loaded with dietary fiber.
Navy beans are low in fat and a rich source of dietary fiber. One cup of cooked navy beans contains 19 grams of fiber (a healthy balanced diet for older adults includes 25-38 grams of fiber a day). The dietary fiber in navy beans helps fill you up, so it’s ideal for appetite and weight control.
3. Navy beans are an excellent source of iron.
One cup of cooked navy beans also offers nearly one-quarter of our daily iron needs. Iron is an essential mineral that keeps energy levels up by transporting oxygen through the body, yet it’s one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in North America.
4. Navy beans help regulate metabolism.
Navy beans provide a whopping amount of manganese, a nutrient that’s primary function is to help the body metabolize vitamins, carbohydrates, amino acids and cholesterol. One cup of cooked navy beans provides about half of the manganese we need every day.
5. Navy beans are a rich source of two B vitamins.
One cup of cooked navy beans contains more than 60% of the folate and more than 25% of the thiamin we need each day. B vitamins not only play a critical role in keeping our brains healthy, they also help convert food into fuel for energy, keeping our metabolism humming and our cardiovascular system strong.
6. Navy beans are an excellent source of vegan protein.
One cup of cooked navy beans packs 15 grams of protein, 30% of what we need every day. According to research conducted on dietary protein recommendations for older adults, we should take in as much as 50-75 grams of protein every day.
7. Navy beans are good for our skin.
Navy beans can help in the anti-aging process thanks to the abundance of copper they contain. Copper helps the body produce collagen, a protein that gives skin strength and elasticity. We produce less collagen as we get older, however. But eating one cup of cooked navy beans gives us nearly one-fifth of the copper required every day to keep collagen production up to snuff.
How to Add Navy Beans to Your Diet
Remember beans and wieners as a kid? Those starchy sidekicks to your franks were navy beans. Heinz started canning navy beans with molasses and tomato sauce in the late 1800s, making baked beans a staple of the North American diet.
Navy beans also feature in the famous Senate Bean Soup, a concoction of beans and ham hocks served every day in the U.S. Senate cafeteria since the early 1900s.
Navy beans are also sold dry in most grocery stores, making them a blank slate for creative cooks who want to add a hit of protein and fiber to soups, stews and cassoulets. One cup of dried beans gives about two and a half cups of cooked beans. Batch cook navy beans to add to salads or soups throughout the week.
Here are three healthy recipes with navy beans to try: