Food

Beans Really Are The Magical Fruit (For More Reasons Than You Think)

By Heifer International

May 31, 2019

Beans Really Are The Magical Fruit (For More Reasons Than You Think)

In This Article

  • Sure, beans may make you toot. But did you know they're also nutritional powerhouses?
  • Beans adapt quickly to climate change and fetch high prices for the farmers who sell them.
  • Beans also lessen a farm's carbon footprint.
  • Basically? Beans are the best.

Nutrient-rich... Low-fat.... Soil-boosting.... Hunger-fighting. That's right, we're talking about beans. While you might not think of them as such, beans (technically called "pulses") are the heroes of the food and agriculture world in a number of ways that they don't get credit for. We think it's time to change that! 


Garbanzo beans? Yes please. Image via Creative Commons.

Beans Are Really Good For You

What Are Pulses?

A pulse =  a leguminous crop harvested for dry seed. Common pulses include: 

  • Kidney Beans
  • Navy Beans
  • Chick Peas
  • Black-eyed Peas
  • Lentils
  • Split Peas
  • And Hundreds More!

Nutritionally, beans really are a magical fruit, but often they're not given much nutritional credit. Some of that comes down to stigma. According to the FAO, many pulses are considered to be a "poor man's food" and are often replaced by meat once people can afford it. Not to mention...they make you toot. Some pulses contain special kinds of sugars called oligosaccharides. When these sugars hit the small intestine, well, you know the rest. 

But it's time to give beans another try. Not only are pulses easy to prepare, but they can also be used as a meat alternative in many dishes. They are rich in complex carbohydrates and packed with protein meaning that they will keep you full longer than processed grains and will supply your body with slow-burning energy. 

  • Low-Fat
  • Low-Sodium
  • Cholesterol-Free
  • Gluten-Free
  • Good Source of Iron
  • Good Source of Protein
  • Excellent Supplier of Fiber
  • Excellent Source of Folate
  • Good Supplier of Potassium 
  • Low Glycemic Index



Bean shoots growing in the soil. Image via Unsplash.

Beans Are Good For The Soil

Pulses boost soil fertility and shrink a farm's carbon footprint by convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen compounds that can be used by growing plants. Additionally, some bean crops can free soil-bound phosphorous, reducing the need for fertilizer. 

Image via unsplash

Beans are Good For Our Climate

There are a lot of different types of pulses. This broad genetic diversity means that beans are already adapting to the harsh effects of climate change. Many varieties can handle heat stress and don't require chemical fertilizers, which contribute to climate change. 

A farmer and her daughter package beans for sale in Uganda. Image via Flickr.

Finally, Beans Are Good To Farmers (If We Buy Them)

Pulses bring growers high prices that are two to three times as much as cereal crops like wheat and corn! But, here's the catch: we're buying fewer beans than we used to. In 1970, we were eating 17 pounds of beans per person each year. By 2006, consumption was down to 13 pounds.