Green/French beans, locally known as Imiteja in Kinyarwanda, are a popular side dish and are grown widely in Rwanda. This makes them easily accessible on local market stands at an affordable price. Being a legume rich in vitamin composition, nutritionists say consuming them comes with many health benefits.
For instance, they point out that apart from enormous vitamins and minerals they contain, this type of beans when consumed help reduce the risks of one getting heart diseases, colon cancers, diabetes, as well as boost the immune system.
According to Venuste Muhamyankaka, the president of Rwanda Nutritionists’ Society, apart from being crunchy, these green beans contain vast vitamins and minerals that are good for the health of the body.
He notes that, for instance, they are low in calories and fat with no cholestral, which when consumed on daily basis prevents one from being at risk of getting heart attacks and strokes.
Muhamyankaka says these beans also contain fiber which is essential in preventing some cancers and diabetes. Fiber also helps prevent one from gaining excess weight, which can be a risk factor for many other diseases.
“The fiber in the beans helps reduce the cholesterol level in the blood. Again, if one has a problem of constipation, consumption of the beans can aid in softening of the stool thus making it easier to pass,” he says.
Muhamyankaka notes that apart from just providing protein needed for the body, they are a good source of vitamins such as A, C, K B6, as well as folic acid. Calcium, iron, manganesium are also some of the minerals found in French beans.
For people struggling to lose weight, Muhamyankaka says opting for green beans can work wonders for them.
“This kind of vegetable is low in fat and high in dietary fiber. Therefore, adding it to one’s diet provides essential nutrients that can help them lose weight because they contain fewer calories,” he says.
Reduce risk of many health conditions
Dieudonne’Bukaba, the nutrition programme coordinator at Africa Humanitarian Action (AHA) Rwanda, says green beans are capable of keeping some diseases at bay.
He notes that one of these diseases is cancer, and this is because the green beans contain a high amount of chlorophyll, the pigment that makes plants green.
“Being an excellence source of dietary fiber, French beans act as a laxative that protects the mucus membrane of colon from the attack of free radicals. Fiber also reduces the time of exposure of toxic substances and binding of cancer-causing chemicals within the intestinal lining,” he says.
A recent research conducted by US-based Oregon State University (OSU) indicates that chlorophyll concentrations encountered in chlorophyll-rich green vegetables can provide substantial cancer chemoprotection, where they do so by reducing carcinogen bioavailability.
Apart from just fighting cancer, the chlorophyll helps improve liver detoxification, speeds up wound healing, improves digestion, as well as promotes good skin health.
Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Complimentary Therapy in Remera, Gasabo District, says green beans improve eyesight.
He explains that this is because they contain carotenoids which aid in prevention of macular degeneration.
“Macular degeneration is the decrease in vision and functioning of the eye. Carotenoids also prevent vision deterioration as well as preventing stress to the inner working of the eye,” he says.
When it comes to bone health, Bukaba notes that daily consumption of green beans can prevent born deterioration and osteoporosis. This, he says is because of their richness in calcium content.
Also, because they contain silicon mineral, French beans help in bone regeneration and overall bone health, especially among aged people.
On the other hand, Kamanzi notes that for pregnant women, green beans can provide the folic acid needed for the healthy growth of the foetus in the womb.
“When pregnant, folic acid is very vital to the normal development of the baby in general. For instance, folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects, among others. Therefore, consuming them ensures mothers deliver a healthy baby,” he says.