Cranberry Bean Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Cranberry beans

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Cranberry beans are medium-sized, oval-shaped, white or tan beans with distinctive red speckles. The beans are a variety of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). The cranberry bean also goes by other names including roman bean, borlotti bean, and Saluggia bean. Saluggia is a municipality in Northern Italy where the bean is commonly grown.

Cranberry beans have a mild, nutty flavor similar to the taste of a chestnut. They also have a smooth, firm texture. The beans and commonly used in Italian dishes such as pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans).

Cranberry beans provide protein and fiber along with other important vitamins and minerals including folate, phosphorus, thiamin, and manganese. Like many other types of beans (like pinto beans or northern beans) cranberry beans are a great food to add to your diet as they are versatile, inexpensive, and easy to find in most supermarkets.

Cranberry Bean Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for a 100-gram serving (about 2/3 cup) of cranberry beans that have been fully cooked (boiled) without salt.

  • Calories: 136
  • Fat: 0.5g
  • Sodium: 1mg
  • Carbohydrates: 24.5g
  • Fiber: 8.6g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 9.3g

Carbs

A single 2/3-cup serving of cranberry beans provides about 136 calories when boiled without any added fat. The serving also provides just over 24.5 grams of complex carbohydrates. Most of the carbohydrates in cranberry beans are starch but there are also there are nearly 8.6 grams of fiber in a single serving. Carbohydrates in the form of starch provide the body with quick energy. Fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar, boosts satiety, and improve digestive health.

The Glycemic Database at the University of Sydney does not provide a glycemic index for cranberry beans, specifically. But they do indicate that dried beans that have been boiled have a glycemic index of 37, making them a low-glycemic food. A 2/3-cup serving is estimated to have a glycemic load of 11. Glycemic load takes serving into consideration when estimating a foods impact on blood sugar.

Fats

Cranberry beans are naturally a low-fat food. There is less than 1 gram of fat (0.5g) in the beans when they are not cooked with oil, butter, or lard.

Protein

Each serving of cranberry beans provides 9.3 grams of protein. They have slightly more protein than other bean varieties like kidney beans or pinto beans.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cranberry beans are packed with nutrients. You'll get 207mcg or just over 52% of your daily recommended intake of folate if you consume a serving of cranberry beans. Folate helps boost red blood cell production and provides other health benefits.

You'll also get about 0.4mcg or about 17% of your recommended intake of manganese, a vitamin that benefits the nervous system and brain health. A serving of cranberry beans also provides about 14% of your recommended daily intake of phosphorus and thiamin. The beans are also a good source of iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper. They provide smaller amounts of calcium, vitamin B6, zinc, and riboflavin.

Health Benefits

Common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), like cranberry beans, navy beans, kidney beans, red beans, black beans, and pinto beans, are legumes. They are known to be rich in polyphenols which provide potent anti-oxidant properties. Research suggests that increasing your intake of legumes can promote certain beneficial health effects.

Lower Risk of All-Cause Mortality

A research review published in 2017 suggested that a higher intake of legumes was associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality (death from any cause). Those researchers noted, however, that there were only a small number of studies to evaluate and the relationship remains inconclusive but warrants further research.

In another large study involving 7216 elderly Mediterranean adults with a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease, higher legume intake was associated with a lower risk of cancer mortality. 

In a study that looked specifically at cardiovascular disease, people who consumed more flavonoids (an antioxidant found in beans) had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. This was true even in people whose intake of flavonoids was relatively small.

May Lower LDL Cholesterol

A study published in 2015 found that regularly eating legumes, like cranberry beans, may help lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. The meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials in which non-soy legumes were consumed for a minimum of 3 weeks revealed that eating legumes has a cholesterol-lowering effect.

In addition, a research review published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that including beans in your diet can lower LDL cholesterol. However, they also noted that more extensive trials are needed to fully understand the role of consuming dietary pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas) as a method of improving high cholesterol.

May Help Prevent or Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Several studies have suggested that a diet that includes plant-based foods, such as legumes, and lower amounts of refined grains, sugar-sweetened beverages, and processed meats can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It may also improve both glycemic and lipid control in those who already have type 2 diabetes.

One study published in 2014, for example, suggests that the fiber content in beans is beneficial for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. And a study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that flavonol, one of the antioxidants found in beans, may help lower the incidence of type 2 diabetes.

Protein Alternative for Plant-Based Diets

People who choose to consume a plant-based diet may use cranberry beans or other types of legumes to boost their protein intake. According to one published review, "common beans play a vital role in vegetarian diets and provide numerous health benefits connected with a plant-based eating pattern."

Study authors note that beans are a cost-effective source of nutrients, provide proteins, dietary fibers, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, but are low saturated in fat content making them a smart substitute for animal products. Study authors also note that replacing meat (and other animal products) with beans is linked with enhanced animal welfare and may decrease the use of environmental resources.

Cranberry beans are not a complete protein. Complete proteins provide all of the essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and therefore must be consumed in the diet. Many people who follow plant-based diets combine different proteins (called complementary proteins) such as beans and grains in order to get all of the amino acids that their bodies need. However, it is not necessarily important to consume complementary proteins at the same time.

Increases Fiber Intake

Dietary fiber is known to provide several health benefits, such as improving digestion and preventing constipation. It also adds bulk to your diet, helping you to feel full faster which may help you to control your weight. The recommended daily allowances for fiber intake are 38 grams per day for adult men and 25 grams per day for adult women. These recommendations are for healthy people and do not apply to individuals with some chronic diseases. Most Americans do not consume the recommended amount of fiber.

A study published in the North American Journal of Medical Science suggested that high dietary fiber intake is associated with lower mortality rates and specifically, mortality due to heart disease, cancer, digestive disease, infectious diseases, and other inflammatory diseases. The study involved over 1.75 million participants.

Allergies

Cranberry beans are a legume like peanuts and soybeans—two of the top eight allergenic foods. But if you are allergic to peanuts or soy it does not necessarily mean you will be allergic to other legumes. In fact, allergists generally don't tell all patients who are allergic to peanuts to avoid legumes, but you should still exercise caution. If you suspect that you have an allergy to peanuts or any other legume, speak with your healthcare provider to get a personalized diagnosis.

Adverse Effects

Legumes are known to contain antinutrients—compounds that interfere with nutrient absorption. Many plant foods contain antinutrients, but they are particularly common in wheat and beans. Legumes are known to contain compounds called enzyme inhibitors that prevent digestion of dietary proteins.

Even though some consumers are concerned about antinutrients in grains and legumes, the substances are greatly reduced by appropriate soaking and cooking of the beans. Cooking beans also increases their antioxidant activity and concentration.

If you have gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and if you follow a low-FODMAP diet to manage your symptoms, you may need to avoid cranberry beans and other legumes.

Interestingly, some researchers are starting to investigate how cranberry beans and other common beans may have a certain "gut-priming potential" that could be helpful to people with colitis. However, studies are in their infancy and have only been performed on rodents. Eventually researchers are hoping that the phenolic compounds in cranberry beans and their nondigestible fermentable components may help alleviate certain intestinal diseases in humans.

Lastly, some people—even those without a gastrointestinal disorder—may find that eating beans causes indigestion or gas. If you are sensitive to beans, use them sparingly, gradually increasing your intake as your system adjusts You can also try cooking them with kelp as it may be able to help reduce the gas caused by beans.

Varieties

Many different beans including the cranberry bean, the great northern bean, red kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, pink beans, and navy beans are all part of the Phaseolus vulgaris family. These beans can be used interchangeably in recipes. There are also subvarieties of the cranberry bean including Bird’s Egg, Belaggio, Chianti Cranberry, Coco Rubico, Scarlet Beauty, Tongue of Fire, Vermont Cranberry and White Horticultural. These varieties are offered in seed form for home gardeners and may be grown in many different areas throughout the U.S.

When They're Best

Both dried and canned (prepared) beans of all varieties are available year-round. Cranberry beans can usually also be purchased in bulk form. Canned cranberry beans can be found on most grocery store shelves, although they may be labeled as "roman beans" or "borlotti beans." If you are watching your sodium intake, check the label of the canned beans that you buy to see if sodium has been added.

Storage and Food Safety

If you buy in bulk, look for uncracked beans that have not been exposed to dust or moisture. You can also buy dried beans in bags. In that case, you may want to sort your beans to get rid of unsightly beans before preparation.

Store dried beans in an air-tight container in your pantry or another cool, dark place. If stored properly, legumes should stay good for up to 12 months. If you cook cranberry beans, they will stay fresh for about three days when refrigerated in an airtight container.

How to Prepare

Before cooking cranberry beans, rinse them to remove any dirt or dust. Remove any cracked or broken beans. Boil three cups of water and add one cup of beans. Some people also add a small amount of salt or oil to the pot. If you are concerned about the gassy effects of beans, add a strip of seaweed (kelp or Kombu) to the pot. Simmer for about 20 minutes, although cooking time will depend on the texture that you prefer.

Once cranberry beans are boiled, you can saute them with onions or garlic or add them to your favorite soup or stew. Or toss in a handful of cooked beans to your salad recipe or rice dish. You can also use the beans instead of another bean in chili or in other recipes.

Recipes

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