Green Bean Question: Settling the Fruit or Vegetable Debate

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The green bean is a favorite side dish and staple in meals around the world. But does eating the green bean mean you’re also eating your vegetables?

Is green bean a fruit or vegetable?

Most people would say that the green bean is a vegetable, but the scientific community and botanists have a different opinion. 

Learn all about how green beans are classified in this article and the many health benefits that they give us. 

Green beans in Container
Green beans in Container

Is Green Bean a Fruit or Vegetable?

The green bean is classified as both a fruit and vegetable. There are two ways to classify edible plants: the botanical and culinary definitions.

The botanical definition classifies the green bean as a fruit. While the culinary definition gives the green bean a vegetable classification. 

Why Is Green Bean a Fruit?

Green beans are classified as a fruit because of what a fruit is defined as in science. Fruits are plant parts that contain seeds, and the green bean is a pod structure that has seeds inside of it. When the green bean is fully mature, the bean pods will dry out and crack open. Once open, it reveals a mature bean seed. 

Left to mother nature, once the bean pod opens, the seed will fall to the earth. It will then germinate, and a new green bean plant will grow. Dry bean pods are how seeds disseminate. And the natural spread of seeds is why it’s also classified as a “dry fruit.” 

Green beans used in meal preparation are harvested while still immature with seeds in the pods. If beans are allowed to dry out, they would be sold in bulk like other bean varieties. But green beans are generally harvested and then canned for later consumption.

Why Is Green Bean a Vegetable?

The generic definition of a vegetable is any part of a plant that’s edible. Plant parts include stems, leaves, roots, tubers, and fruits. In this sense, the green bean is also a vegetable. More specifically, the green bean is a starchy vegetable. 

Even though botanists do not use the term “vegetable,” the rest of us non-scientists do. The word “vegetable” is used to refer to the culinary use of an edible plant part.

The word vegetable refers to plant parts that are used in savory cuisine and recipes. When green beans are served as a side dish to a steak or pork chop, they are considered vegetables.

Spicy Green Beans Stir Fried
Spicy Green Beans Stir Fried

Is the Green Bean a Legume?

Yes, the green bean is classified as a legume because a legume is a kind of “dry fruit.” This adds to the confusion of whether green beans are fruits or vegetables. Legumes are used in savory dishes, yet they are plants that produce fruits inside pods.

Legumes are easily found in grocery stores, dried and packaged into snack foods. Dried peas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas are common examples of legumes.

An interesting thing is that green beans are not really beans. Beans are plant seeds from certain plant varieties. All beans are considered legumes, but not all legumes are beans.

Green Bean Nutritional Content

Apart from being part of a tasty green bean casserole or side dish, green beans are highly nutritious. They contain lots of minerals and vitamins.

One cup of raw green beans contains an impressive 12.2 mg of vitamin C. That’s approximately 25% of the recommended daily value (RDV) for vitamin C, which is a great antioxidant. It boosts your immune system and aids in collagen production for skin health.

But it doesn’t stop there. That same cup of raw green beans has 690 IU of vitamin A or almost 15% of the RDV. Vitamin A retinoids are crucial for a strong immune system, healthy vision, and reproduction. Green beans also contain vitamins B6, E, and K, together with niacin and thiamin.

Green beans are also a source of

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorous
  • Potassium
  • Zinc

Green Bean Health Benefits

With all the nutritional value in green beans, they offer a number of key health benefits.  

1. Green Beans Protect Your Heart

Green beans contain no cholesterol. This means they will not contribute to fat buildup in your arteries. A cup of raw green beans has approximately 2.7 grams of fiber. A cup of cooked green beans offers 4g of fiber.

Some of this fiber content will be soluble fiber, which lowers LDL, the bad cholesterol. Green beans also reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and have very low sodium content.

2. Green Beans Aid Bone Health

Low vitamin K ingestion has been connected to bone fractures. Vitamin K helps to maintain healthy bones through calcium absorption. A cup of green beans will provide approximately 14.4 mg of vitamin K, which is roughly 20% of the RDV.

3. Green Beans Are Gentle on Digestion

If you have a chronic digestive issue like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or acid reflux, green beans can help offer relief. Other gastrointestinal conditions that eating them can help with include constipation, diarrhea, gas, and pain.

You may be at a loss for how to get those 5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily. Green beans are low in FODMAPs which are undigested carbs. These carbs are metabolized by gut bacteria.

4. Green Beans Aid in Cancer Prevention

Green beans contain high amounts of chlorophyll that help to prevent the absorption of carcinogens like tobacco smoke hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines. 

They form molecular connections with tobacco smoke hydrocarbons and with heterocyclic amines. Heterocyclic amines form from grilling meat. Both of these are potential carcinogens that cause cancer.

Green Beans
Green Beans

Is Green Bean a Fruit or Vegetable? Final Thoughts

The answer to whether green beans are fruit or vegetable is simple: both! Green beans are a fruit because they contain seeds. But they are also a vegetable because they are used as a vegetable when cooking.

No matter whether you classify it as a fruit or vegetable, it offers many nutrients and health benefits. 

For other plants and foods that are fruits and vegetables, check out these articles: 

Fast Growing Trees and Plants

Photo of author

Written by:

Denise Davis
Denise Davis is an avid gardener, deeply rooted in growing organic veggies and crafting homemade fertilizers. She cherishes the earthy essence of composting and the continuous learning that gardening provides. Denise sees gardening as a holistic activity, offering physical and mental benefits alongside the joy of consuming what you cultivate. Her passion is to inspire others to embrace gardening as a rewarding, healthful lifestyle.

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