Top 5 Health Benefits Of White Beans You Must Know

Written by Sindhu Koganti , BTech (Biotechnology), Diploma In Nutrition

White beans are legumes with white casings that are native to North and South America. The benefits of white beans can be attributed to their nutrients, antioxidants, protein, and fiber. They help treat many ailments. Their nutty and earthy flavor has made them a favorite among many. Adding these beans to your diet has several health benefits – including their anti-cancer properties that may help reduce cancer risk. In addition, they can cook quickly and go well with many soups and salads.

This article explores the nutritional breakdown, varieties, health benefits, possible side effects, and certain tasty recipes of white beans. Keep reading.

Types Of White Beans

White beans are available in four varieties. These include:

  • Navy Beans

Navy beans (oval-shaped) are the smallest type of white beans and have a mild flavor. These fiber-rich beans can easily absorb the flavor of other ingredients while cooking. Navy beans have a smooth and shiny surface and get creamy when cooked. Besides, these are perfect for mashing, pureeing in dips, and thickening soups, stews, and ragouts.

  • Cannellini Beans

Cannellini beans are the largest of the group and are also called white kidney beans. These have a smooth texture with a nutty, earthy flavor and tender flesh. You can often find these beans in Italian dishes like Minestrone and also in many Mediterranean dishes. Moreover, white kidney beans can be a perfect addition to your salads, soups, stews, and chili.

  • Great Northern Beans

Great northern beans are medium-sized and have a nutty flavor and firmer flesh. These are larger than navy beans but smaller than cannellini beans. These thin-skinned beans can hold their shape better and are commonly used in French cassoulets, soups, and stews.

  • Baby Lima Beans

Baby lima beans (butter beans) are small, smooth, and creamy with a buttery texture. These greenish beans are the starchiest of all and are often used in soups, stews, succotash, and casseroles.

White beans contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Here is the nutritional breakdown of white beans.

Nutritional Profile Of White Beans

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 cup (179g) of cooked white beans contains (1):

Dietary fiber11.3g
Calcium161 mg
Iron6.62 mg
Magnesium113 mg
Phosphorus202 mg
Potassium1000 mg
Sodium10.7 mg
Zinc2.47 mg
Manganese1.14 mg
  • Consuming foods rich in dietary fiber (like white beans) may help manage constipation. A review published in the World Journal of Gastroenterologysuggests that dietary fiber intake can increase stool frequency in patients with constipation (2).

What makes white beans desirable to be included in your diet? In the next section, we bring to you a list of their health benefits.

Health Benefits Of White Beans

1. May Help With Weight Loss

Legumes are rich in fiber, protein, and slowly digestive carbohydrates, which help increase satiety (3). A study suggests that the alpha-amylase-inhibiting activity of white beans also contributes to weight loss (4) (alpha-amylase is a digestive enzyme responsible for converting complex carbohydrates to simple sugars). This process slows down the absorption of carbohydrates. In addition, 60 slightly overweight individuals fed with white kidney bean extract were found to lose weight significantly (5).

Another study by the University of Minnesota (USA) found that dietary fiber intake may decrease appetite and energy intake, and help with weight loss (6). A comparative analysis also indicates that people who regularly eat beans are 22% less likely to be obese than others (7).

2. May Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

A higher intake of legumes rich in dietary fiber may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (8). As stated, white bean extract can inhibit alpha-amylase enzyme and slow down the rate of carbohydrate absorption, reducing the glycemic index (GI) of foods (9). Studies suggest that low GI (slow-digesting) diets reduce blood glucose levels and help manage diabetes (10). Besides, oral administration of alpha-amylase inhibitors for 22 days reduced blood glucose levels in rats with type 2 diabetes (11).

3. May Help With Cancer Treatment

White beans contain antioxidants, polyphenols, and ferulic acid, which are known for their anti-cancer properties (12), (13). A study conducted by the University of Crete (Greece) found that polyphenol antioxidants prevent the proliferation (rapid increase) of cancer cells (14). Besides, a higher legume intake is linked to a reduced risk of colon, kidney, stomach, and upper digestive tract cancers (15). However, more studies are needed to understand this benefit of white beans in humans.

4. May Improve Heart Health

Consuming legumes is linked with lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. In a study, participants who consumed a diet rich in legumes and red meat for three days/week observed a reduction in their triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels (16). This helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Moreover, a study conducted by Zhejiang University (China) found that dietary fiber intake is inversely associated with the risk of coronary heart disease (17). Bioactive compounds of dry beans also possess cardio-protective properties (18).

5. May Protect Skin From Damage

White beans contain ferulic acid, a strong antioxidant that helps protect your skin from damage. Coupled with vitamins E and C, ferulic acid protects against oxidative stress, photoaging (aging signs followed by over-exposure to the sun), and skin cancer (19). However, limited studies are available to prove this claim.

These are the health benefits of white beans. But how do you prepare and include white beans in your diet? Find out in the following section.

How To Prepare And Include White Beans In Your Diet?

White beans are available in fresh or dry forms. Dry beans should be soaked in water for approximately 6-8 hours before cooking. If not, you can boil them for two minutes and let them sit for an hour with the lid on.

Note: Soaking helps soften dry beans and reduces the risk of gas and bloating (20).

Check the labels for salt content in the case of canned white beans. White beans have a mild flavor and can be added to various dishes like soups, stews, dips, and casseroles.

Elliot Reimers, a nutritionist, says, “White beans are also a much better substitute to potatoes than lentils because they have a much better texture and are way higher in nutritional value.”

White beans add variety to your diet without compromising on nutrition. If you are keen on including them in your diet, try these three easy and delicious recipes.

White Beans Recipes To Try

1. White Bean Soup With Bacon And Herbs

What You Need

  • Great Northern beans – 1 pound (soaked overnight and drained)
  • Thick-sliced bacon – 1¼ pounds
  • Finely diced carrot – 1
  • Finely chopped Spanish onion – 1
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – 2 tablespoons
  • Finely diced celery ribs – 2
  • Minced garlic – 4 cloves
  • Chopped thyme – 2 teaspoons
  • Bay leaf – 1
  • Chopped rosemary – 2 teaspoons
  • Chicken stock – 10 cups
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper – to taste


  1. Cook the bacon over moderate heat in a large soup pot. Keep stirring until it turns brown and crisp (about 7 minutes).
  2. Drain, reserving the fat and bacon separately.
  3. Heat the olive oil in the soup pot. Add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook over moderate heat, occasionally stirring until the vegetables soften (about 8 minutes).
  4. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, and one teaspoon each of the chopped thyme and rosemary. Cook until they become fragrant (about 2 minutes).
  5. Add the drained beans, stock, and three tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat, and bring to a boil.
  6. Simmer the soup over moderately low heat until the beans are tender (about 1½ hours).
  7. Discard the bay leaf and stir in the remaining thyme and rosemary.
  8. Season the soup with salt and pepper, and transfer to shallow bowls. Garnish with the bacon and serve.

2. White Bean And Kale Stew

What You Need

  • Canned cannellini beans – 4 cups (drained and rinsed)
  • Cooking oil – 2 tablespoons
  • Chopped onions – 2
  • Mild or hot sausages – ¼ pound
  • Minced garlic cloves – 3
  • Canned diced tomatoes – 3-1/3 cups
  • Fresh ground black pepper – ½ teaspoon
  • Salt – 1¼ teaspoons
  • Kale – 1 pound


  1. Heat one tablespoon oil in a pan over moderate heat in a Dutch oven.
  2. Add the sausage and cook, breaking the meat up with a fork until it loses its pink color (about 2 minutes).
  3. Add the remaining oil to the pan and stir in the onions. Cook for about three minutes or until the onions start to soften, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the garlic and kale to the pan and cook, stirring until the kale wilts (about 2 minutes).
  5. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, and pepper.
  6. Reduce the heat and simmer (covered) until the kale is tender (about 15 minutes).
  7. Stir the beans into the stew and cook for about 5 minutes.

3. White Beans Recipe With Tomato And Garlic

What You Need

  • Canned cannellini beans – 4 cups (drained and rinsed)
  • Olive oil – 1/3 cup
  • Diced tomatoes – 3.5 cups
  • Chopped fresh sage – ¼ cup
  • Kosher salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Garlic cloves – 4 (sliced)
  • Granulated sugar – 1 teaspoon
  • Freshly ground black pepper – ½ teaspoon
  • Low-sodium chicken broth – 1 cup
  • Minced fresh parsley leaves – 2 tablespoons
  • Crispy bacon – to garnish


  1. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium flame.
  2. Add the sage and sliced garlic. Shake the pan so the garlic doesn’t stick. Do not stir because the garlic may clump.
  3. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the garlic turns very light gold and the sage darkens slightly.
  4. Add the tomatoes and salt. Simmer, often stirring, until the tomatoes are shiny and their juices have evaporated (8-10 minutes).
  5. Add the pepper, sugar, and chicken broth, stirring often. Bring the broth to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat to low. Add the beans and simmer (stirring often) until the liquid has evaporated (18-20 minutes).
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Season, if needed, with more salt and pepper.
  8. You can drizzle extra olive oil and sprinkle crispy bacon before serving (optional).

Are white beans and pinto beans the same? If not, how do they differ? Scroll down to know.

White Beans Vs. Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are small and have a streaky-brown color when raw. They have a much creamier and softer texture. But white beans are a bit firm on the outside and softer on the inside. Pinto beans have an earthy, nutty flavor while white beans have a tender and earthy tone to their flavor. However, both these beans are high in calories and dietary fiber.

The Takeaway

White beans are packed with nutrients, especially fiber and protein. They are available in four varieties, with cannellini beans being the most popular type. Their high protein and fiber content helps reduce body weight, control blood sugar levels, and improve heart health by reducing cholesterol levels. They are also available in dried or canned forms and go well with many dishes with their earthy, nutty flavor. Consult your doctor if you are allergic to any type of beans before adding them to your diet.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Are small white beans the same as cannellini beans?

No. Small white beans have a very mild flavor, which makes them versatile and suitable for different dishes. But cannellini beans have a nutty flavor.

What is the difference between small white beans and great northern beans?

The only difference between these two bean types is the size. Although there is a slight difference in their texture, it isn’t noticeable after cooking.


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  1. Beans white mature seeds cooked boiled without salt
  2. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: A meta analysis
  3. Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake
  4. A proprietary alpha-amylase inhibitor from white bean (Phaseolus vulgaris): a review of clinical studies on weight loss and glycemic control
  5. A Dietary supplement containing standardized Phaseolus vulgaris extract influences body composition of overweight men and women
  6. Dietary fiber and weight regulation
  7. Bean consumption is associated with greater nutrient intake reduced systolic blood pressure lower body weight and a smaller waist circumference in adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002
  8. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber
  9. Lowering the glycemic index of white bread using a white bean extract
  10. Low glycaemic index or low glycaemic load diets for diabetes mellitus
  11. White bean amylase inhibitor administered orally reduces glycaemia in type 2 diabetic rats
  12. Polyphenol-Rich Dry Common Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) and Their Health Benefits
  13. The anticancer effects of ferulic acid is associated with induction of cell cycle arrest and autophagy in cervical cancer cells
  14. Antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of selective phenolic acids on T47D human breast cancer cells: potential mechanisms of action
  15. Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay
  16. Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake
  17. Association between dietary fiber intake and risk of coronary heart disease: A meta-analysis
  18. Edible dry bean consumption (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) modulates cardiovascular risk factors and diet-induced obesity in rats and mice
  19. Ferulic acid stabilizes a solution of vitamins C and E and doubles its photoprotection of skin
  20. A review of the impact of preparation and cooking on the nutritional quality of vegetables and legumes

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