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Diet & Nutrition

Green Beans

After flipping through a book of favorite fairy tales, I think I can safely surmise that Jack's initial experience with the beanstalk was less than optimal.

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However, for those of us not caught in the harsh glare of folklore’s spotlight, the fruits of the beanstalk are clearly beneficial. And assuming that Jack feasted before climbing, I’m willing to bet that, in the end, those emerald green pods aided him mightily in his triumph over the giant.

Consider the rate at which Jack’s heart must have been thumping as he crept cautiously through the giant’s abode. The plentiful helpings of vitamins A and C found in green beans make a major contribution to keeping the blood pumping; as a tag-team of fat-soluble and water-soluble antioxidants, they prevent cholesterol build-up on the artery walls. The second-string team of magnesium and potassium work hard to lower blood pressure, and the generous helping of fiber helps to reduce cholesterol in the first place. No wonder Jack was able to scurry so speedily down that beanstalk.

The iron available in the green beans undoubtedly boosted Jack’s energy levels by increasing oxygen transport to his muscles, while the beta-carotene helped to ward off inflammation and keep his joints supple and speedy. Not to mention that all that vitamin C-indispensable as it is for good immune function-helped to keep him free from bacteria and viruses that could have slowed him down. The ending of the tale could have been considerably dire without his optimal good health!

And had the giant actually succeeded in his threat to “grind Jack’s bones to make his bread,” he would have found those bones to be in tip-top condition. The vitamin K in Jack’s beans blocks the cells that cause the breakdown of bone cells, and contributes to producing the protein that anchors calcium inside the bone.

Those of us living in the real world can benefit from this legendary veggie too, as we have our own metaphorical giants to grapple with. In our fight against cancer, for example, green beans are a valuable ally. Their vitamin C and beta-carotenes offer antioxidant activity that guards against oxygen free radicals, and their abundance of fiber is especially effective against colon cancer.

And all the benefits that Jack enjoyed, we can too: iron for energy, vitamin A plus magnesium and potassium for heart-health, vitamin C for boosting the immune system and warding off cancer, and vitamin K for maintaining strong bones. All of this in an unassuming, little green vegetable!

Haricots Verts with Shiitake Mushrooms and Chestnuts
Serves 6

This elegant side dish will make a stunning and delectable addition to your Thanksgiving feast.

1½ lb. fresh haricots verts (small French green beans), trimmed

12 large shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced into ½ inch strips

4 oz. whole peeled cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped*

4 Tbs. unsalted organic butter, divided

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 Tbs. minced fresh chives

Salt and pepper to taste

* available in jars or cans at most markets

  1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add green beans, and blanch until just past crisp, about 2 minutes.
  3. Drain, and immediately plunge into ice water to stop cooking. Drain again. (Can be prepared to this point and refrigerated to use later.)
  4. In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 Tbs. of butter and 1 Tbs. of olive oil over medium heat; add mushrooms and cook until supple, about 4 minutes. Add remaining 2 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. oil. Let butter melt.
  5. Increase heat, and add green beans and chestnuts, stirring and tossing constantly, until beans are just barely heated through. Sprinkle with chives, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.