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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Beans, But Have Bean Afraid to Ask

Lesson #1: They’re not musical, and they’re definitely not a fruit

For some strange reason, many humans have become completely infatuated with beans, as demonstrated by the incredible 300,000+ people who follow a Facebook page called Things Full of Beans That Shouldn’t Be Full of Beans. (The account is exactly what the name suggests — photos of beans in peculiar places, like beer glasses, pipes, banana peels, suitcases, pill bottles, lava lamps and even belly buttons).

Things full of beans that shouldn't be full of beans

There’s also a Twitter account called “Good Bean Jokes,” which is solely devoted to — you guessed it — posting jokes about beans. The account has more than 20,000 followers.

We can only assume that this collective bean enthusiasm at least partly inspired a British man, formerly known as Barry Kirk, to legally change his name to Captain Beany. Before changing his name, Beany once sat in a tub filled to the brim with beans for 100 hours, setting the world record for — drum roll please — the longest time spent in a bath of cold baked beans. Beany also spent more than £10,000 ($13,000) transforming his apartment into the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence, which is home to a massive collection of bean-related memorabilia.

Because this is the internet and beans are apparently a hot topic these days, we decided to answer some of the most common questions about beans with the help of Felicity Curtain, accredited practicing dietitian and nutrition manager at the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council.

Now let’s climb this hill of beans…

First off, are beans actually fruit?

Despite the dumb rhyme about farting that you learned in school, no. “Beans are part of the legume family, which are seeds of plants eaten in their immature form,” Curtain explains. “Examples include chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, black beans and even baked beans.”

Do they really make you fart, at least?

This depends on your ability to digest them. “In some people, eating beans and legumes can cause flatulence, which is because they’re rich in fiber that’s fermented by our gut bacteria,” Curtain explains. “The good news is that gradually increasing the amount that you eat can reduce excessive side effects, so rather than adding them into your diet in big portions during a short space of time, slowly introduce them to give your body time to adapt.” Curtain also says that soaking and rinsing dried legumes (and only rinsing canned legumes) before cooking can reduce the amount of flatulence-causing sugars that they contain.

Are beans good for you, though?

“Beans and legumes are nutritional powerhouses packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein and even antioxidants,” Curtain emphasizes. “They’re rich in a particular kind of fiber — known as prebiotic fiber — which plays a key role in good gut health, since it acts as fuel for our ‘good’ gut bacteria. By feeding these good gut bugs, we’re nourishing a healthy microbiome, which is linked to a whole raft of other health benefits.”

Because beans are high in vitamins, minerals and protein, they can also serve numerous nutritional purposes. “They’re unique in that they’re one of the few foods that falls into two different food groups, being considered both a source of veggies and a source of protein,” Curtain says.

In that case, what’s the best way to eat more beans?

Curtain has a few recommendations:

  1. “Boost your salad with beans or chickpeas,” she suggests. “Simply drain and rinse a can, then throw them into your salad.”
  2. “Adapt your meat-based recipes by substituting half of the meat for legumes,” Curtain says. “Think black beans in your taco mix or brown lentils in your spaghetti bolognese.”
  3. “Mix it up and make a dip,” Curtain recommends. “Everyone loves hummus, and it’s actually really easy to make by blending up a can of rinsed chickpeas with tahini, lemon and garlic.”
  4. “Dried, spiced beans make for a delicious snack,” Curtain says. “Drain and rinse cannellini beans or chickpeas, then roast them in the oven for around 20 minutes. Finally, sprinkle with spices like paprika, cumin and coriander.”
  5. “Being made from soybeans, tofu is also bean-based,” Curtain explains. “So experiment with this meat alternative by making a stir fry or a curry.

That sounded like a lot of beans you just talked about. How many types of beans are there, anyway?

“Probably more than you realise,” Curtain exclaims, before listing some off of the top of her head, including: Kidney, adzuki, borlotti, cannellini, edamame, faba (or fava), mung, lima, navy, pinto, soy and black beans. “Interestingly, peanuts are botanically considered a legume, but since they’re nutritionally similar to nuts, they’re usually grouped into nuts instead.”

So, uh…what the hell is a Mexican jumping bean?

Mexican jumping beans aren’t actually beans at all — they’re seed pods from a shrub (sebastiana pavoniana) that have been inhabited by tiny moth larvae: When the larvae move, so does the seed pod. After feeding on the interior of the seed pod, these larvae will emerge once they’ve transformed into a moth. Fun fact: Mexican jumping beans are more likely to jiggle about in heat, as the larvae will begin to spasm in an attempt to roll the seed pod to a cooler (and more comfortable) location.

I acknowledge that I may not want to know the answer to this, but: Where did the phrase “spill the beans” come from?

One popular folk etymology for “spill the beans” argues that the phrase dates back to the ancient Greek method of placing beans in a jar to cast votes. If someone were to spill the jar of beans, the election results would have been known prematurely.

It’s more likely, however, that the phrase originated in America during the early 20th century. One of the first recorded uses of “spill the beans” in the sense that we use it today can be found in a September 1911 edition of The Van Wert Daily Bulletin newspaper: “Finally Secretary Fisher, of the President’s cabinet, who had just returned from a trip to Alaska, was called by Governor Stubbs to the front, and proceeded, as one writer says, to ‘spill the beans.’”

Why whoever came up with the phrase chose beans — rather than soup or juice — remains a mystery.

Well, that’s it — we hope this has bean informative AHAHAHAHAHA *cries self to sleep in small basin of beans*