Can You Eat Raw Green Beans?

Updated: Sep. 07, 2023

Eating raw green beans isn't safe. (Shocking, we know.) Here's why.

They’re crisp, nutritious and may even steal the show at Thanksgiving. Who wouldn’t skip the turkey in favor of an extra helping of green bean casserole? The rest of the year, some people may eat green beans raw to pack in the nutrients.

Green beans are a delicious and healthy side dish loaded with nutrients. They’re a good source of fiber and protein, which can help lower cholesterol. They’re also rich in antioxidants that fight inflammation in the body.

While raw vegetables are often the healthiest way to go, don’t reach for a raw green bean just yet.

Is it safe to eat raw green beans?

Not really. Green beans are one of those foods that you shouldn’t eat raw. That’s because green beans contain lectin, a protein that protects them from insects and fungi.

Lectin is helpful during the growing process but isn’t healthy for us to consume. It is resistant to digestive enzymes which means that our bodies can’t break it down like we do other foods.

When you eat raw green beans, the lectin in them binds to the surface of the cells in your digestive tract. This can lead to stomach upset like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bloating. Consuming a large amount of lectin could even damage the good bacteria in your gut.

Biting into one raw green bean likely won’t cause any issues. You’d have to eat a large amount to start feeling the digestive problems from lectin.

What are the best ways to cook green beans?

So, how should you cook green beans? It’s best to avoid boiling them because boiling can zap their nutrient content.

When preparing green beans, start by washing them and trimming the tough ends. Here are four simple ways to cook green beans.

  • Steam and saute: Steam green beans with water in a covered pan, then drain the water and saute them with butter or oil.
  • Blanch and shock: Cook green beans in boiling water for a few minutes (this is called blanching), then place them in cold water to stop the cooking.
  • Roast: Toss green beans with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them at 425°F for 10 minutes.
  • Instant Pot: Toss your clean green beans and a cup of water into your pressure cooker, then sit back and relax.

If you’ve ever tasted plain, cooked green beans, you know they need some help in the flavor department. Start by adding a little fat with butter or olive oil. Then season with salt and pepper. For an extra kick, try ginger, dill, thyme or garlic.

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