Beans—and all legumes, for that matter—are among the best non-meat sources of protein on the planet. They're packed with minerals and antioxidants, loaded with fiber, and highly filling, making them a very weight loss-friendly food. If you're looking for ways to make your meals healthier, beans are the way to go.
Cannellini beans are among the best of the best. They're slightly larger than your average legume, with a creamy white color that makes them stand out from the dark reds, browns, and blacks of other beans. The Italian beans are AMAZING for cooking with, thanks to their mild nutty flavor and fluffy texture.
Below, you'll find out everything you need to know about cannellini beans, including their nutritional value and the health benefits of eating them. Best of all, we've even got a few recipes you can use to make delicious dishes using the marvelously healthy cannellini beans.
Nutritional Value of Cannellini Beans
The nutritional value of most beans remains fairly consistent. While a few (dark red, brown, and black beans) have a higher antioxidant content than the light-colored beans (navy, kidney, etc.), the other nutrients are pretty much the same.
In each serving (1 cup) of cannellini beans, you get:
- Around 300 calories – Compare that to red meat (650 calories) or chicken (620 calories), and you can see why beans are such a weight loss-friendly food!
- Just 1 gram of fat – Red meat, chicken, fish, and eggs all contain A LOT more fat per serving than legumes. A good way to get more protein without adding too much fat to your diet.
- 19 grams of protein – That's a pretty hefty dose of amino acids! It's not as close as the 60-90 you get the same amount of red meat or chicken, but it's still amazing for a plant-based food.
- 56 grams of carbohydrates – Beans aren't as low-carb as you might like, but there is plenty of fiber (13 grams per cup) to compensate for the higher carb content. You still end up with an excellent balance of energy and fiber to slow down sugar absorption.
- 19% of your Calcium DV – The fact that cannellini beans are rich in calcium means you get even more of the mineral your bones need to be healthy. Talk about win-win!
- 44% of your Iron DV – Iron is needed for the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen and nutrients. By adding beans to your diet, you increase the amount of iron you consume every day.
As you can see, cannellini beans are a pretty awesome food! They're rich in nutrients, fairly low in calories, and provide a hefty dose of protein. They're a weight loss food that you can use to replace red meat, chicken, or fish on those days when you want to keep the calories and fat low. Worth adding to your weekly shopping list!
Health Benefits of Cannellini Beans
Here is a list of some of the health benefits of these amazing cannellini beans:
Build Muscle – As with any high-protein food, beans are a good way to get more of the amino acids your body needs to build muscle. The downside of most plant-based foods is that they are incomplete proteins, meaning they don't have all nine of the amino acids that are required for muscle-building. However, serving cannellini beans with brown rice will complete the protein.
Fill Up – One of the great things about all beans—including cannellini beans—is the fact that they swell up during cooking. This is the result of the dietary fiber, which absorbs water. When the beans hit your stomach, they will swell up as well. This will prevent you from overeating, helping you to stick with a healthy calorie limit. Beans are HIGHLY filling, making them a great food for those who have a tendency to eat more than is healthy.
Improve Digestion – You'll love the high fiber content of cannellini beans—both insoluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber will soak up sugar, toxins, stomach acids, and fats, preventing them from being absorbed into your body. The insoluble fiber will act as a scrubber, clearing out the waste material clinging to your intestinal walls. The combination of these two types of fiber will significantly improve your digestive function.
Provide Energy – Remember how beans are high in carbs and protein? Both of those nutrients are vital for energy production. Eating more carbs will give you a boost of quick-acting energy, while the protein is digested more slowly. The combination of carbs and proteins in beans will deliver a steady burn of energy that can last all day long. Cannellini beans are the perfect lunch for those who are going to hit an evening workout hard!
Reduce Cancer Risk – Did you know that the fiber in cannellini beans can help to reduce your risk of cancer? By eliminating the waste materials in your digestive tract, the fiber prevents the build-up of toxins. But all beans, even the white cannellini beans, contain flavonoids and antioxidants that can diminish the growth of cancer cells. A few servings of cannellini beans per week can help to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer drastically.
Protect Your Cardiovascular System – Fiber is one of the best things you can eat for a healthier heart. The fiber in cannellini beans will prevent cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream, reducing the risk of heart disease. The folate in the cannellini beans will help to reduce homocysteine levels, and the antioxidants will prevent free radical damage to the muscles of your heart. All in all, cannellini beans are a very heart-smart food.
Enhance Brain Function – Want to make your brain work better? Try cannellini beans! These beans are rich in Vitamin B1, or thiamine. Vitamin B1 protects your brain cells and keeps the neurotransmitters firing efficiently. It also plays a role in the synthesis of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that helps you to access your memories. By increasing acetylcholine production, the cannellini beans essentially prevent (or reduce) the cognitive decline common with aging.
Wow, some pretty awesome benefits, aren't they? As you can see, cannellini beans are deserving of a place on your menu.
Now, if only you had a few recipes to try…
Our Favorite Cannellini Bean Recipes
Of course, we're going to give you a few of our favorite cannellini beans recipes to try at home! We've tried these recipes ourselves, and we can't help but love the healthy, delicious use of the cannellini beans. We're as hooked as we know you will soon be.
Garlic Sage Cannellini
This is a simple recipe to prepare, one that makes a VERY tasty pot of beans that you can eat as they are or mix with other foods. Though the recipe requires a couple of hours (mostly to cook the beans), there's very little work on your part.
For this dish, you will need:
- 1 bag of cannellini beans (one pound)
- 8 cups of water
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 large head of garlic
- 1 large fresh sage sprig
- 1/4 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon of coarse kosher salt
- Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
- To begin, place the beans in a large glass or metal bowl. Fill the bowl with water until the beans are fully covered, and let the beans soak overnight. This will speed up cook time.
- When it comes time to cook, drain the water and place the beans in a big pot on the stove. Add in 8 cups of water (room-temperature), along with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the sage, the head of garlic (whole, peel still on), and the pepper. Set the heat to medium-high.
- Once the beans have begun to simmer, remove the lid and let them simmer for 90 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- At the 90-minute mark, add the salt and let the beans cook for another 30 minutes. You can serve hot, or drain to let the beans cool.
Spicy Chipotle Cannellini Chili
For this dish, you will need:
- Olive oil
- 2 medium onions
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1 medium sweet potato (approximately 300g/10½oz)
- 1 tsp. of ground coriander
- 1 tbsp. of plain flour
- 400g of canned chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp. chipotle paste
- 800g of canned cannellini beans
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- soured cream, to serve (optional)
- To begin, open the cans of beans, drain, and rinse. Set in a strainer in the sink as you move on.
- Dice, the onion, slice the yellow pepper into thin strips and cut the sweet potato into bite-sized chunks. Place a soup pot on the stove, add in two tablespoons of olive oil, and fry the onions for 2-3 minutes. Add in the peppers and potato, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add in the flour and coriander, stir well, and after 40 seconds, add in the chopping tomatoes, beans, and chipotle paste. Mix well to ensure the ingredients are combined and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the ingredients to a boil. Turn down the heat to simmer for another 20 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add half a cup of water as you see the mixture drying out.
- When the vegetables are tender, serve the beans into bowls and add a dollop of sour cream for flavor. Enjoy!
Pasta e Cannellini
This is an awesome Italian dish, one that blends pasta with beans into one heck of a comfort food. You'll love the simple flavors of this fragrant dish. It's the perfect way to make use of old pasta and canned beans.
For this dish, you will need:
- Olive oil
- 1 medium onion
- 2 celery stalks
- 50g pancetta (optional)
- 2 ripe tomatoes
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 bay leaves
- A pinch of red pepper flakes
- A pinch of salt
- 400g cooked cannellini beans
- ½ liter of veggie stock
- 200g small pasta, ideally ditalini
- To begin, pour 4-6 tablespoons of olive oil into the bottom of a heavy-based soup pot. As the oil is heating, dice the onions and celery stalks and add them to the pot. Chop the pancetta as the onions and celery stalks are sweating. Cook the pancetta, and make sure the onions and celery are translucent and soft.Dice the tomatoes and garlic, and add them to the pan. Add the two bay leaves, the red pepper flakes, salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Stir to combine the ingredients and cover. Let the mixture simmer for up to 10 minutes.
- Add the veggie stock into the pan, and add another 2 cups of water. Bring it to a simmer, add the kidney beans, and let it come to a full boil. Once the mixture is boiling, add in the pasta noodles and keep cooking until the pasta is al dente. If necessary, add a bit more water once the noodles are fully cooked.
- Serve into a bowls with a sprinkle of salt and red pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
These recipes are our three favorites, but there are much more you can use to produce delicious recipes with cannellini beans. The beans are fluffy, soft, and nutty, but provide excellent nutritional value. If you want to be healthy, it's a good idea to add more cannellini beans to your diet!