Borlotti beans - a plant protein powerhouse

Tuesday, February 21, 2017. Author Martin Cheifetz

Borlotti beans are medium sized, oval shaped, have a mixed red and tan color, a creamy texture, and taste reminiscent of chestnuts.  Borlotti’s attractive red speckles fade during cooking, but they offer a very well balanced nutritional profile, an enjoyable flavor, and myriad cooking options.  

This week’s delicious recipe, Borlotti Bean and Chili Tacos is a perfect example of how this versatile, healthful food can be easily incorporated into your diet to boost protein and fiber intake.

Borlotti's background

Borlotti beans are popular across a wide range of cultures and cuisines because they are an easy to prepare, plant based, cholesterol free, very low fat, and inexpensive source of protein. Borlotti (also called Cranberry or Roman beans) are a pulse, or legume, and are also very rich in fiber.  In fact, just 1 cup (about 177 gm) of cooked borlotti beans yields 18 grams or 77% of the RDA for fiber to complement its 17 grams of clean plant protein power!

Borlotti beans offer more than just a hearty dose of protein and fibre.  The same 1 cup (177 gram) serving of cooked beans also boasts 21% of your daily value (DV) for iron, 20% of copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus, and 9% of your DV for calcium All of these minerals are essential for overall health, and often in short supply if you are on a meat-free diet.  Like all beans, borlotti are vegan friendly, and naturally gluten and dairy free.

You can find borlotti beans in any supermarket or health food store.  The easiest way to buy them is canned. When canned, they are packed in a salty brine that should be rinsed off prior to use (just tip the can of beans into a strainer, rinse well, and drain thoroughly).  Borlotti beans prepared in this way are incredibly easy to use, however, purists would argue that it is better to buy the beans in their dried form and then prepare them “properly”.  For a brief overview on the advantages of dried legumes vs canned, please see our blog on chickpeas.

Regardless of the canned or dried formats, borlotti beans are plant protein powerhouse definitely worth incorporating into your diet.

Nutritional profile (1 cup / 177gms)

  • 241 calories (7 of which come from fat)
  • 43 gms of carbohydrate, of which 18 grams is dietary fiber
  • 17 grams of protein
  • 1 gram of fat (0 saturated fat)
  • 92% DV of folate
  • 25% DV of thiamine
  • 21% DV of iron
  • 20% of copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus
  • 9% DV of calcium
  • Trace of sodium

Health benefits

  1. Borlotti beans are a fantastic source of inexpensive plant based protein, which is great for people who are vegetarian, looking to cut back on meat consumption, or are simply on a budget that does not allow for more expensive meat or fish sources.  Protein consumption is essential for the maintenance of lean muscle and vital for your overall health.
  2. Rich in protein and fiber means borlotti beans have a low gylcemic index (GI), are filling and increase satiety, consequently helping to prevent overeating
  3. They provide a good serving of essential minerals like calcium, copper, magnesium and iron, all vital to health for men and even more so for women.
  4. The high fiber content may also contribute to a healthy digestive system (although in some people it may be potentially problematic). The high fiber content of borlotti and other beans is known to have a beneficial effect in reducing cholesterol levels, blood pressure and heart disease risk.
  5. The high folate concentration is particularly beneficial for women planning to have children.

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