Different Types of Beans
(Part 1)

Explore all the different types of beans, their wonderful healing power and serving suggestions to make them part of your everyday diet. They come in such a huge variety of shapes and colours, as well as taste and texture, that you'll never get bored with them. Why not try different ones and see which ones you like best?

On this page we'll discuss the following types of beans:

Part 2  will discuss Black beans, Haricot beans, Kidney beans, Lima beans (Butter beans), Mung beans, Pinto beans, Green beans

Part 3 - Chickpeas, Lentil, Peas

Aduki Beans (Adzuki Beans)

aduki beans

Aduki beans are not only high in protein but are easier to digest than most types of beans.

They're small and reddish brown in colour, with a soft texture and a strong, nutty-sweet flavour.

Very popular in Japan and China, these tasty beans were introduced to America and Europe as part of the macrobiotic diet. However, many who abandoned this diet, continued to enjoy aduki beans as they had discovered they were delicious, easily digested legumes that could be used in many very tasty dishes.

Health Benefits of Aduki Beans

In addition to supplying high levels of soluble fiber and protein, aduki beans, like other types of beans, are packed full of trace minerals.

These trace minerals are utilized by the body as component of enzymes.

For example, a 1/2 cup of aduki beans provides almost 200% of the daily recommended intake for molybdenum, which is necessary for the production of an enzyme called sulphite oxide, one of the most important enzymes in a liver detoxification pathway called sulphoxidation.

Poor sulphoxidation is associated with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and with inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, delayed food sensitivity, multiple chemical sensitivities and diet-responsive autism.

Serving Suggestions for Aduki Beans

aduki beans salad
  • Aduki beans make a lovely, cool, but protein-rich salad. Toss 1 cup cooked aduki beans with 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 2 tablespoon tamari sauce, 2 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey and 1/4 teaspoon wasabi powder (or horseradish if you don't have wasabi). Sprinkle with chopped parsley or watercress and serve with sliced cucumber and spring onion.
  • Thai spices, ginger and Panang goong (a spicy red curry paste), along with coconut milk, are a wonderful complement to aduki beans' nutty-sweet flavour.
  • Jamaican spices also work particularly well with these types of beans. Try a spring or summer soup made with a cup of cooked aduki beans, several tablespoons of your favorite fresh garden herbs (parsley, chives, chervil, rosemary, basil), 1 or 2 diced leeks, a generous teaspoon of Jamaican allspice, and several teaspoons of coarsely ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a half hour. Cool slightly, transfer to a blender and blend until smooth for a rich, sweet, spicy, deep red soup.
  • Make winter fried rice with aduki beans, onion, diced squash or pumpkin, bright green leeks or spring onions, sesame seeds and oil and soy sauce. Top with crumbled toasted nori (a thin, dried seaweed sheet used in many sushi dishes, for rice balls and as a topping or condiment for various noodle and other dishes).
  • Try making your own aduki bean paste: Pressure-cook a cup of pre-soaked beans with a strip of soaked, diced kombu (a large type of seaweed that is often used as a soup stock) and 1/4 cup raisins for about 20 minutes. Allow the pressure to come down, add 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and a little honey or barley malt to taste and mash until a thick, smooth paste forms.
  • Just add some cooked aduki beans to cooked brown rice and serve as an accompaniment to any dish to like. It'll turn the rice into a beautiful pink colour and will add a wonderful, nutty taste to any dish.
  • If you can't always be bothered with cooking them, keep tinned aduki beans at hand (as long as they have no added sugar or salt) and add them to any dish you like.


alfalfa sprouts

Most people are surprised to learn that alfalfa (also known as lucerne in many parts of the world) is a member of the pea family and therefore a legume.

Alfalfa seeds are the part of the plant that provide the food with which we're most familiar - alfalfa's threadlike white sprouts with their tiny green tops and mild, sweet flavour.

Alfalfa was originally grown as forage for livestock longer than any other plant or types of beans, but now the leaves are also dried, ground into a powder and compressed into tablets for use as a nutritional supplement for humans.

People who can't digest other types of beans are often able to tolerate alfalfa very well.

Health Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts

1) Alfalfa sprouts, along with soybeans, clover and linseed, are the most significant dietary sources of phytoestrogens, which play an important role in the prevention of menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, cancer and heart disease.

Other types of beans also have a certain amount of phytoestrogens.

Because phytoestrogens have much lower estrogenic activity than human estrogens but bind to human estrogen receptors, they can help normalize the effects of estrogen in the body.

When estrogen levels are too low, phytoestrogens supply some estrogenic activity, but when estrogen levels are too high, the same phytoestrogens, by using up available estrogen receptors, block out powerful human estrogens, causing an antiestrogenic effect.

Estrogenic activity is implicated in the majority of breast cancers and research now suggests that thyroid cancer may also be an estrogen-dependent disease.

2) In addition to phytoestrogens, alfalfa sprouts, of all the types of beans, are particularly rich in another class of beneficial phytochemicals called saponins, which have been shown to lower diet-induced LDL (bad) cholesterol accumulation in the liver without diminishing circulating levels of the beneficial HDL (good) cholesterol. This, of course, would result into a protective effect against cardiovascular disease.

Alfalfa contains other as yet non-identified active components with significant cardiovascular benefits.

The saponins found in alfalfa have also been shown to boost immune function by increasing the activity of natural killer cells, including T lymphocytes and interferon.

3) Alfalfa sprouts also contain L-canavanine, an amino acid analogue that recent studies suggest may be a natural agent effective against leukemia and cancers of the pancreas and colon.

L-canavanine, with it relaxing effect on the intraocular muscle, may also offer promise in the treatment and prevention of near-sightedness.

4) When compared to a number of antioxidant-rich vegetables, alfalfa sprouts rank among the leaders of the pack.

When tested against two of the most destructive free radicals on a weight basis, alfalfa sprouts were found to have antioxidant activity surpassed only by kale and Brussels sprouts against the hydroxyl radical, and by garlic, kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts against the peroxyl radical.

Serving Suggestions for Alfalfa Sprouts

alfalfa sprout salad
  • Use alfalfa sprouts as a crunchy layer in sandwiches, as a garnish for any vegetable or fruit salad or as substitute for watercress in any recipe.
  • A feathery alfalfa sprout bed can be used as a lovely and edible presentation upon which to serve cold foods, such as pasta, bean, crab meat or egg salad, or a fillet of fish.
  • Fill pitta pockets 3/4 full with grilled vegetables and/or hummus, then fill to overflowing with crunchy alfalfa sprouts.
  • A grilled veggie burger on wholemeal or sourdough bread topped with a slice of tomato, onion, pickles and lots of alfalfa sprouts is the best you could have at barbecue time.
  • Of all the types of beans, alfalfa sprouts make a crunchy addition to any sandwich. Two favorites: wholemeal bread with tuna salad and alfalfa sprouts, or provolone cheese (or any cheese of your choice), sliced avocado and sprouts.
  • Top cold summer soups with a dollop of yoghurt and a generous handful of alfalfa sprouts.

How to Sprout Alfalfa Seeds

Of all the types of beans, alfalfa are the easiest to sprout. Doing a bit of research on the subject, I've found several ways of going about it,  but this one from Heirloom Organics seemed the best:


  • To start your sprouts, you will want to soak your seeds in a bowl of cool water for 4-6 hours, or overnight, making certain that seeds are well covered in water. This will soften the seed coat and promote germination.
  • After soaking, thoroughly drain off all water. Alfalfa seeds are smaller than most other sprouting seeds. To sprout them successfully, the drainage holes must be small enough to prevent seeds from escaping while rinsing. It is wise to rinse seeds immediately after soaking to clean them and wash away any impurities and again drain off all excess water.
  • Wait several hours, then later in that day: Rinse seeds with cool, clean water. Carefully drain off all water so seeds at bottom of sprouter or jar are not covered with water.
  • Repeat this process of rinsing with cool water and draining 3-4 times per day as your seeds mature, and even as you begin to harvest and consume them. As your sprouts grow, it is important that they receive good air circulation.
  • Once sprouts have reached a desirable state for consumption, typically within 3-6 days for alfalfa, they can be kept in the fridge. This is not necessary but will slow down the growth process and give you a larger window to eat your sprouts. Sprouts should not be allowed to dry out, as they can quickly lose their vitality and nutritional content.

Broad Beans (Fava Beans)

broad beans

Native to North Africa and the Mediterranean region, the broad or fava bean was the major bean throughout the Old World prior to the introduction of the common bean.

What distinguishes fava beans from all other types of beans is that they are amongst the richest natural sources of L-dopa, a precursor of the chemical dopamine, which, amongst other things, act as a diuretic.

In one study, eating 40 grams of freshly chopped fava beans significantly increased the amount of sodium and dopamine in the urine, which helped reduce blood pressure.

Broad beans provide similar nutritional benefits as other types of beans, so look up the next page to see what else broad beans can do for you.

Serving suggestions for fava beans

  • You can eat fava beans with their skin if you cook them long enough, but the best way to eat them is to soak them in hot water for 15-20 minutes, drain them and peel off the tough outer skin. Then you can cook them fairly quickly (10 to 15 minutes) and use them in the same way you would use peas or other types of beans.
  • You can make a beautiful green dip by cooking broad beans with seasoning and a little vegetable stock and whizzing them in a blender.
  • They're really delicious sautéed in a little olive oil with chopped onions and bacon.


carob beans

Carob is different from other types of beans in many ways. It is made from the fruit pod of a large leguminous evergreen tree native to the rocky lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

Quite unlike other types of beans, all parts of this legume can be used. For example, carob gum is made from the white mucilaginous endosperm and is used as a food stabilizer and thickener.

The sweet, pale brown pulp that fills up the leathery dark brown pods can be eaten fresh or dried, roasted or ground into a powder that can be used like cocoa.

The whole pods can be fermented and distilled, creating a drink with the appealing chocolaty flavour of the pulp.

Roasted carob seeds are also used as a coffee substitute or mixed with coffee in some parts of Europe.

The seeds, after their gum is extracted, can also be ground to produce a flour that is especially useful for individuals with diabetes due to its 40% fiber content and absence of starch and sugar.

Carob vs Chocolate

Although carob powder is somewhat bland compared to chocolate, carob is much better than chocolate in a number of beneficial ways:

  • Carob is stimulant-free and requires no additional sweetening, while cocoa contains the potent caffeine-like stimulant theobromine and requires the addition of a sweetener - that's why carob has only a third of the calories of chocolate.
  • Carob is virtually fat-free (100 g./3 oz. contain less than a one gram of fat). In contrast, even low-fat cocoa contains 8 grams of fat per 100 grams and high-fat cocoa delivers a whopping 23.7 g. of fat, much of it saturated, in 100g.
  • Both carob and low-fat cocoa are low in sodium and high in potassium - which is good for individuals with high blood pressure or congestive heart failure - but cocoas with moderate to high fat content are often quite high in sodium since they are processed with an alkali to enable them to dissolve in water.
  • Both carob and cocoa contain calcium, but carob provides twice the amount of calcium found in cocoa (290 mg. in 100 g. of carob versus 123 to 153 mg. in 100 g. of cocoa). Plus, unlike cocoa, carob contain no oxalic acid, which interferes with calcium absorption.
  • Carob pods are also free of phenylethylamines, small nitrogen-contain molecules found in chocolate that, in susceptible individuals, can trigger migraines.
  • Also unlike cocoa, carob powder is high in protein and rich in fiber, particular pectin.

Health Benefits of Carob

In addition to being a healthy alternative to chocolate, carob provides benefits unique to these types of beans.

In particular, recent clinical studies have confirmed the use of carob for treating diarrhea. A double blind clinical study has demonstrated that carob is useful for treating infants with diarrhea, but a less rigorous trial showed it was less helpful for adults with traveller's diarrhea.

Carob's beneficial effects are due primarily to its tannins and large sugar molecules.

Unlike many tannins, those found in carob are not water-soluble, so they don't bind to proteins and render them unavailable, as many tannins do.

Instead, carob tannins not only have an astringent or drying effect in the gastrointestinal system, but also bind to and inactivate toxins and inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Its large sugar molecules, or water-soluble fiber, make carob pulp gummy and able to absorb water and act as a thickener, helping to bind together watery stools.

Taken with plenty of water, 15 g. of carob powder mixed with a little stewed apple or mashed sweet potato provides a palatable, child-safe remedy. Adults should use at least 20 g. of carob powder.

Also, by making food more viscous in the stomach, the dietary fiber and sugars provided by carob may reduce the reflux of acid into the esophagus, providing relief for sufferers of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Of all the types of beans, carob is extremely versatile, but very little used. Try the following suggestions and see whether you can make it a part of your diet.

Serving Suggestions for Carob

Because carob is sweeter then cocoa or unsweetened chocolate, when you substitute carob for chocolate, you need to reduce the amount of sugar or sweetener by 20%.

Also, since carob has a milder flavour than chocolate, when using carob in a recipe designed for chocolate, consider enhancing the taste by adding spices, such as cinnamon, peppermint or coffee.

In drinks, if no additional spices are used, replace each part of cocoa or chocolate with 1 1/2 to 2 parts carob.

Try these recipes:

carob fudge

Carob fudge

You can make the following easy but delicious fudge in about 20 minutes:

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 6 cups carob chips with 1 1/2 cups smooth or chunky peanut butter.

Add 1/2 cup soy milk and stir occasionally until completely melted.

Add 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup diced dates, 1/2 cup slivered almonds and 1/2 cup shredded coconut.

Stir until well combined, let cool slightly and pour into a 9-by-13-inch/20-by-30 cm. casserole dish lined with baker's parchment or wax paper.

Chill until firm.

Using the paper lining to help you, remove the carob fudge and cut into 30 pieces. Store in a airtight container in the refrigerator until served. It will store in the fridge for two weeks or in the freezer for two to three months.

Carob mounds

Another healthy, delightful treat made with carob powder and puffed cereal, are also easy and quick to prepare.

In a mixing bowl, combine 1/4 cup rapeseed (or canola)oil with 3/4 cup carob power, mixing until smooth.

Add 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup honey and a generous tablespoon of molasses.

Stir well and add 1 cup toasted wheat germ, a pinch of sea salt, 3/4 cup lightly toasted sunflower seeds and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

When this is well blended, mix in 1 cup puffed cereal, such as rice, and 1/4 cup toasted sesame tahini.

Roll into 1-inch balls and eat as is or bake at 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/gas 4 for 10 minutes and cool before serving.

carob cake

Carob cake

Mix 1/2 cup butter with 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup molasses.

Add 1 egg and beat well.

Alternating with the addition of 3/4 cup hot water sift 2 cups wholemeal flour, 1/3 cup carob powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into the bowl.

When blended, stir in 1 cup chopped walnuts.

Pour into a lightly buttered 9-by-9-inch/20-by-20 cm. tin and bake at 250 degrees F/130 degrees C/gas 1/2 for 1 hour, or until the cake easily separates from the sides of the pan. Cool before icing (for the icing see next item).

Carob icing

Cream 2 tablespoons butter with 2/3 cup powdered milk and 1/3 cup carob powder.

Add 1/4 cup honey and 4 tablespoons cream and mix well.

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla essence and whip until smooth.

I've found carob powder from these suppliers, Goodness Direct. They stock all different types of beans, either dried or tinned, as well as a great selection of special diet items.


Beans-related Articles

Health Benefits of Beans

Different Types of Beans (Part 1) - Discussing Aduki beans, Alfalfa, Broad beans (Fava beans) and Carob. Also Carob vs Chocolate, Carob Fudge Recipe, Carob Mounds Recipe, Carob Cake recipe and Icing.

Different Types of Beans (Part 2) - Discussing Black beans, Haricot beans, Kidney beans, Lima beans (Butter beans), Dung beans, Pinto beans and Green beans.

Different Types of Beans (Part 3) - Discussing Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), Lentils and Peas.

Beans and Heart Disease

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Articles in this Series:

Different Types of Beans

Part 1 - Aduki beans, Alfalfa, Broad beans (Fava beans), Carob

Part 2 - Black beans, Haricot beans, Kidney beans, Lima beans (Butter beans), Mung beans, Pinto beans, Green beans

Part 3 - Chickpeas, Lentil, Peas

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Goodness Direct Website

Goodness Direct - Online Health and Special Diet Food Store

Offers products selected for those with special health or dietary needs such as Kosher, vegan, diabetic, and gluten free.

You can also find all sorts of organic tinned beans and anything else you can't find anywhere else. I absolutely love shopping there!