Pinto Beans

Phaseolus vulgaris

Herbs gallery - Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are basically spotted or marked legumes belonging to the plant family called Phaseolus vulgaris. This plant family includes a wide assortment of legumes, including kidney, navy and black beans. It is believed that pinto beans have their origin in Central and South America. These beans are very popular in Mexican preparations. While people in the United States eat the highest amount of these beans compared to people in any other place, but pinto beans are extensively available as well as consumed in several regions of the world.

Generally, it is believed that Phaseolus vulgaris is native to the Americas and it is supposed to have been domesticated in two centers. It is believed that the pinto beans with small seeds were domesticated from the small-seeded variety growing in the wild in Central America. On the other hand, the large-seeded variety of pinto beans is supposed to have been domesticated in South America's Andean region. Then again, it is believed that Europe is the secondary center for diversification for Phaseolus vulgaris germplasm. Currently, several countries in South and North America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania produce these beans on a commercial basis. As of date, Brazil and India produce the largest amounts of dry pinto beans worldwide. They are also the biggest producers of the green pinto beans in the world.

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Pinto bean is an annual plant that may either be climbing or semi-erect herbaceous bush growing up to a height of roughly 3 meters. The plants are usually found growing in places have prolonged and hot summers. This species has a preference for well-drained, medium-textured and very fertile soils rich in organic content. Never try to grow pinto beans in heavy soils rich in clay content or in soggy soil. The pubescent stems of these plants are anything between 2 meters and 2.5 meters in length and as the plants grow older the stems transform into a glabrescent.

Pinto beans produce trifoliolate leaves that appear alternately on long petioles measuring about 4 cm to 9 cm. The leaflets measure anything between 4 cm and 16 cm in length and 2.5 cm - 11 cm in width. The shape of the leaflets varies from mostly ovate to ovate-rhombic. They are acuminate at the apex and generally rounded at cuneate base throughout their margin. The lateral leaflets are oblique and the petiolules measure about 1.5 cm to 2.5 cm in length.

The flowers of pinto beans are papilionaceous and bisexual, meaning each flower contains both male and female reproductive organs. The shape of the calyx is like a cup, while the corolla comes in various colors, including white, yellow, light pink and purple. Usually, the corolla measures anything between 9 mm and 12 mm in length and is glabrous, while the wings are obovate. The keel is about 10 mm to 12 mm in length and is spirally incurved. Pinto beans usually require very low maintenance and, hence, quite easy to grow. This is a wonderful plant for people who are just taking up gardening.

The actual beans measure about 8 cm to 20 cm in length and 1 cm to 2.5 cm in width. Pinto beans are linear-oblong legumes, which are somewhat bowed to generally undulating, glabrous, turgid and beaked. They appear in various hues, including green, yellow, white-pink, pink and purple with colored spots. The color of the beans' flesh is creamy, while they possess a nutty flavour.

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Each pinto bean encloses as many as four to ten seeds, whose color may vary. The seeds may be white, black, red, brown, variegated in two colors or mottled. The seeds are ensiform or kidney-shaped and oblong, plump. Each seed measure about 1 cm to 2 cm in length and 0.5 cm to 1.3 cm wide. Pinto beans are actually beans that are strewn along with reddish brown color, having a beige backdrop. As these beans have a spotted external skin, they are also referred to as mottled beans. These beans appear very akin to paint works. As a result, these beans have been classified as pinto beans. In Spanish, the term "pinto" denotes "painted". However, the spots or color splash on the beans remain intact till you cook them. Once you cook the pinto beans, they lose their spots. In addition, on cooking, the beans have a pinkish brown hue.

Most of these beans have a cream or tan hue with reddish brown spots. The appearance of these beans has led them to be called "mottled" or "painted" beans. On the other hand, several people are of the view that these beans have been named after the pinto horse. The coloring of pinto horse is same as these beans. These spots give an attractive look to this legume. However, their color disappears once they are cooked. After cooking, the beans generally have a brown hue, maybe with a pink tinge.

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Pinto beans contain elevated levels of dietary fibers as well as proteins. In addition, these beans are a wonderful source of vitamin B1, iron and potassium. They, however, contain very less calories and are low in fat content. This makes pinto beans an excellent substitute for the traditional red meat in our meals. They are especially valuable for vegetarian. Aside from being a good substitute for meat in our meals, pinto beans are an excellent means to boost the nutritional content of our meals. Provided you don't cook pinto beans with plenty of butter or salt, they are considered to be a healthy inclusion in any type of meal.

Health benefits

Similar to many other types of beans, pinto beans are loaded with dietary fibers, which are proven to be effective in reducing the blood cholesterol levels. As these beans contain high levels of dietary fiber, they help to hold back the blood sugar level from rising swiftly immediately after we have a meal. Owing to this valuable attribute, pinto beans are a wonderful food for people enduring diabetes, hypoglycemia or insulin resistance.

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Aside from assisting in keeping the blood sugar levels stable, pinto beans also ensure that our body is consistently supplied with low-burning energy. The fibers present in pinto beans are soluble and they form a gel-like material inside the digestive system that connects with the bile and helps the body to get rid of it.

In addition to the soluble fibers, these beans also are full of insoluble fibers that help to avoid constipation and, at the same time, increase the bulk of stool. Regular consumption of pinto beans can help to prevent many disorders related to the digestive system.

Pinto beans contain elevated amounts of folate, vitamin B1, protein, molybdenum and a number of essential minerals such as potassium, iron, copper, magnesium and phosphorus. All these nutrients are highly beneficial for our overall health.

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Apart from the nutrients mentioned above, pinto beans also contain superior quality fat-free proteins. If you consume these beans regularly, they will help to make your body a storehouse of such proteins. They are especially beneficial when consumed along with whole grains, such as brown rice. It has been found that consumption of pinto beans is highly beneficial for people with an inclination to heart disease. They contain rich amounts of folate, dietary fiber, potassium and magnesium, which are all effective in putting of the development of various diseases related to the heart.

It may be noted that pinto beans are very useful for people who are sensitive to sulfites, which are a common preservative added to different types of foods like salads. People who are susceptible to sulfites are likely to experience headaches, rapid heartbeats and/ or disorientation following consumption of foods containing elevated amounts of sulfites. Nevertheless, pinto beans contain significant amounts of molybdenum, which successfully detoxifies sulfites. Hence, pinto beans are highly useful for people sensitive to sulfites.

Pinto beans are highly beneficial for women, especially those who are pregnant, nursing mothers and menstruating women. In addition, they are very healthy for growing children as well as adolescents. All such individuals require additional iron supplies. Hence, these beans are considered to be a better source of iron compared to red meat.

Pinto beans also contain copper and manganese, which are vital cofactors of superoxide dismutase, an oxidative enzyme, which neutralizes the harmful free radicals produced within the mitochondria.

These beans are loaded with the essential mineral copper, which promotes the actions of lysyl oxidase, which is an enzyme, which cross links elastin and collagen. In turn, the link-up develops the basic substance as well as flexibility in our blood vessels, bones and joints.

Iron as well as copper found in pinto beans facilitate synthesis of hemoglobin. Aside from these essential minerals, pinto beans also contain high levels of vitamin B, which is necessary for energy production. At the same time, these minerals play a vital role in the functioning of cognitive/ brain cells. They also aid in acetylcholine synthesis. In fact, acetylcholine is a vital neurotransmitter necessary for enhancement of memory.

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