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Oh so good.
September 01, 2003

Beans don't get enough respect from consumers for their health benefits, say agriculture researchers who met last week to discuss ways to make the product more appealing.

"When you think about it, beans are the kind of Rodney Dangerfield of foods," says Jerry Combs, director of the Grand Forks, N.D., Human Nutrition Research Center.

"They're very healthful, very versatile, but they tend to be under consumed."

Whether the health benefits of dry beans can be improved with genetic engineering was the topic of a seminar at the research center in a meeting of bean breeders, scientists and nutritionists from around the country.

"As a research center that focuses on human nutrition, one of the things we're doing is trying to bridge the areas of health and food production," Combs says. "I think it's seen as too separated for the national welfare."

Good and bad qualities
James Kelly, professor of crop and soil science at Michigan State University, says the seminar could help bean breeders determine if there are ways to improve the nutritional quality of beans and how that may affect yields and quality.

It has been shown that beans provide nutrients such as copper, protein, magnesium and folic acid, Combs says. But some varieties also have negative compounds that may limit the release of protein.

Researchers will be looking at ways to separate the good and bad qualities, Combs says.

"This is a worthwhile endeavor for the nutrition research center," Combs says. "It's such a basic food, we want to know how we can improve its utilization."

The Grand Forks center, a research arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a leader in mineral studies important to human nutrition, Combs says. Researchers from the center, as well as experts from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and North Dakota State University in Fargo, also participated in the seminar.

The meeting was sponsored by the Northarvest Bean Growers Association.

"This is not only important to North Dakota and North Dakota bean producers, this is something that's important on a national basis," Kelly says. "If we can show that we can improve health benefits, which leads to increased consumption, it's good for everyone."

- Reprinted from Agweek

 Nutritionists, plant breeders and scientists met recently at a Northarvest Bean Growers Association sponsored seminar to discuss improving dry bean consumption by focusing on the health benefits.


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