I consider myself pretty experienced when it comes to plant foods.
If you show me a picture of an obscure vegetable or exotic fruit, chances are I’ll be able to name it.
Thankfully, though, I still make new discoveries from time to time.
Recently, I stumbled upon a beautiful legume I’ve never even heard of:
The orca bean.
In this post, I’ll tell you all about it — its origin, taste, culinary uses, health benefits and more!
What Are Orca Beans
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Orca beans are a cultivated hybrid of the common kidney beans.
They belong to the plant species Phaseolus vulgaris.
The bean is thought to have originated on the American continent.
More specifically, it was known to exist in the Caribbean region at least 400 years ago.
The orca bean gets its name from its uniquely-colored pattern — which resembles the marine animal of the same name (a.k.a. killer whale).
This extraordinary pattern becomes more pronounced as the bean matures.
You might also know the legume as Calypso bean or Ying Yang bean (the latter being a reference to the ancient Chinese symbol).
Although the black and white variants are the most popular, they also come in red/white, tan/white, and brown/white.
Orca Beans In The Kitchen
So, we’ve established that the orca bean looks absolutely fabulous.
Its eye-catching coloring and pattern combined with its smooth, shiny exterior makes it very appealing.
But does it taste good?
Well, despite its special look, the orca tastes very much like other beans, though maybe a tad bit nuttier.
Overall, I would describe the bean as having a pleasant, starchy flavor with a smooth texture (when properly cooked).
If you enjoy kidney beans, you’ll appreciate the orcas.
As with all beans, dried orcas should be properly soaked before you cook and eat them.
Soaking them the night before will reduce their cooking time and make them easier to digest.
Orcas can be used in any bean-based meal.
In particular, they’re a perfect substitute for pinto, kidney and black turtle beans.
I’ve mostly used them in veggie wraps, and occasionally in pasta dishes (really tasty with some high-quality tomato sauce!).
Orca beans are a perfect fit for:
- Pasta dishes
- Rice dishes
They combo well with:
- Sweet potatoes
- Cooked spinach
As you can see, there are lots of easy, delicious and nutritious ways to use orca beans.
If you’re having guests over for dinner, including these striking legumes in your meal will definitely make it stand out.
Health Benefits Of Orca Beans
1. Plant Based Protein
Protein is the building block of our bodies.
It’s used to create and repair bones, muscle, cartilage, skin, hair and blood.
Traditionally, protein has been almost exclusively associated with animal foods like steak and chicken breast.
These days, however, more and more people are discovering plant-based sources of this macronutrient.
One of those top sources?
Orca beans are a rich source of healthy, plant-based protein.
Only 100 grams of dried orca beans will give you around 20 grams of it.
I like to eat them together with edamame pasta, various vegetables and some nice sauce and seasoning.
This creates an absolute protein bomb of a meal — a whopping 80 grams in a single sitting.
2. Keeps You Satiated Longer
One of the hardest things about losing weight is managing the feeling of hunger.
If you don’t get enough satiating foods throughout the day, you might have to go to bed hungry.
Most people will struggle with this — which results in them reaching for a snack or two (or 10).
This can then cause their fat loss to stall.
If you want to avoid hitting plateaus or, even worse, actually gaining body fat, eat foods that keep you full.
One such food is the orca bean.
Just 100 grams will give you 25 grams of fiber (100% of the daily minimum requirement).
This, together with the rich protein content, makes for a very satiating food.
3. Controls Blood Sugar Levels
The fiber in orca beans deliver more than just satiation, though.
It also contributes to regulating blood sugar levels.
The polyphenols and antioxidants in orca beans help with this as well.
Additionally, orca beans are placed low on the glycemic index.
This means that you won’t get a rapid blood sugar spike after eating them.
In fact, a bean-rich diet in general has been shown to have a positive effect on blood sugar levels.
One study even concluded that beans could be used as non-pharmaceutical management of type-2 diabetes.
4. Helps Fight Certain Cancers
Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both women and men in the U.S.
Important risk factors of colorectal cancer include:
- Red meat consumption
- High body fat percentage
- Sedentary lifestyle
Do you know what’s associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer?
Eating legumes, like orca beans!
According to another study, beans may be protective against breast cancer as well.
5. Prevents Anemia
Iron deficiency has been found to be one of the most common forms of malnutrition in the world.
Prolonged iron deficiency can eventually lead to anemia — a condition where your body lacks healthy red blood cells.
Symptoms of anemia include:
- Pale skin
- Swollen or sore tongue
- Shortness of breath
Many people seek to treat iron deficiencies with supplements — thinking it’s a quick-fix.
To get healthy levels of the mineral, your best bet is simply to eat the right foods.
Orca beans are very high in iron — 100 dry grams will give you 8 mg.
That’s almost half of the daily recommended intake (45%).
Just say no to anemia — eat your beans!
6. Keeps Your Bones Strong
There’s been a lot of negative buzz online about a compound in beans called phytate.
It’s often claimed to inhibit mineral absorption in the body, which could then lead to a decrease in bone density.
This rumor has scared a lot of people away from eating beans and other legumes.
That’s unfortunate, because when you dig into the science of phytate, you actually find the opposite effect.
These findings line up with earlier observations on how phytate can prevent the dissolution of bone.
7. Improves Sleep Quality
In our age of ‘round-the-clock computer and smartphone use, sleep quantity and quality has taken a turn for the worse.
According to the CDC, 35% of U.S. adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.
Lack of proper rest can lead to a whole host of health issues, including inflammation and high blood pressure.
Luckily, just some simple lifestyle changes can drastically improve your nighttime experience.
Besides putting away your screens earlier and cutting back on caffeine, eating certain foods can help as well.
One of them is orca beans.
This is because they contain large amounts of magnesium and tryptophan.
8. Can Increase Your Lifespan
Last, but certainly not least, eating orca beans regularly may lengthen your time here on Earth.
Beans in general seem to be very effective at extending lives in people from all over the world.
How effective, exactly?
Well, in a huge study from 2004, legumes (including beans) were found to be the number one dietary predictor of a longer lifespan.
For every 20 grams of daily legume intake, an 8% reduction in risk of death was observed.
One the other hand, a bean-free diet has been found to increase the risk of all-cause mortality.
A bean burrito sounds pretty good right about now, doesn’t it?
A Beautiful Bean
And there you have it — the origins, potential uses and health benefits of orca beans.
Not only are they nice to look at, but they’re really good for you as well.
If you want to bring some new life to your legume-based meals, give the orcas a try.
With their extraordinary exterior and powerful nutrition, these majestic beans will be a valuable addition to any kitchen.