A True Nutritional Powerhouse: Discover the Health Benefits of Beans

Beans may be a magical fruit and not for the reason the childhood rhyme says… even though the silly rhyme is guaranteed magical giggles every time. Beans are amazing because they are full of nutrients and fiber that our bodies crave, yet they contain very little sodium or fat and no cholesterol which our bodies need less of. With the trend of plant-based diets increasing and many of us raiding the pantry to avoid the grocery store, the health benefits of beans make them a valuable addition to our diets. If you haven’t jumped on the “beanwagon” yet, consider these many nutritional advantages:

Beans can be found many different ways at the grocery store: dried, canned, frozen, and fresh. Each type of bean has different preparation needs, appearance, and flavor. Dried, frozen, and fresh beans often contain the least amount of sodium but may not be as convenient as canned beans. The sodium content of canned beans varies. If you purchase regular canned beans placing them under running water in a strainer will help reduce the sodium content by about 41 percent, draining without rinsing reduces sodium by about 36 percent. Another way to lower sodium content in canned beans is to purchase beans that state “No Added Salt” on the label.

Nutritionally is where beans really shine. A half-cup serving of cooked beans contains 4-10 grams of fiber, which helps adults reach the daily goal of 21-38 grams of fiber easily. The high fiber content paired with bean’s minimal fat and zero cholesterol makes for an ideal food for those concerned with heart health. The fiber, resistant starch, and phenolic compounds also support the growth of health-promoting gut bacteria.

Beans are unique because they technically belong to two different food groups. Beans can be found in the protein food group since they are a good source of protein and deliver iron and zinc. They are also considered part of the vegetable food group due to their high fiber content and being a great source of folate and potassium. The guidelines state that you can count beans in either food group, but not both food groups at the same time. If you need to watch your carbohydrate intake due to diabetes, remember beans are a starchy vegetable and a ½ cup serving contains 15 grams of healthy carbohydrates.

The high fiber and protein content of beans are valuable for those looking to lose or maintain a healthy weight too. This is because they are very filling and their fiber-protein combination may hold off hunger longer than other low calorie vegetables. A few research studies looking at beans and weight loss prove their weight loss benefits. One study found that people who ate ¾-cup serving of beans daily maintained a lower weight than those who didn’t include beans in their diet. Health risks associated with overweight and obesity also seem to improve when people consume more beans and this can occur even without weight loss.

If you experience intestinal gas when you eat beans, rinsing them after you soak them and then cooking them in fresh water may help. And don’t worry about losing nutritional content when you dump the soaking water, the beans retain most of the nutrients.

The many health benefits of beans combined with their versatile flavor is inspiring people to use this amazing ingredient in new and creative ways. Mashed up and added to vegetarian burgers, ground chickpeas used as gluten-free flour in baked goods and pastas, seasoned and roasted for a crunchy chip swap, and even added to sweet treats such as brownies. Traditional ways of serving beans such as in soups, topping salads, in burritos, a tasty 3-bean salad, or in a bean dip or hummus are wonderful options for boosting your bean intake as well. Another easy way to use bean dips or hummus is as a sandwich spread or potato topping.

Our southwest cobb salad, vegetable bean soup, vegetable fajita, and Mediterranean pasta salad are all favorite Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating meals featuring beans. As a general goal, aim for a minimum of 1½ cups of this nutritional powerhouse every week. And remember, the more you eat the better you feel, so eat your beans at every meal!

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