Beans are always a good addition to your daily diet. They remain one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, coming in a variety of types and available almost everywhere. Adding lentils and legumes to your diet can lead to long term health benefits, including reducing your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Both canned and dry beans (that are then cooked at home) have about the same amount of nutritional value and both are shelf stable for long periods of time. When preparing canned or soaked beans, rinse repeatedly through the cooking process to help decrease the elements in beans that can cause gas.
Nutritional Value of Beans
Beans and lentils are a great way to added fiber to your meals, just half a cup can provide up to 10 grams of fiber! Adults should aim to consume 21-38 grams of fiber every day depending on age/gender, although many are not getting anywhere close to that amount.
In addition to fiber, beans are full of phytonutrients, protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Unlike many other protein sources, beans do not have cholesterol and contain very little fat. Many still rate above 100, thereby being a High-Quality Protein on the Protein Quality scale.
A half a cup serving of black beans provides 113 calories, 7.5 grams of protein, 7.5 grams of fiber, and are a good source of thiamin, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.
Dried beans and lentils are the more nutritious choice when you are deciding between canned or dry beans. Although it takes time to soak some of the beans overnight, the benefit is that you get to avoid added sodium, sugar, preservatives, or Bisphenol A (BPA) found in the sealing of canned products.
When choosing dried beans, look for packages where the beans are bright in color, not have pinhole marks or discolorations. These also win over cooked beans because they are more environmentally friendly, producing less waste and energy to produce. Furthermore, you can cook these to your desired firmness and some think they cause less gas.
Canned or previously cooked and packaged beans can be great when you are short on time. These beans have already been cooked and can be directly added to recipes. If you are salt sensitive or like to be conscious of your salt intake, rinse canned beans before adding them to recipes.
Many companies have also started to remove BPA from their cans, some even state on the label that they are 'BPA-Free.'
Commonly Available Types of Beans
- Adzuki Beans
- Black Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Lentils (variety of colors!)
- Split Peas
- White Beans
- Broad Beans
- Black-eyed Peas
- Cannellini Beans
- Garbanzo Beans
- Navy Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Soy Beans
Emily DeLacey MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and currently working in Jamaica as a HIV/ AIDS Prevention Specialist. She attended Central Washington University for her Bachelor's Degree in Science and Dietetics and continued on after her internship to Kent State University for her Master's Degree in Science and Nutrition, with a focus on public health and advocacy. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi 2012-2014 working as a Community Health Advisor in a rural village, immersing in the joys of life without electricity or running water. She has been to 20+ countries and 47 of the 50 states in the US. Traveling, adventuring and experiencing new cultures has made her a passionate advocate for the equality of nutrition and wellness for all people.