This popular canned food promotes gut health and weight loss

Among the hundreds of varieties of beans, black beans are one of the most popular. They have a sweet taste and a soft texture that works well in various dishes, especially in Central American, South American and Caribbean cuisine.

Beans of all kinds are a healthy and inexpensive vegetable protein that provides plenty of fiber to the diet. Black beans are also a good source of iron and folate, two micronutrients that are vital for growth and development. In addition, eating black beans is linked to cardiovascular health and blood sugar control.

Let’s take a look at black bean nutrition, what makes them good for you, and healthy black bean recipes you can try.

Black Bean Nutrition Facts

A cup serving of unsalted black beans has:

  • 114 calories
  • 8 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 20 grams of carbohydrates
  • 8 grams of fiber (29% Daily Value (DV))
  • 2 milligrams of iron (11% DV)
  • 128 mcg folic acid (32% DV)

Cooked black beans have no sodium, but canned black beans are packed in a salty brine (more on that later).

Benefits of black beans

Black beans boast a high dose of protein, fiber, iron and folate. Protein and fiber are two nutrients that contribute to satiety, which is an important aspect of weight control and managing hunger throughout the day. Fiber is also known to prevent constipation and keep the digestive system healthy. But what’s even more interesting is that research suggests that one type of fiber in beans, called resistant starch, can encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and improve overall gut health.

Folate is an important B vitamin for women of reproductive age because it helps prevent neural tube defects in the fetus. Getting adequate dietary folic acid can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia.

There are only a few studies on black beans, but research suggests that consuming black beans may have heart and blood sugar benefits. Previous research has shown that eating beans for several weeks can improve vascular function and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but a 2021 study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases examined whether eating black beans had an effect on the heart after one meal. A study found that eating black beans relaxes blood vessels for up to 6 hours after a meal, which may improve vascular function.

Another study in the journal Nutrients looked at the effects of eating black beans with rice on blood sugar after a meal. The results showed that consuming black beans with rice lowered the blood sugar response, compared to consuming rice alone. These findings may have important implications for people with diabetes.

Why do beans cause gas?

As a plant-based dietitian, I often hear one major complaint about beans in general: they give people gas. Believe it or not, there are several ways to reduce the gas you feel when you eat beans. First, start small. Research suggests that people who start by eating just a cup of beans a day may experience less bloating than those who eat more beans. The same study also states that reports of gas from eating beans may actually be exaggerated.

Additionally, using dry beans instead of canned beans can reduce gas. The Bean Institute suggests soaking the beans in water overnight to draw out the gas-promoting sugar. If you don’t have time to soak overnight, place the beans in a pot of liquid, boil for 2 minutes, then let sit for an hour.

More nutrition information about everyday food

Fun facts about black beans

Here are a few more reasons to add black beans to your diet.

Rinsing canned beans significantly reduces sodium

Compared to 0 grams of sodium in dry black beans, a cup of canned black beans has about 300 milligrams of sodium. For people with high blood pressure or other medical conditions, this can raise a red flag. The good news is that research shows that rinsing canned black beans in cold running water can reduce the sodium content by up to 41%. This process can reduce the sodium content of a cup of black beans to about 123 milligrams or 5% of the daily value of sodium.

Black beans are considered a protein and a vegetable

According to the USDA Food Patterns, beans are considered both a protein and a vegetable because they include key nutrients from each food group. For those who are resistant to vegetables, adding black beans to the plate can help increase your intake of micronutrients. And for vegetarians and vegans, black beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein.

Dry beans vs. canned beans is your choice!

If you’re wondering whether to opt for dry or canned black beans, each has its pros and cons. Dry beans are cheaper around or the price of canned beans. However, both types of black beans are affordable compared to many other types of protein. Dry beans take several hours to cook, while canned beans can be eaten straight from the can. If you want to control the sodium content of beans, choose dry beans and add a little salt to the cooking process.

Healthy recipes for black beans

Black beans are versatile, affordable and easy to use in many ways. You may even find that they can help reduce the fat in baked goods, such as a cookie. Here are some of our favorite healthy black bean recipes.

Riley Wofford

Cuban-style black beans

Abuela’s Counter

Sunny's Black Bean Burgers

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Crispy fish tacos with mango and black bean salsa

Lanna Apisukh / TODAY

Black Bean Quesadillas

Kevin Curry

Baked Sweet Potatoes and Black Bean Burritos

Anthony Quintano

Black Bean Brownies

Nathan Congleton / TODAY

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