Which Beans Are Most Nutritious?

Whether you’re grocery shopping on a budget or looking for a plant-based protein, beans are some of the best foods you can buy. Not only are they completely versatile and taste absolutely delicious, they tout a myriad of health benefits.

Whether you purchase them canned or dry, beans are a pantry staple for most households. Here is everything you need to know the health benefits of beans.

health benefits of beans

Health benefits of beans

Although different beans have their own unique set of health benefits, beans in general, are incredibly healthful. Trista Best, RDN at Balance One Supplements says, “Beans of every variety pack a ton of nutrients and calories into any meal, which is helpful when you are working to reduce your grocery budget. The fiber [and protein] content of beans will keep you full and satisfied long after a meal and is beneficial for feeding the gut’s good bacteria, binding and flushing out toxins and waste from your body, and even helps to reduce cholesterol and body weight.”

Best further explains, one of the best ways to eat beans is with rice.

“Beans are known for their protein content, but eating them along  with rice is the best way to get in all nine essential amino acids.”

Best continues,  “Animal protein sources naturally contain all 20 amino acids and are therefore naturally complete proteins, but many plant-based proteins are not,” which means we have to get creative. “Taking in all essential amino acids is necessary for a healthy life and combining rice and beans provides the right combination of amino acids to achieve this.”

It’s abundantly clear there are a number of health benefits of beans, but whether you have a beloved bean or are looking to try something new, here are nine common beans and their health benefits.

Black beans

Like many beans, black beans are a great source of antioxidants, B vitamins, calcium, fiber, folate, plant protein and potassium. They are a staple food in Central and South America and for anyone who frequents their nearest Chipotle restaurant. Enjoy in a black bean soup, Black Bean Chia Burger or as the main ingredient in a homemade burrito bowl.

Cannellini beans

Cannellini beans are often referred to as white kidney beans due to their appearance and large size. They appear in many Italian dishes like pastas, soups and stews, and are earthy in flavor yet hearty in texture—so their form holds up well when cooked.

Amy Riolo, Award-Winning, Best-Selling Author, Chef, Television Personality, and Mediterranean Diet Ambassador loves cannellini beans.

“[They] have a very low glycemic index, making them an excellent choice for those with diabetes, and anyone trying to lose weight and gain muscle. They have also been proven to prevent colorectal cancer and have an overall detoxifying effect on the body. These beans make a great addition to soups, stews and salads.”

Chickpeas

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas, like many beans, are rich in fiber, folate, iron, phosphorus, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids and linoleic and oleic acids as well as plant protein. A simple way to enjoy chickpeas is by roasting them with your favorite seasonings to create a crunchy salad topper or snack. You can also add them to your favorite sandwich or soup or whip them up into a homemade hummus.

Fava beans

According to Riolo, “Fava beans are said to be one of the world’s oldest agricultural crops and they have been eaten for millennia in Egypt where they are used in the local falafel recipe. Historically used as a meat substitute with 10g of protein per cup, they are often cooked and pureed in traditional Italian dishes.” 

Megan Wong, an RDN working with AlgaeCal continues to discuss the many benefits of fava beans.

“Fava beans are loaded with nutrients that are crucial for a healthy heart, blood cells, bones, muscles and nerves,” she explains. In one cup of fava beans you will be getting 450mg of potassium (that’s slightly more than you’d get from eating a medium banana) and a whopping 18 percent of the Daily Value for magnesium.

Wong continues, “Both potassium and magnesium help keep blood pressure under control and ensure nerves and muscles are working properly.” If you’re low in iron or generally craving red meat, but are looking for a more mindful plant-based alternative, Wong says, “One cup of cooked fava beans provides two grams of iron, as much as [one] beef patty.”

Kidney beans

Kidney beans are one of the most commonly used beans. Often enjoyed with rice, kidney beans are a staple in many homemade chili recipes. A good source of iron, phosphorus and potassium, kidney beans are a great low-fat source of dietary fiber and plant protein.

Lima beans

Lima beans, named after the capital city of Peru, which is, you guessed it, is Lima, are free of cholesterol, fat, saturated fat and sodium. Like all of the beans on this list, lima beans are also high in dietary fiber, folate and potassium.

Navy beans

All beans are rich in fiber, but the top ranking variety is the navy bean, which was named for its popularity in the U.S. Navy during the early 20th century. High in dietary fiber, one half cup serving of navy beans touts 10 grams of fiber, which may help lower harmful LDL cholesterol and has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

Pinto beans

Pinto beans, also known as cowboy beans or frijoles, are one of the most popular beans to eat and are incredibly popular in Southern states. If you have ever had refried beans from your favorite local Mexican restaurant, then you’ve had pinto beans before. Tan in color with reddish brown streaks these beans appear pinto, which means painted in Spanish. Creamy and soft in texture, pinto beans are incredibly versatile and can be substituted for most beans including cranberry beans, kidney beans, red beans and white beans.

Red beans

Red beans are often paired with rice and are well known as a Louisiana staple. Often mistaken for kidney beans, red beans are rounder in appearance and much smaller in size. Although they can be used just like a kidney bean, red beans also work well in sweet dishes.

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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.