As part of Nutrition to Fit’s Frugal Food Favorites series, each week we highlight a favorite affordable food and all of its nutritional benefits, in addition to ways and recipes to include it in your life. This week is all about black beans!
Black beans are pretty nifty, in that they're actually edible seeds of plants. They're part of the legume family, and definitely a personal favorite for sources of plant-based protein! Many people typically think of fiber and protein when they think of black beans, which is true, but we're going to look at a few other benefits, too.
There are some nutrients that are essential to building and maintaining bone health. Black beans contain calcium and phosphorus, both of which are important in building and maintaining the bone's structure (1). Iron and zinc, also found in black beans, are important in strengthening bones and maintaining bone elasticity. Magnesium, manganese, and copper are all also found in black beans and work towards promoting greater bone health, too.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Black beans contain minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which can decrease blood pressure naturally (1). Black beans are naturally a food low in sodium, but it's important to be careful with how you purchase black beans, as regular canned black beans contain higher levels of sodium. Purchase dried beans or canned beans that are labeled as No Salt Added or Low Sodium. Also, when buying canned beans, be sure to drain and rinse your beans. Research has shown draining beans alone reduces sodium by 36%, and draining and rinsing canned beans can reduce sodium by 41% (2).
Research has suggested that diabetics that consume a fiber-rich diet have improved diabetes control (3). Specifically, type-1 diabetics consuming high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels, and type-2 diabetics consuming high-fiber diets may have improved blood sugar, blood lipids, and insulin levels (1).
The reason black beans can aid in diabetes management is because of their high fiber content. One cup of cooked black beans contains 15 grams of fiber (1). For comparison's sake, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 21-25 grams of fiber per day for women, and 30-38 grams per day for men (4).
The high fiber content in black beans leads to their improvement of one's digestion. The fiber helps prevent constipation, promotes regularity, and provides food for healthy bacteria in the colon.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
In addition to improved blood pressure, aspects of black beans like their fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6 all aid with greater cardiovascular health benefits (1). Cholesterol is absent from black beans, and their high fiber content actually helps decrease cholesterol in the body, and thus decrease the risk of heart disease.
Quercetin, found in black beans, is a compound that is naturally anti-inflammatory (1). This can also lead to increased wellness and improved cardiovascular health. Quercetin seems to reduce artherosclerosis risk and protect against damage from low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Black beans contain selenium, which is also anti-inflammatory and can decrease tumor growth rates (1). Consuming a diet high in fiber, like that in black beans, is associated with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer. Black beans are also a good source of folate, which can help prevent the formation of cancer cells from mutations in DNA.
Dietary fiber is commonly recognized as a way to increase satiety, or the sense of "fullness" one gets after eating. The "bulking" nature of fiber that creates this sense of fullness can make you feel fuller longer and reduce appetite, which can aid with weight loss efforts. A lot of research also suggests that consuming plant foods like black beans decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality. They promote a lower weight, improved complexion and hair, and increase energy (1).
Selection + Storage
As mentioned above, you can purchase beans in dried form, or in canned. When purchasing canned, again be sure to look for low sodium or no salt addded canned beans, and always drain and rinse the beans to lower the sodium content from the canning process. Canned beans can be stored quite a while in your pantry, and make an awesome convenience food for busy families that need an easy protein/ food in a pinch.
Purchasing dried beans is an excellent option, as well. It can still be a very efficient option in terms of preparation, because there is very little "hands on" time that is required. There's a soaking step, that can either be done as a hot or quick soak (boil beans 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to soak for 1-4 hours) or the more traditional overnight soak (soak beans overnight in a large container in the refrigerator at least 8 hours). Always soak one pound of dried beans (two cups) in ten cups of water (5).
Another note is that by doing the hot soak method, it can actually dissolve some of the potential gas-creating compounds in beans.
Always be sure to drain and rinse soaked beans in cool water after soaking and before cooking.
To cook, place beans in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer until beans are tender (typically 45 minutes to 2 hours). Wait until beans are tender to add any seasonings or flavoring agents, as some flavorings can prevent the beans from becoming tender (namely salt and lemon).
Recipes & Uses
There are an abundance of creative ways you can use black beans, as you will see below! I personally always keep cans of black beans in my pantry for super easy and quick protein and fiber that I can add to soups, salads, casseroles, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, etc. One fun way that the health and wellness recipe sphere has been seeing black beans used is in dessert alternatives, like black bean brownies. Check out these dietitian-approved and made recipes below for some serious black bean inspiration!
Mexican Chicken Chili by Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, CLC of Nutrition to Fit
Sweet Potato Black Bean Veggie Enchiladas by Anne Mauney, RDN of fANNEtastic food
Freezer-to-Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Chili by Dr. Jenn Bowers, RDN of Dr. Jenn Bowers Nutrition
Best Ever 4-Layer Veggie Dip by Dr. Jenn Bowers, RDN of Dr. Jenn Bowers Nutrition
Black Bean Mango Salsa by Shannon Garcia, RDN of KISS in the Kitchen
Chipotle Chili with Beef and Black Beans by Chrissy Carroll, RDN of Snacking in Sneakers
Dark Chocolate Cherry Brownies by Chrissy Carroll, RDN of Snacking in Sneakers
Sofritas Tacos and Sofritas Taco Salad by Cara Harbstreet, RDN of Street Smart Nutrition
Black Bean Brownies by Emily Holdorf, RDN of EmPowered Nutrition
Roasted Tomato and Black Bean Quinoa Bowl by Lauren Pendergast, RDN of Nutrition by Lauren
3 Bean Avocado Salad with Lime Dressing by Lauren Harris-Pincus, RDN of Nutrition Starring You
Slow Cooker Chicken Enchiladas with Black Beans by Tracee Yablon Brenner, RDN of Triad to Wellness
Black Bean and Avocado Wrap by Tracee Yablon Brenner, RDN of Triad to Wellness
A Quick & Easy Bean Burger Recipe by Emily Cooper, RDN of Sinful Nutrition
Masala Papad with Black Bean Salad by Dixya Bahattarai, RDN, of Food, Pleasure, & Health
Black Bean Fried Quinoa by Marisa Moore, RDN of Marisa Moore Nutrition
Black Bean Sweet Potato Burgers (vegan) by Chelsey Amer, RDN of C it Nutritionally
Sunflower Seed Butter Drenched Carrot Noddles with Black Bean 'Meatballs' by Chelsey Amer, RDN of C it Nutritionally
Corn and Black Bean Summer Salad by Erica Julson, RDN of EricaJulson.com
Gallo Pinto by Judy Barbe, RDN of Live Best
Sweet Potato Nachos by Judy Barbe, RDN of Live Best
Southwest Stuffed Peppers by Julie Harrington, RD of RDelicious Kitchen
Eggy Bean Cheese Quesadilla by Tina Gowin Carlucci, RDN of Gowin Nutrition
Vegetarian Black Bean Soup by Liz Weiss, RDN of Meal Makeover Moms
Spinach Salad with Jicama, Black Beans, and Lime Vinaigrette by Jessica Fishman Levinson, RDN of Nutritioulicious
Grilled Avocados Stuffed with Corn and Black Bean Salsa by Jessica Fishman Levinson, RDN of Nutritioulicious
Mini Black Bean and Cheese Enchilada Cups by Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan, RDN of One Hungry Bunny
Quick Salsa Chicken (video) by Alysa Bajenaru, RDN of Inspired RD
Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas by Amanda Hernandez, RDN of The Nutritionist Reviews
Texas Caviar AKA Black Bean Salad by Amanda Hernandez, RDN of The Nutritionist Reviews
Black Bean and Veggie Stuffed Spaghetti Squash by Melanie Flinn, RDN of Nutritious Eats
Easy Bean Sliders on Sweet Potato Buns by Kelly Jones, RDN of Eat Real Live Well
Black Bean Pasta Salad with Spicy Cashew Romesco by Kelly Jones, RDN of Eat Real Live Well
Black Bean Polenta Cakes by Kelly Jones, RDN of Eat Real Live Well
Two-Ingredient Black Bean Soup by Katie Sullivan Morford, RDN of Mom's Kitchen Handbook
Quick Huevos Rancheros by Katie Sullivan Morford, RDN of Mom's Kitchen Handbook
Black Bean and Broccoli Enchiladas by Laura Provenzano Lomax, RDN of Greens and Grains Nutrition
Smoked Paprika Sweet Potato Chili by Liz Shaw, RDN of Shaw's Simple Swaps
Creamy Three Bean Stew by Taylor Wolfram, RDN of Whole Green Wellness
The Easiest Black Bean Tacos by Rebecca Clyde, RDN of Nourish Nutrition Co.
Naturally Sweetened Black Bean Brownies by Charlene Pors, RDN of Euphoria Nutrition
Edamame and Avocado Pasta Salad by Charlene Pors, RDN of Euphoria Nutrition
Edamame Quinoa Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing by Charlene Pors, RDN of Euphoria Nutrition
Sweet Potato Chicken Nachos by Nicole Eichinger, RDN of Nutrition's My Life
Corn Masa Sopes by Paula Wesson, RDN of The Junk Food Nutritionist