Even if you’re a die-hard meat lover, it’s impossible to ignore the rise in plant-based eating. Alt-products just keep getting more accessible and better tasting—a win no matter what you’re eating plan of choice is. Of course when you’re swapping meat for a vegan option, one of the main dilemmas is figuring out where to source that protein. Pretty often, black beans, come to the rescue as the solution. (It helps that they’re cheap and easy to find, too.)
As plant-based eating continues to dominate, you can expect these humble little beans to take center stage in your food even more frequently. Which raises the question of just what sort of nutrition they bring to the table (literally).
Are black beans healthy?
Here’s a quick run-down of what a typical serving of black beans gets you: 15 grams of protein (the goal is to get roughly 46 grams a day), 15 grams of fiber (more than half of what’s recommended per day), and 40 grams of carbs. It’s that high-carb content that tends to trip people up when it comes to black beans, causing many to think that they aren’t, in fact, healthy. But Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center registered dietitian Samantha Cochrane, RD, says it’s nothing to stress over.
“Part of black beans’ carb source is fiber,” she says. “Fiber is very healthy—especially because in this case, it’s in the form of soluble fiber, which is linked to lowering LDL cholesterol.” This, she explains, is why black beans are often heralded as a heart-healthy food; high cholesterol is directly linked to heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.
Besides being a good source of protein and fiber, Cochrane says black beans have other nutrients that make them a healthy win, including 46 milligrams of calcium and antioxidants. “Black beans are full of phytochemicals, which act as antioxidants and can decrease risk of cancer,” she says.
How to buy and prepare black beans
Convinced that black beans are healthy? Cool. When you’re ready to stock up, Cochrane says if possible, go for dry over canned. “Canned black beans tend to be higher in sodium, so that’s something to be aware of,” she says. Ideally, you want to cap your sodium intake at 1,500 milligrams a day, so Cochrane says just to keep that in mind when checking the sodium content on black beans.
If you’re cooking with dried beans, soak them overnight first before cooking in boiling water to ensure that they turn soft and edible. (Or throw them straight from the package into your Instant Pot, since pressure cooking is truly a modern marvel.) If dealing with canned beans, give them a good rinse first and then use them however you want—whether it’s throwing them in a salad, a burrito, or a chili. While black beans are a pretty common ingredient in Mexican-inspired dishes and protein bowls, there are other more unexpected ways to use them too, such as as a meat replacement in burgers or to make vegan brownies.
Black bean brownies, you ask? Here’s exactly how to make them :
How to enjoy black beans without the gassy side effects
If there’s one major reason why people avoid black beans, it’s because of little rhyming song that goes something like this: Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart…Well, you know the rest. According to Cochrane, while too much of any fiber source can cause gas, typically, people should have no digestive trouble when eating black beans.
“There are all sorts of reasons someone could be experiencing gas, bloating, or digestive problems, and if this is something you’re experiencing regularly, definitely talk to your doctor about it,” she says. Because digestive health is so individual and complicated, Cochrane says it can be tricky to pin down the culprit, so it’s helpful to work with an expert to get to the bottom of it. But she says moderate servings of black beans shouldn’t typically cause any digestive problems. That’s a relief.
Originally published September 7, 2019. Updated October 2, 2020.
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