Black beans are a food that everyone can benefit from keeping in their kitchen cabinets. And it’s easy to benefit from black beans nutrition as they are an extremely affordable source of protein, filling fiber, disease fighting antioxidants, and numerous vitamins and minerals.
Studies have linked eating black beans with helping to protect against inflammation, heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, certain cancers, and common nutrient deficiencies that we often see in people eating a typical western diet.
The health benefits of black beans, their versatility, and their high nutrient content make them an excellent choice for both plant-based eaters and omnivores alike.
Black Beans Nutrition Facts
A one-cup serving of cooked black beans provides (in daily recommended values):
- 227 calories
- 15 grams protein
- 15 grams fiber
- 0 fat
- 64% folate
- 40% copper
- 38% manganese
- 35% vitamin B1 Thiamine
- 30% magnesium
- 24% phosphorus
- 20% iron
Health Benefits of Black Beans Nutrition
1. Improve Cardiovascular Health
Black beans protect heart health in numerous ways, one of the most important being that they reduce inflammation. Black beans nutrition contains high levels of phytonutrients- especially flavonoids called delphinidin, petunidin, and malvidin- which studies have shown work to control lipid (fat) metabolism and to positively aid in cholesterol excretion. (1, 2)
Black beans are also exceptionally high in soluble fiber, which is the type of dietary fiber that is associated with fighting heart disease by helping to balance unhealthy cholesterol levels. Studies have found that a diet high in dietary fiber, especially from bean and legume sources, is protective against heart disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke.
Fiber helps to reduce inflammation as it removes waste and toxins from the body, keeping arteries clear from dangerous plague build-up. (3, 4) In fact studies show that having just one daily serving (about 3/4 cup cooked) of beans of any kind can help to decrease chances of a heart attack and to help balance “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Additionally, black beans provide a high source of folate and magnesium, two minerals which are important in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. The high fiber content in black beans can also prevent overeating and gaining harmful excess weight, especially around vital organs like the heart. (5)
2. High Levels of Antioxidants Which Help Protect Against Cancer
The important flavonoid and phytochemical compounds found in black beans act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, making them beneficial in protecting against various forms of cancer. (6) This is especially true with colon cancer. Some sources report that black beans, with their deep black color, are the highest bean source of antioxidants.
The antioxidants found in black beans help to combat free radical damage, or oxidative stress. When free radicals become too present within the body- and a poor, standard western diet does not contribute enough antioxidants to counteract the free radical damage- disease is much more likely to develop.
Antioxidants are found in the highest quantities in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, but are also found in deeply colored black beans and other legumes too.
Studies have shown that the high antioxidant compound of black beans can help to prevent DNA damage and gene mutation, leading to a decreased risk for developing cancerous cells. (7)
3. A High Source of Filling Fiber
Beans are one of the top high fiber foods and are something I recommend everyone eats regularly. Black beans make an exceptionally filling addition to any recipe, with their high levels of dietary fiber (about 15 grams per cup) but also because of their combination of complex carbs and protein.
The macronutrients found in beans, including fiber, work together to give us a feeling of satiety after eating, while also helping to control blood sugar levels.
Studies conducted on animals have shown that consuming black beans helps to control appetite and can lead to significant reductions in unhealthy body fat. (8) In order to maintain the best digestive health, all adults should aim to have at least 30 grams of fiber from whole foods everyday, so having ½ cup-1 cup of black beans get you almost half way there.
The fiber and protein in beans help the glucose (sugar) from the starch of the beans to be slowly released into the bloodstream. While simple carbs- including processed foods like cookies, cereal, refined grains, and sweetened snacks- release sugar into the blood very quickly, beans keep you full for a long time.
Fiber helps the body to absorb nutrients and to release acids into the blood stream, providing us with fuel, cleansing the digestive tract, helping the liver to function, and riding our bodies of harmful waste, pathogens, unhealthy cholesterol, and extra sugar.
By consuming enough fiber from whole food plant sources, we are able to properly stimulate digestion and elimination, maintain a healthy metabolism and to balance electrolytes within the body.
4. Improves Digestion
The high fiber content of the amazing black beans nutrition helps to improve digestion by keeping the digestive tract clear of toxic build-up. Fiber acts like a broom for the digestive system, working to push waste through the digestive tract so the bacteria of the gut flora can remain balanced.
This prevents unwanted digestive symptoms like constipation, IBS, and more. Black beans have been shown in studies to protect colon health and to help ward off colon cancer due to their ability to block oxidative damage within the digestive system. (9)
The fiber in black beans also helps to maintain the body’s naturally preferred pH level, balancing acidity and alkalinity. Legumes have an alkalizing effect on the body, which helps to balance pH levels by combating the high level of acidity that is common in most modern diets due to high amounts of meat, dairy, and processed food.
Black beans have been found in studies to help clear toxins and unwanted bacteria from the body, which can help to restore digestive function and to improve overall health too. (10)
5. Provides Long-Lasting Energy
It’s very important to consume the right type of carbohydrates-in the form of whole, unrefined vegetables, starches, legumes and occasionally sprouted grains- in order to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Beans and legumes contain a form of complex carbohydrate called starch, which the body is able to slowly digest and use for energy without spiking blood sugar levels. This makes black beans a food that is considered low on the glycemic index.
6. Helps Keep Blood Sugar Levels Stable
The starch found in black beans contains natural sugars called glucose, which the body uses easily for many essential functions. “Fast” or “simple” carbs tend to do the opposite of complex carbs like starch- quickly raising blood sugar levels, as a high amount of sugar is released into the blood all at once.
Consuming the wrong type of carbohydrates ultimately leads to spikes and dips in energy levels, as you experience a sudden “sugar high” after consuming simple carbs, followed by a sugar crash later on. This results in low energy levels and puts chronic stress on the body in addition to many other concerns.
The cycle of eating the wrong types of refined carbs also leads to cravings for more sweets, low energy, overeating, and even potential problems managing blood sugar and insulin levels. Long term this can lead to diabetes or metabolic syndrome. (11)
Because of black beans’ ability to provide “time released” energy in the form of starches, they make an excellent carbohydrate source for anyone who has a form of resistance to insulin (the blood sugar-lowering hormone) like those who are pre-diabetic or who have diabetes.
7. Contains Essential Vitamins and Minerals (Folate, Copper, Magnesium, Phosphorus, B Vitamins)
These nutrients are all especially important for vegetarians and vegans who may be lacking in these nutrients due to eliminating other animal sources. Anti-inflammatory, high-nutrient diets that include foods like black beans can help to prevent many common diseases including fibromyalgia, leaky gut, metabolic syndrome, and more.
Magnesium rich foods are essential for cellular health and over 300 biochemical functions in the body. Unfortunately, around 80% of American’s may have a magnesium deficiency and the majority of them don’t even know it. Because your body requires and uses magnesium for so many different functions, you can quickly become low in magnesium especially if you are not consuming enough high magnesium foods.
Some of the major functions that require magnesium are:
- Protein synthesis
- Nerve function
- Blood sugar control
- Neurotransmitter release
- Blood pressure regulation
- Energy metabolism
Iron is a trace mineral found in every living cell in our bodies. Iron is a primary component of two proteins: hemoglobin and myoglobin which are apart of muscle cells that hold oxygen. Iron deficiency symptoms from not consuming enough through a healthy diet can include:
8. High in Protein
Black beans nutrition also provides a high amount of plant-based protein, making them a great choice for people who avoid eating animal products and need to rely on beans, legumes, nuts and other plant foods for protein. 1 cup of black beans provides about 14 grams of fat-burning protein, in addition to many other essential antioxidants and nutrients which help naturally slow aging.
The body uses protein, in the form of amino acids, for nearly every function. Making sure to eat adequate amounts of protein on a regular basis can help to fight symptoms related to protein deficiency including muscle weakness, fatigue, low energy, eye problems such as cataracts, heart problems, poor skin health, imbalanced hormone levels and more.
Protein is crucial for helping to build muscle and keeping the body energetic, strong, and youthful. While many people require less calories as they age in order to maintain a healthy weight, black beans add a high amount of nutrients to the diet without contributing a many calories (only about 110 calories per half cup).
Black beans as part of traditional diets are often eaten with rice, corn or starchy vegetables. Luckily, these combinations work together to make up a “complete protein”, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids (known as the building-blocks of proteins) which are necessary to acquire through protein-rich foods, since the body cannot make them.
Consuming beans is a great way to add low fat, high fiber protein to your diet which helps to make you feel full, keeps your energy up, and more.
9. Helps with Weight Loss
Black beans nutrition boasts a very low calorie count, especially when you consider the range of nutrients and fiber that they provide, so they are a must-have food for anyone who is working to lose and maintain a healthy weight. Consuming black beans can make you less likely to overeat since fiber expands in the digestive tract, soaking up water and taking up a high volume.
This makes you less likely to experience food cravings for sweets or to snack on empty-calorie, processed junk foods between meals. For this reason beans a very beneficial food for anyone who needs to lose weight or is watching their calorie intake.
Black Beans as Part of Traditional Diets
According to researchers and archaeologists, beans were one of the first foods that were gathered and prepared by humans, and some think that black beans in particular may have been the first kind of legume to be domesticated for food. Black beans have a very long history in Latin cuisine and are still an extremely important staple crop across Central, South, and North America today.
They were first thought to be consumed in Mexico and South America around 7,000 years ago. Some sources state that they originally were found and harvested in Peru during this time and then spread to almost every other nearby South American and Central American nation over the hundreds of years following.
From Mexico, black beans spread across territories of the US including Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana well before they were established US states, and are still extremely popular in those areas now. Black beans were first introduced into Europe around the 15th century when Spanish explorers brought them back from their travels. They then spread to other parts of the globe including Africa and Asia.
How Black Beans Are Used Around the World
Black beans have been popularly used in Latin American cuisines for thousands of years. Today they are most commonly found in Mexican, Brazilian, Dominican, Cuban, Cajun and Creole cuisines. Black beans are from the Phaseolus vulgaris legume family, a plant that is native to the Americas.
They are technically a part of the kidney bean family, which there are around 500 different varieties of! The beans go by the common name “black beans” in the US but are called by different names around the globe- such as black turtle beans, frijol negro, zaragoza, or feijão preto.
Some of the most common ways that black beans are used today are in Mexican burritos or tacos, in the Brazilian dish called feijoda, in many types of bean and rice dishes across Cuba, Guatemala, The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Portugal and other Latin American nations, in soups and stews as part of Creole recipes stemming from the Louisiana area, mixed with eggs for huevo rancheros in Texas or New Mexico, used to flavor sauces across parts of Asia, and in many other ways too.
Purchasing Black Beans
Black beans can be found in dried or precooked varieties. They are most available in precooked/canned, or precooked/frozen varieties. Precooked black beans, either in canned or frozen form, often have the same nutrient levels as freshly made beans, so as long as you buy a high-quality kind, you can conveniently enjoy beans even when you’re short on time.
Most people tend to use precooked, canned beans because the cooking time for dried beans can be a bit long, but it requires you to plan a day ahead normally in order to soak the beans. However many people feel that beans made from scratch- meaning from dried form- taste the best and hold their texture more so than precooked kinds, plus this allows you to save and use the starchy, black cooking liquid too.
Canned, precooked beans are a great option when you don’t have time to prepare beans from scratch, although many brands of canned beans use the chemical BPA in the lining of their cans, which is a toxin you will want to avoid leaching into your food.
Look for organic varieties of canned beans that are certified “BPA free” in order to avoid this chemical winding up in your beans. Make sure to rinse canned beans to reduce the sodium content and to freshen up the taste. You can also try simmering canned and rinsed beans in some vegetable stock to further plump them up and enhance their flavor.
Look for dried black beans at markets that sell food by the pound, or in the “bulk bin” section of your favorite health food store where you will likely be able to find organic dried beans for sale at a very low cost. If you find sprouted black beans, that’s even better! Dried beans remain fresh for a long time, so you don’t need to worry about buying too much and having them spoil.
It’s best to soak all dried beans overnight prior to cooking them, which helps to make them more digestible, to aid in absorbing their nutrients, and to decrease cooking time. Keep some dried beans in your kitchen for whenever you have some extra time to cook.
Dry, uncooked black beans will keep for up to 12 months if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place like your cabinet. Cooked black beans should stay fresh for about 4-5 days, but you can also easily freeze them after cooking them and use them later on.
Importance of Sprouting and Soaking Black Beans
Phytates and tannins are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in all beans and legumes, which are sometimes called “nutrient blockers” since they can lower nutrient availability in some cases. Soaking and sprouting black bean helps to eliminate phytic acid and may greatly increase mineral absorption in addition to making the beans more digestible and less gas-forming.
It’s believed that one of the reasons phytic acid has become a health concern today is because we no longer practice food preparation techniques such as sprouting or sourdough fermentation, which kills off a high amount of phytic acid, therefore people are consuming much more of it than ever before.
A diet high in phytic acid can potentially create mineral deficiencies and even lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. Many of the vitamins and minerals that are naturally found in beans are actually bound to phytic acid so it is difficult to absorb them. Phytic acid not only decreases the available minerals in your food, but can also leach minerals from your bones and teeth where they are stored.
In order to avoid consuming too high of levels of phytic acid, its best to buy organic beans that are also labeled GMO free, since phytic acid is much higher in foods grown using modern high-phosphate fertilizers than those grown in natural compost.
Also try soaking and sprouting your beans (and grains too) since this can help to reduce phytic acid by around 50 – 100%. Studies have showed that consuming soaked and sprouted beans, which are close to beans in their raw form and require less cooking times, keeps more of the beans antioxidants in fact (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18298732)
Black Bean Recipes
Black beans have a hearty, meaty texture that can also be creamy when they are cooked. They have a smoky and slightly sweet but versatile taste when they are mature and fully cooked, which is why they are often used as a meat substitute in many vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Some people describe their taste as being similar to mushrooms, another popular meat substitute. Many cultures use to keep and consume the boiled water of black beans after preparing them, since it becomes thick and black, taking on a starchy taste and texture that can be added to soups or rice. The cooking liquid of black beans is mixed with seasoning and consumed as a broth in many Latin natures.
Try incorporating healthy black beans into your diet using some of these recipes:
- 2 cans organic black beans
- 1 c. water
- ¼ c. chopped white onion
- ¼ c. chopped green onions
- ¼ c. chopped red bell peppers
- ¼ c. chopped mushrooms
- 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
- Sea Salt
- Chili Powder
- hot sauce (optional)
- In a food processor or blender, blend 1 can of black beans with 1 cup water until smooth.
- Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan sauté onions, mushrooms, garlic in 2 tablespoons coconut oil.
- When vegetables are tender, add black beans and water from the blender and stir on a medium-low heat.
- Add second can of beans. Add sea salt, chili powder, cumin and hot sauce to taste.
- 1 tsp coconut oil, melted
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- ¾ C uncooked Quinoa
- 1 ½ C chicken broth
- ¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1 tsp Cumin
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
- 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
- ½ C fresh cilantro, chopped
- Heat coconut oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and sauté until brown.
- Mix quinoa into the sauce pan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Mix in the black beans and cilantro.
- 1 can black beans
- 1/2 c. cacao powder
- 4 Tbsp. coconut oil
- 3/4 cup raw honey
- 2 tsp. stevia
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 3 large free range eggs
- 1/2 c. gluten free flour
- 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
- 1/4 c. water
- Blend all ingredients together.
- Grease 8 x 8 pan with coconut oil.
- Bake for 40 min. at 350 degrees.
- Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
Concerns with Black Beans
Black beans also contain certain chemical compounds call purines, which are found in many different types of plant and animal-based foods. Purines can turn into uric acid within the body when high levels are consumed, which can result in problems for people who do not process uric acid well.
Gout and kidney stones are two conditions that result from excess accumulation of uric acid within the body, therefore people with these conditions should avoid consuming high levels of purine-foods. Some research points to the fact that beans and other plant foods do not raise as much of a threat of increasing uric acid as animal-based foods do, although more research is still needed on the topic.
If you experience any condition related to high uric acid build-up, you will want to speak to your doctor about your specific dietary choices.
Some people experience digestive discomfort when eating beans, due to their high fiber and starch content. If this happens to you, try preparing beans from scratch (dried form) and soaking them overnight first. This helps to cut down on certain compounds that can cause digestive problems including gas and bloating.
If you aren’t accustomed to eating high amounts of fiber, gradually introduce more into your diet instead of consuming a large amount of fiber-rich beans all at once. This will help ease digestion and avoid unwanted symptoms.
What is your favorite way to enjoy black beans nutrition?
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