Given their high starch content and tendency to make some people “gassy,” are black beans really good for you? Yes, black beans are a food that almost everyone can benefit from keeping in their kitchen cabinets.
Studies have linked eating black beans with helping 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.
It’s easy to benefit from black beans nutrition as well. This food is an extremely affordable source of protein, filling fiber, disease-fighting antioxidants like flavonoids, and numerous vitamins and minerals.
The health benefits of black beans nutrition, the beans’ versatility and their high nutrient content make them an excellent choice for both plant-based eaters and omnivores alike.
What Are Black Beans?
Black beans, or “common beans,” are from the Phaseolus vulgaris legume family, a plant that is native to the Americas. What are legumes exactly? They are the fruit or seed of any plant in the family called Fabaceae.
Black beans are technically a part of the kidney bean family, of which there are around 500 different varieties. These beans go by the common name “black beans” in the U.S. but are called by different names around the globe — such as, black turtle beans, frijol negro, zaragoza or feijão preto.
Are black beans considered a carb or protein? They actually contain a bit of both. While they do contain carbs and starch, they are also high in fiber and a good source of amino acids (which form proteins). Given the low calorie content of black beans nutrition, they are a relatively nutrient-dense food, providing folate, copper, manganese and more.
A one-cup serving (about 172 grams) of cooked black beans nutrition provides approximately:
- Calories: 227
- Total Carbohydrates: 40.8 g
- Fiber: 15 g
- Sugar: 0.6 g
- Total Fat: 0.9 g
- Saturated Fat: 0.24 g
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4 g
- Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Protein: 15.2 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 408 mg (18% DV*)
- Folate: 256 mcg (64% DV*)
- Copper: 0.4 mg (44% DV*)
- Manganese: 0.8 mg (35% DV*)
- Thiamine: 0.4 mg (33% DV*)
- Magnesium: 120 mg (28% DV*)
- Iron: 3.6 mg (20% DV*)
- Phosphorus: 241 mg (19% DV*)
- Zinc: 1.9 mg (17% DV*)
- Potatassium: 611 mg (13% DV*)
*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.
In addition, black beans nutrition also contains some calcium, niacin, pantothenic acid, selenium and vitamin A.
1. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Why are beans good for your health, particularly your heart? Black beans protect heart health in numerous ways. One of the most important is that they help provide antioxidants that fight inflammation.
A major benefit of black beans nutrition is that these legumes contain high levels of phytonutrients — especially flavonoids called delphinidin, petunidin and malvidin. Studies have shown that flavonoids work to control lipid (fat) metabolism and to positively aid in cholesterol excretion.
Black beans nutrition is also exceptionally high in soluble fiber. This type of dietary fiber is associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease since it helps balance unhealthy cholesterol levels. Studies have found that a diet high in dietary fiber, especially from bean and legume sources, is protective against mortality due to heart disease, cardiac arrest and stroke.
Fiber helps reduce inflammation as it removes waste and toxins from the body, keeping arteries clear from dangerous plague buildup. There’s evidence 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 balance “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Additionally, black beans nutrition provides a high source of folate and magnesium, two minerals that are important in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. The high fiber content in black beans nutrition can also prevent overeating and gaining harmful excess weight, especially around vital organs like the heart.
2. Provides Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
The important flavonoid and phytochemical compounds found in black beans nutrition act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. This makes them beneficial in protecting against various forms of cancer. Black beans contain high levels of anthocyanins, compounds also found have in foods like berries.
Studies show the protective effects of black beans is especially important for preventing colon cancer. Some sources report that black beans, with their deep black color, are the highest bean source of antioxidants.
Studies have shown that the high-antioxidant compounds of black beans nutrition can help prevent DNA damage and gene mutation, leading to a decreased risk for developing cancerous cells. There’s also evidence that among older adults, a diet that includes plant proteins (legumes) is associated with improved cognitive health and protection against neurological impairments. This effect is believed to be due to enhanced insulin sensitivity among adults who consume plenty of fiber, protein and antioxidants.
3. High Source of Fiber
Beans are one of the top high-fiber foods that health experts 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 control appetite and can lead to significant reductions in unhealthy body fat. In order to maintain the best digestive health, all adults should aim to have at least 30 grams of fiber from whole foods every day.
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.
4. Improves Digestion
Beans contain resistant starch that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. The high fiber content of black beans nutrition also helps improve digestion by keeping the digestive tract clear of toxic buildup.
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 also been shown in studies to protect colon health and potentially help ward off colitis or colon cancer due to their ability to block oxidative damage within the digestive system.
The fiber in black beans nutrition can help maintain the body’s naturally preferred pH level, balancing acidity and alkalinity. Legumes have an alkalizing effect on the body, which helps 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.
Additionally, black beans have been found in studies to have antibacterial and antiparasitic properties. They can help clear toxins and unwanted bacteria from the body, which can help restore digestive function and improve overall health.
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. All types of legumes are considered low-GI foods and therefore may reduce the total glycemic load of meals in which they are included.
6. Helps Keep Blood Sugar Levels Stable
The starch found in black beans nutrition contains the natural sugar 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.
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. However, a 2015 study published in the journal Nutrients found that including black beans in a typical Western-style meal helps regulate release of insulin and also increases antioxidant status.
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 prediabetic or who have diabetes. Consuming resistant starch from legumes has been shown to have antidiabetic effects and help fight other risk factors for metabolic syndrome, like hypertension.
7. Contains Essential Vitamins and Minerals
Black beans are an excellent source of numerous vitamins and minerals. In fact, they are high in magnesium, iron, folate, phosphorus and 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 prevent many common diseases, including fibromyalgia, leaky gut, metabolic syndrome and more.
8. High in Protein
Black beans nutrition also provides a high amount of plant-based protein. 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 fight symptoms related to protein deficiency, including weight gain, overeating, muscle weakness, fatigue, low energy, eye problems, heart problems, poor skin health, imbalanced hormone levels and more.
High-protein foods are 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) that 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.
9. Helps with Weight Loss
A 2016 review published in the found that American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that dietary pulse consumption may reduce body fat percentage in adults. It’s believed that legumes have positive effects on weight management because of their ability to improve a number of metabolic functions, insulin sensitivity and hepatic/liver function in obese adults.
Black beans nutrition boasts a very low calorie count, especially when you consider the range of nutrients and fiber. 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.
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 U.S., including Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana, well before they were established U.S. states, and they 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.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, black beans are said to help tonify the kidneys, nourish yin/feminine energy, strengthen the heart, balance blood pressure and improve circulation. This is due to their supply of important nutrients like folate, resistant starch/fiber and anthocyanins. They are recommended for people dealing with conditions such as kidney disorder, back pain, knee pain, infertility, seminal emissions, blurry vision, ear problems and difficulty urinating.
Black Beans vs. Pinto Beans vs. Refried Beans
What’s the biggest difference between black beans and pinto beans? Like black beans, pinto beans supply high amounts of folate, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron, copper and vitamin B6. Pinto beans are a slightly better source of folate, providing 75 percent of your daily needs in every cup.
Both beans, which are related to one another, provide similar amounts of most other nutrients. They have comparable amounts of calories, fiber and protein per one-cup serving.
Refried beans are typically pinto beans that have been boiled, mashed and fried in some type of fat, then combined with salt, pepper and spices/ingredients like chili, garlic, cumin, onion and lime. They are especially popular in Mexican and Latin cooking.
You can also make refried beans using black beans or kidney beans instead of pinto beans. The biggest difference between regular cooked beans and refried beans is the fat content. Refried beans have more calories and fat because they are made with ingredients like oil, butter or animal fat (such as lard, which is pig fat or bacon drippings).
What Type to Buy
Black beans can be found in dried or precooked varieties. They are most available in precooked/canned or precooked/frozen varieties.
Is there a difference between cooked black beans nutrition and canned black beans nutrition? 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. Buying canned black beans means you can conveniently enjoy beans even when you’re short on time.
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.
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.
How to Cook
Most people tend to use precooked, canned beans because the cooking time for dried beans can be a bit long. Cooking black beans from scratch requires you to plan a day ahead in order to soak the beans. However, many people feel that beans made from scratch taste the best and hold their texture more 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 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.
- It’s best to soak all dried beans overnight prior to cooking them, which help make them more digestible to aid in absorbing their nutrients and decrease cooking time.
- To cook black beans, place soaked beans in a pot and cover with water, so the water is about about 2–3 inches above the beans. Boil for 45 minutes to an hour. Then drain any extra liquid and add spices of your choice.
- 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.
How to Sprout
Phytates and tannins are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in all beans and legumes. They are sometimes called “nutrient blockers” or antinutrients since they can lower nutrient availability in some cases. Soaking and sprouting black beans helps 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, it’s 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 percent.
Here are directions for sprouting black beans:
- Rinse black beans, remove any debris, and place them in a jar or other glass container.
- Add 2–3 cups water, filling the jar about three-quarters full. Add a towel or cheesecloth as a lid.
- Let the black beans sit for at least 8 hours or overnight. Then drain and rinse the beans.
- Repeat rinsing and draining 3–4 times per day until sprouts start to appear. This should take about 2–4 days, depending on the size of the beans. Look for sprouts that are at least 1/4 inch long.
- You can store sprouts in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, but ideally use them within several days.
Black beans have been used in Latin American cuisines for thousands of years. Today they are most commonly found in Mexican, Brazilian, Dominican, Cuban, Cajun and Creole cuisines.
These 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 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:
Risks and Side Effects
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. If you experience any condition related to high uric acid buildup, 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 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.
- Black beans, or “common beans,” are from the Phaseolus vulgaris legume family. They are related to other legumes like pinto beans and kidney beans.
- Why is black beans nutrition valuable? These legumes are an extremely affordable source of protein, filling fiber, disease fighting antioxidants including flavonoids, and numerous vitamins and minerals, like folate, manganese, magnesium, copper, iron and more.
- Black beans benefits include improving heart health, providing antioxidants that protect against disease, improving digestion, supplying plant-based protein, balancing blood sugar and aiding weight loss.