It’s easy to make jokes about different types of beans and the effects they have on flatulence, but the focus should be on just how nutritious things like pinto beans can be for our health.
For instance, did you know that many types of beans, such as anasazi beans and pinto beans, are some of the top cancer-fighting foods around? It’s true. But that’s not all beans do. Pinto beans nutrition also benefits the heart and more.
What Are Pinto Beans?
Pinto beans are similar to the cranberry bean in appearance in their dried form, as they’re beige in color with brown splotches and stripes that have given them their name “pinto,” which means painted in Spanish. However, once they’re cooked, those creative-looking, paint-like splotches disappear, leaving the beans a solid brown color.
The Spanish call them frijol pinto, meaning speckled bean, but in South America, they’re called poroto frutilla as a reference to what’s known as the strawberry bean. Furthermore, Portugal calls them feijão catarino, and Brazil calls them feijão carioca, meaning mottled bean. In fact, Brazil has been cultivating this little nutrition-packed bean since 3000 BCE, making it a staple of most meals with rice, pasta, potatoes and yams.
The pinto bean is a variety of the common bean also known as the string bean. Typical ways of consuming the pinto bean are whole or refried, and they’re the mainstay for a good burrito. Pinto beans are often used in a spicy stew called chili con carne, though kidney beans, black beans and many and others are used in this delicious stew as well.
1. May Slow Tumor Growth
Pinto beans contain antioxidants called polyphenols, which may prevent some forms of cancer, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Pinto beans also contain kaempferol, which is a flavonoid known to help reduce inflammation. These beneficial antioxidants may slow the growth of tumors while increasing the survival rate of much-needed healthy cells. (1)
Studies have found benefits of eating foods that contain kaempferol include reducing the risk of developing cancer. This is the result of the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties making the pinto bean a great food for possibly preventing, and even treating, some diseases, even potentially cancer. (2)
2. Reduce Heart Disease Risks
Pinto beans may be helpful in reducing cholesterol levels and therefore the risk for heart disease. By having about a half cup of pinto beans on a daily basis, studies published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition show that it can help reduce your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.
This works by replacing a protein source that’s high in fat with pinto beans, which have almost no fat. The increase in dietary fiber consumption can also help lower your cholesterol, ultimately reducing the risk for developing heart disease as a powerful cholesterol-lowering food. (3)
3. Potentially Help Lower Risk of Breast Cancer
The American Academy of Pediatrics studied premenopausal women who were asked to complete a dietary questionnaire dating back to adolescent years. The study reveals that those women who had more total dietary fiber intake at an earlier age through adulthood were associated with significantly lower breast cancer risks, suggesting that a high-fiber diet during adolescence and early adulthood may be particularly important.
Digging a little deeper, sex steroid hormone levels are known to be strongly related to breast cancer development. A diet high in fiber is thought to reduce the risk of breast cancer by inhibiting reabsorption of estrogen. (4)
4. Fight Diabetes
With the rise in obesity, diabetes is a growing concern. Pinto beans may offer some help, not only in reducing the risk, but in helping keep blood sugar levels in check. The complex carbohydrates that pinto beans contain are useful due to a slower digestion process. This can increase fullness and satiety and help regulate glucose and insulin levels. Additionally, the fiber they contain can help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, which affects glucose levels, making pinto beans the perfect addition to any diabetic diet plan.
According to recent research, subjects with type 2 diabetes were placed in a high-legume diet of about one cup per day. After three months, there was a notable decrease in hemoglobin A1c, indicating a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. (5)
5. Provide Beneficial Fiber
While pinto beans provide protein in our diets, they’re great at providing fiber too, something most U.S. diets lack. The Harvard School of Public Health suggests that children and adults consume about 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day; however, most in the U.S. get only about 15 grams a day. Fiber aids in relieving constipation and may reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. (6, 7)
One cup of raw, mature pinto beans contain about: (8)
- 670 calories
- 121 grams carbohydrates
- 41.3 grams protein
- 2.4 grams fat
- 29.9 grams fiber
- 1,013 micrograms folate (253 percent DV)
- 2.2 milligrams manganese (111 percent DV)
- 1.4 milligrams thiamin (92 percent DV)
- 1.7 milligrams copper (86 percent DV)
- 340 milligrams magnesium (85 percent DV)
- 793 milligrams phosphorus (79 percent DV)
- 2,689 milligrams potassium (77 percent DV)
- 53.8 micrograms selenium (77 percent DV)
- 9.8 milligrams iron (54 percent DV)
- 0.9 milligram vitamin B6 (46 percent DV)
- 4.4 milligrams zinc (29 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligram riboflavin (24 percent DV)
- 218 milligrams calcium (22 percent DV)
- 12.2 milligrams vitamin C (20 percent DV)
- 10.8 micrograms vitamin K (14 percent DV)
- 2.3 milligrams niacin (11 percent DV)
Crockpot Turmeric and Curry Pinto Beans with Bone Broth and Kale
- 1 pound dry pinto beans
- 6 cups bone broth (use water or vegetable broth for vegans and vegetarians)
- 1.5 teaspoons sea salt (add more if desired)
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon curry
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups chopped kale or spinach
- Rinse and sort beans, pulling out any that don’t look good, and then place in a bowl.
- Add warm water, covering the beans by about 2 inches, and let soak overnight.
- The next morning, drain and add beans to a crockpot.
- Add 6 cups bone broth and the bay leaf.
- Add the turmeric, curry, garlic, cilantro (save a few sprigs for garnish), cinnamon, a little black pepper and vinegar.
- Cook on low for 8–9 hours or on high for about 5 hours.
- Once the beans are tender, add salt and pepper to taste.
- Place a small handful of spinach or kale in the bottom of your serving bowl or cup.
- Add one cup of beans.
- Top with a dollop of your favorite plain kefir (optional) and serve with sprig of cilantro for garnish.
Here are a couple more pinto bean recipes to try:
Pinto Beans Interesting Facts
Pinto beans have been around for centuries, and even today, some organizations and churches in the Deep South have pinto bean suppers for social gatherings. Though beans sometimes get a bad rap for their well-known, and sometimes embarrassing, gas-causing side effects, the nutritional value is vast, and they’re easy on the pocket.
Beans are pretty important crops with the global harvest estimated at 18.7 million tons and grown in about 150 countries on approximately 27.7 million hectares. Folk medicine claims beans as a natural remedy for acne, bladder problems, burns, heart conditions, diabetes, diarrhea, diuretic issues, eczema, hiccups, rheumatism and sciatica. (10)
What’s known as the wild common bean, scientifically labeled as Phaseolus vulgaris, still grows today in the Andes and Guatemala. However, pinto beans, as well as the great northern bean and small red and pink beans, are mainly found in Durango in the central Mexican highlands. It’s unclear as to the exact date of the domestication of beans, though evidence dates back to archaeological as far as 10,000 years ago in Argentina and 7,000 years ago in Mexico. (11)
Most U.S. dry beans are produced for human consumption as an important staple crop. However, they’re also used as animal feed in other parts of the world. Currently, the United States is the sixth-leading producer of dry edible beans with approximately 20 percent of U.S. dry bean supplies making their way to the export market, which is nearly 14 percent of the domestic dry bean consumption.
The U.S. produces many kinds of dry edible beans with pinto beans as the leading variety at about 42 percent. Black beans hit at about 11 percent, while the garbanzo bean, or chickpea, comes in at 5 percent.
Risks and Side Effects
Pinto beans are famous for causing intestinal discomfort and flatulence, which can happen due to the large amounts of fiber and a sugar they contain called oligosaccharide. This sugar is difficult to break down during the digestion process and usually does not break down until it gets to the large intestine, where useful bacteria live. It’s this process that produces the often annoying and uncomfortable gas. (14)
To help minimize the gas-causing properties of beans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests soaking dried beans in water and changing the water a few times. Canned pinto beans are known to produce less intestinal gas — however, make sure you rinse them to help reduce the high amounts of salt they usually contain. There are some over-the-counter enzymes that may help. Check with your doctor to see what’s best.
Another risk that you should be aware of is the iodine. For those suffering from thyroid cancer, it’s common that radiation is part of the treatment process. The Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association notes that pinto beans are iodine-rich foods, and consuming excess iodine during treatment may reduce the effectiveness of the radiation. (15)
Pinto beans are easy to make and can go in just about anything from salads to burritos and wraps as well as soups. The nutritional and health benefits are phenomenal, including possible reduction in tumor growth, lowering blood sugar levels that can greatly help diabetics, reducing breast cancer risks and heart disease risks, all while offering beneficial fiber.
So if you’re looking for a nutrient-packed superfood without the added fat, try out some pinto bean recipes today.
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