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We aren’t lying when we say that beans are a magical fruit.
In fact, we would go so far as to say that black beans are the philosopher’s stone of legumes—able to turn any average dish into a delicious, fibrous, and protein-packed meal.
There’s a reason why black beans are a staple food in many cultures, particularly in Central and South America.
Besides burritos and tacos, you can easily add them to soups, stews, salads, and dips and eat them as a side.
But are black beans actually healthy for you? When cooked properly, yes! They can have numerous health benefits.
Black beans are full of protein, dietary fiber, essential micronutrients, and antioxidants and may improve insulin sensitivity, hypertension, the gut microbiome, inflammation, and more.
5 Health Benefits of Black Beans
Black beans have been the focus of many studies looking into their possible health benefits for digestion, metabolism, heart health, and more.The results are pretty clear—thanks to black beans’ great macro and micronutrient content and low glycemic index, they are among the many foods that can supercharge our diets.
Great Addition to a High-Protein Diet
A high-protein diet alongside regular exercise is great for increasing muscle mass and your performance in the gym.
But it can be hard to keep meals interesting and palatable, week after week.
Changing it up by adding more plant-based protein to your diet might break up the dreadful monotony of chicken and rice.
Black beans contain about 7 grams of protein per serving (1/2 cup), along with 8.3 grams of fiber.
Black beans don’t contain all nine essential amino acids, so they aren’t a complete protein.
However, when combined with rice, which contains the other amino acids, we can completely utilize the protein found in black beans.
This makes black beans a great addition to a diet high in protein, especially if you’re looking to reduce your consumption of animal proteins.
This high dietary fiber and protein content also means that you will stay full long after you’ve eaten your meal, making it easier to stick to your calorie and macro goals.
Finally, foods high in complex carbohydrates, like black beans, also suppress our ghrelin levels, the “hunger hormone” that stimulates our appetite.
May Enhance Gut Health
As we just mentioned, black beans have a high fiber content—specifically soluble fiber—which is excellent for promoting healthy digestion, regular bowel movements, and maintaining a healthy weight.
However, black beans may play a crucial role in the health of our gut microbiome, too.
These beans are packed with dietary-resistant starch, which provides energy for healthy microbial growth in the gut.
And when we have a healthy and thriving gut microbiome, we can digest food more efficiently, our nervous system operates better, we have greater protection from harmful diseases, and our immune system is kept in check. Thriving gut bacteria also boost intestinal cells that produce short-chain fatty acids that may also play a role in preventing and even treating metabolic syndrome and bowel disorders.
Enhances Insulin Sensitivity
As a part of its positive effects on the gut microbiome, black beans are also shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which can lower blood sugar levels and even prevent insulin resistance that leads to diabetes.
This is due to the low glycemic index of black beans, which means that when they are consumed, they do not lead to a spike in blood glucose levels.
If you are constantly eating foods that drastically raise your blood glucose levels, over time, this can lead to insulin resistance and, ultimately, diabetes.
This study reports that when black beans are eaten in combination with rice—a high glycemic index food—the glycemic response is reduced. As a result, adding black beans to your diet is highly recommended to help manage and even prevent diabetes, especially if rice and other simple carbohydrates are a significant component of your diet.
High Antioxidant Content
Black beans contain a high level of polyphenols (umbrella term for beneficial plant-based compounds) with an excellent antioxidant potential that reportedly has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties.
Antioxidants are essential for us to consume since they reduce oxidative stress in our cells, which can lead to inflammation, chronic disease, poor brain health, and advanced aging.
And it’s not just black beans. Darker beans, in general, are rich in phytochemicals that have higher antioxidant capacity.
Could Improve Heart Health
The coolest thing about black beans is that they have the highest anthocyanin content of the 12 most common beans.
Anthocyanins are part of a larger group of powerful nutrients called flavonoids, primarily found in dark and colorful fruits and vegetables.
This is part of the reason why plant-based foods are so crucial for our health.
Anthocyanins can help improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering high blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation, which blocks and damages blood vessels.
Best Way to Prepare Black Beans
While black beans are rich in a ton of nutrients, how they are prepared impacts the levels of these nutrients and their bioavailability or bioaccessibility (our body’s ability to absorb them).
Unfortunately, any heat applied to black beans will reduce their amino acid and polyphenol content.
Of course, black beans cannot be consumed in their raw form, but some methods of preparation are better than others.
While dried black beans are cheaper, especially when purchased in bulk, studies show that when black beans are soaked and boiled—as they would typically be prepared at home—their metabolic components are reduced, along with a complete loss of amino acids.
On the other hand, high-pressure steaming—which is how canned black beans are prepared—actually increases the polyphenol content.
You can also achieve this effect by using an at-home pressure cooker! Cooking black beans in a pressure cooker might be a better alternative to eating canned beans since these can often be high in sodium.
This study also confirms that cooking black beans this way without discarding the soaking water resulted in the highest bioaccessibility levels compared to other at-home cooking methods.
There is some limited evidence that organic black beans have 20% more proteins, 10% less phytate (which can reduce absorption of nutrients), and 28% more phenolic compounds.
Lastly, since black beans are high in iron (containing about 10% of your DV per serving), pairing black beans with foods high in vitamin C can enhance iron absorption. So, yes, a burrito bowl with rice, chicken, black beans, and chunky salsa (tomatoes are high in vitamin C) can be a very healthy lunch! Or try this Southwestern Egg Hash for a yummy and nutritious breakfast with black beans.
Black Beans FAQs
Are black beans healthy for weight loss?
Black beans are packed with protein and dietary fiber. As a result, eating black beans can help keep you full long after you’ve eaten. This is essential for modulating your hunger cues and sticking to your daily calorie intake goals. Foods high in complex carbohydrates, like black beans, also reduce our ghrelin levels, the “hunger hormone” that stimulates our appetite.
What is the healthiest bean to eat?
Since most beans are high in fiber and plant protein, they are generally healthy. Each one has its specific health benefits. Black beans are particularly healthy due to their nutrient content, but chickpeas, navy beans, and kidney beans are also good choices.
Is it healthy to eat black beans every day?
The health benefits of black beans make them a great choice to add to a healthy diet. Their protein and fiber content can keep you full and satisfied longer than a simple carbohydrate such as rice. One cup of black beans has 218 calories, less than 1g of fat, 40g of carbohydrates, 16.6g of fiber, and 14.6g of protein.
Add black beans to salads, soups, and chili, make them as a side, or add them to burritos, tacos, etc.
Do black beans burn belly fat?
No foods can selectively burn fat from a part of your body. However, black beans are a filling food thanks to their protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrate content. This can lead to weight loss if consumed alongside a healthy diet that is mindful of caloric intake.
Are black beans a good source of protein?
Black beans are a great source of plant protein, but they are not a complete protein since they do not contain all nine essential amino acids. So, you need to eat them in combination with other foods that have those remaining amino acids to reap the protein benefits of black beans.