What’s the first thing you think about when you hear the word “superfood”? Blueberries? Kale? Quinoa? These are indeed superfoods, but what about the humble bean — are beans superfoods? They may not have as flashy of a color or name, but they are nutritional powerhouses that can make meals tasty and filling, as well as affordable. To explore reasons why beans may be the most super of superfoods, nutrient contents of beans, and ideas for including beans in your diet, read on.
Note: This post was updated June 29, 2021. Legumes, i.e, beans, peas, and lentils, are discussed. Scout is not affiliated with or endorsed by the USDA, nor does the agency approve of this blog or its content.
Why Beans Are Superfoods
If you want a bang for your buck, beans are the way to go! In general, they are:
- cheap and taste the same all year round — regardless of the season
- widely available in canned, dried, or frozen forms; shelf-stable when canned or dried (they don’t wilt or spoil)
- excellent for increasing the volume of meals without increasing the calories by much
- free of cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fats, which are linked to heart disease
- excellent sources of fiber, which makes us feel full, promotes regular bowel movement or stool elimination, can lower cholesterol, and may act as prebiotics
- sources of plant chemicals, such as flavonoids, which may act as antioxidants1
- good sources of carbohydrate, protein, and a steady supply of energy
- counted as either protein2 or vegetable3 in healthy meal planning, using the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- good sources of magnesium and phosphorus, which have key roles in energy production
- good sources of iron and folate, which are needed for red blood cell and neural tube formation
The reasons why beans are superfoods go beyond nutrition! Can you think of any other food that offers these benefits in one package?
Nutrient Contents of Beans, Peas, and Lentils
As mentioned, beans are thrifty, convenient, and nutritious foods. Below are more details on protein, carbohydrate, vitamin, and mineral contents of select legumes based on ½ cup canned or cooked beans, peas, or lentils without fat4. The percentages of the daily values5 met are in parentheses. Ten percent or more means the food is a good source of that nutrient, while 20% or more means the food is an excellent source of that nutrient. Did you notice that legumes provide one-fifth to one-third of the daily value for fiber in only ½ cup canned or cooked?
Ideas for Including Beans in Your Diet
Beans in a Side Dish
- brown sugar or maple baked beans at breakfast
- whole beans with poached huevos rancheros
- black-eyed peas, Cuban-Style black beans, or red beans and rice
- bean, pea, or lentil soup
- lima bean succotash
Beans in an Entree
- bean burger
- bean burrito or chili
- black beans in a Tex-Mex salad or chickpeas in a Greek salad
- edamame in an Asian salad or stir-fry
- whole bean baked nachos
Beans in a Snack
- boiled or steamed edamame
- chickpea or white bean hummus with veggie strips
- roasted spiced beans, peas, or lentils
Beans in a Dessert (Just for Fun)
- black bean brownies
- halo-halo (a Filipino parfait)
- red bean ice cream
Healthy Meal Planning & Preparation with Beans
For a healthy 2000-calorie dietary pattern, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 5½ ounces of protein and 2½ cups of vegetables per day6. For more individualized guidelines based on age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level, you can use the USDA MyPlate Plan tool. However, this should not replace advice given by your medical care providers, who know you and your body best.
- Using the guidelines, count ¼ cup cooked beans as a one-ounce serving of protein2 or 1 cup cooked beans as a one-cup serving of vegetable3.
- Decrease meat portions to recommended sizes and add beans.
- Empty canned beans into a strainer and rinse with water to lower sodium content.
- Pick through and rinse dried beans before cooking.
- Consider soaking and sprouting beans, controlling and spreading out portions, chewing well, and drinking enough water to help minimize gas and bloating.
Do you like beans? Which ones are your favorite? How do you like them prepared? Comment and spread the word that beans are superfoods by sharing this post below.
Scout is not affiliated with or endorsed by these institutions or organizations, nor do they approve this blog or its content.
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. (Updated 2019, September). Legumes. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/legumes.
- “Protein.” U.S. Department of Agriculture My Plate, Accessed 29 June 2021, https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/protein-foods
- “Vegetables.” U.S. Department of Agriculture My Plate, Accessed 29 June 2021, https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/vegetables
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019. fdc.nal.usda.gov.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020, May 5). Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels. https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/daily-value-new-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels
- “Your MyPlate Plan: 2000 Calories, Age 14+.” U.S. Department of Agriculture My Plate, Accessed 29 June 2021, https://www.myplate.gov/myplate-plan/results/2000-calories-ages-14-plus