Are Beans Superfoods? You Bet Your Bean They Are.

Red beans and yellow peas arranged in a superman configuration

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

Red beans arranged in a heart configuration

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?

Table of nutrient contents of various beans
Notes: The daily values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. Prices vary.

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.

References

Scout is not affiliated with or endorsed by these institutions or organizations, nor do they approve this blog or its content.

  1. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. (Updated 2019, September). Legumes. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/legumes.
  2. “Protein.” U.S. Department of Agriculture My Plate, Accessed 29 June 2021, https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/protein-foods
  3. “Vegetables.” U.S. Department of Agriculture My Plate, Accessed 29 June 2021, https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/vegetables
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019. fdc.nal.usda.gov.
  5. 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
  6. “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

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14 thoughts on “Are Beans Superfoods? You Bet Your Bean They Are.

  1. Love this. I don’t eat meat so I’m always needing additional protein source ideas. Thanks for the reminder to add more beans and lentils to my life. We do black bean burritos and a yummy lentil/garlic dip a lot in our house 🙂

  2. I’m vegan as well, so trying to add beans as much as I can. However something it makes me hurt my stomach a little 🙁

  3. Hi, Natascha! I’m flexitarian. Soaking dry beans before cooking them, using canned ones to eat as is, and controlling portions helps me. Thank you for commenting 🙂

  4. Love this! We love to cook with beans. Never thought about putting them in dessert though. I’ll have to look up halo-halo since we are part Filipino.

  5. Thanks, Evie! I hope you enjoy trying halo-halo. Personally, I like the traditional kind without all the fluff – just halo-halo mix, shaved ice, and evaporated milk 🙂

  6. Sarah, thanks! I can relate to this with the little ones in our family. Mashed or refried beans without lard seem to go over well 🙂

  7. I love beans. I even eat them with rice; which I’m pretty sure my family doesn’t get.

    A good lentil or pea stew makes my heart smile; especially in winter.

    Great post. We should all eat more beans!

  8. Thank you, Weird & Liberated! Beans & rice are a great combination – you get a good mix of amino acids by pairing the two. I agree – lentil or pea stew makes for a cozy meal 🙂

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