The Benefits of Beans

The benefits and uses of a global staple food.

What’s not to love about humble beans? They’re versatile, easy to prepare, nutritious, and inexpensive.

Also known as legumes, beans are one of the most ancient and nutritious foods in the world.

Whether in soups, pates, or main dishes, legumes are a versatile and important part of any diet.

Nutritional Benefits of Beans

  • Soluble Fiber

    Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein and one of the best sources of soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower cholesterol and help reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

  • A Multitude of Vitamins and Minerals

    They contain B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and zinc.

    The combination of these nutrients—as well as the fiber in beans—may help decrease the risk of heart disease and various cancers.

  • High in Flavinoids

    Beans are also an excellent source of flavonoids, which can help protect against cancer and heart disease. Of the bean family, black beans contain the highest amount.

Eating Beans The Right Way

  • For Better Digestion

    Beans are a great complement to many foods like rice and vegetables—dark green, leafy veggies in particular.

    The reason for this is that greens are alkaline, helping to neutralize the beans’ acidity and making them more digestible.

  • Canned Beans Are Okay!

    Don’t shy away from beans because of their long soaking and cooking times:

    When pressed for time, reach for convenient and easy-to-prepare canned varieties. These come precooked and ready-to-serve.

    Just be sure to rinse them well before using: this not only brightens their flavor but also reduces sodium content.

Kinds of Beans and How to Use Them

  • Adzuki Beans

    • Nutritional Benefits

      Adzuki beans are a rich source of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, folate, and fiber.

    • Cooking Tips

      They are well-loved in Japanese cooking.

      When these beans are prepared with rice, the rice takes on a beautiful reddish-purple hue.

      You can cook them in a Crock-Pot or pressure cooker.

  • Black Beans

    • Nutritional Benefits

      High in folate, black beans rank at the top among legumes for antioxidants and fiber.

      They're often easier to digest than other varieties of legume.

    • Cooking Tips

      These beans complement the flavors of other beans and can be used in salads, soups, chilies, salsas, burritos, and dips like hummus.

      They complement many flavors, and go well with rice.

  • Black-Eyed Peas

    • Nutritional Benefits

      These legumes provide calcium, folate, and vitamin A and are also rich in protein and fiber.

    • Cooking Tips

      These soft, creamy peas can be pureed into spreads for sandwiches or served with rice.

      They're absolutely soulful when cooking with collard greens for a traditional Southern dish.

  • Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)

    • Nutritional Benefits

      Chickpeas are an excellent source of fiber and a good source of folate and magnesium.

    • Cooking Tips

      With a mild flavor, chickpeas are ideal in stews, dips, and spreads, like hummus.

  • Fava Beans

    • Nutritional Benefits

      Fava beans are an excellent source of folate and also supply zinc and thiamine.

    • Cooking Tips

      Used extensively in Mediterranean cooking, fava beans have a rich flavor similar to split peas with a soft, potato-like texture.

  • Kidney Beans

    • Nutritional Benefits

      Kidney beans are rich in fiber, folate, and iron.

    • Cooking Tips

      Hearty and full-flavored, kidney beans are ideal in chilies, stews, soups, salads, and casseroles.

      They're readily available canned or dried.

  • Lentils

    • Nutritional Benefits

      Lentils are high in minerals, especially potassium, folic acid, and iron.

    • Cooking Tips

      Lentils cook up rich and creamy with a peppery taste. They’re ideal for soups, dips, spreads, and as a meat substitute.

      Enjoy them in lentil burgers and lentil loaf.

      They are available whole or split.

  • Pinto Beans

    Pale pink in color and streaked with reddish-brown: their name is Spanish for "painted."

    • Nutritional Benefits

      Pinto beans are rich in protein, dietary fiber, and folate, as well as other vitamins and minerals.

    • Cooking Tips

      Featured in chilis, burritos, soups, and salsas, pinto beans complement many flavors and goes well with rice.

      They're also used for refried beans, and form the basis of several brown traditional sauces.

      They may be available dried.

  • White Beans

    Varieties include:

    • pea beans
    • cannellini beans
    • great northern beans
    • lima beans (and baby lima)
    • navy beans
    • white kidney beans
    • Nutritional Benefits

      These provide virtually fat-free, high-quality protein plus fiber, vitamin B1, iron, phosphorus, and magnesium.

    • Cooking Tips

      Pea sized and cream colored; meaty texture with buttery flavor, they are perfect for soups, stews, and creamy dips.

Click to See Our Sources

“Health benefits of plant-based nutrition: Focus on beans in cardiometabolic diseases” by A.P. Mullins and B.H. Arjmandi, Nutrients, 2/21

“Why beans are good for your health,”, 8/30/21


The Taste for Life Staff

The Taste for Life staff come from a wide variety of backgrounds and specialties. We believe learning is a life-long process, and love to share the knowledge we gain.