Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you — well, we won't go into that. But let's talk about the magical part, because they sure are: These little powerhouses are packed with protein and other nutrients that are key to weight loss and an overall healthy diet.
Most beans are going to give you 7 to 8 grams of protein per half-cup serving, the same as you would get in 1 ounce of lean ground beef, according to the USDA.
That's not the final word on the nutrition in beans, though. Check this out:
- Fiber: A serving of beans provides 7 to 9 grams of fiber. That's a hefty amount, especially if you're working toward getting the recommended daily amount of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (Psst: Fiber is super important for weight loss and maintenance.)
- Iron: Iron is a nutrient some people have a hard time fitting into their diet. Beans are an overall good source, although content varies: Chickpeas and kidney beans have about 2 milligrams of iron per serving, for example, while white beans have 4 milligrams. The recommended daily allowance for iron is 8 milligrams for adult men and 18 for pre-menopausal adult women, according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Other nutrients: Beans have B vitamins, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. According to October 2015 research published in Clinical Diabetes, beans are also cholesterol-free (because they're a plant food) and naturally low in fat.
Have we convinced you of beans' MVP status yet?
Fortunately, their versatility lends them to all sorts of dishes, from soups to casseroles, so you can plan a protein-packed, plant-based meal for just about every day of the week. Here are 10 low-calorie bean recipes with 10 or more grams of protein.
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1. Spicy Bean Chili
- Calories: 270
- Protein: 17 grams
Vegetarian chili is hearty, filling and packed with nutrition. One of the best things about vegetarian chili is the ability to change it up to how you like it.
This recipe calls for all kidney beans, but you could easily switch those out to any bean you like, such as pinto beans, black beans or a combo of all. You can also vary the spice level of this if you're cooking for the kiddos.
This chili can be made with pantry staples and long-lasting vegetables like onions, garlic and peppers.
The fiber in this recipe is astounding at 17 grams. Only 5 percent of Americans are getting the daily recommended amount of fiber, according to a January 2017 article in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. You will be well on your way to getting your daily amount with this chili.
Get the Spicy Bean Chili recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Avocado & Black Bean Burritos
- Calories: 291
- Protein: 13 grams
When your meal only takes five minutes to make, there are no barriers to healthy eating. Canned beans makes this a snap to prep, and the avocado adds creaminess and healthy monounsaturated fats.
Choose low-sodium black beans and rinse to remove any excess sodium. The American Heart Association recommends that you should keep your daily sodium to under 2,300 milligrams, and less than that if you already have high blood pressure.
If you really want to jazz up your burrito, add other ingredients you might have in your pantry, fridge or freezer, such as jarred salsa, thawed frozen corn, hot sauce, sour cream or cheddar cheese.
Get the Avocado & Black Bean Burritos recipe and nutrition info here.
3. White Bean and Walnut Vegetable Soup
- Calories: 436
- Protein: 19 grams
This soup recipe is for one, so if you're cooking for a crowd, you need to put those math skills to work. Don't worry, though — soup is very forgiving, so you can't really mess this one up.
Not only will you probably use up all the root vegetables you have in the fridge, but you'll also save time by using canned beans.
One thing's for sure: You aren't missing any protein in this soup by keeping it plant-based. Adding walnuts adds protein along with omega-3 fatty acids. The type of omega-3 fatty acid in walnuts is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). You will get more ALA in one ounce of English walnuts than you will in one tablespoon of flaxseeds, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Get the White Bean and Walnut Vegetable Soup recipe and nutrition info here.
4. California White Bean Burger Salad
- Calories: 427
- Protein: 17 grams
You don't need meat to have a good burger packed with protein. In fact, this plant-based burger is just shy of the 22 grams of protein you would get in a beef burger — not too shabby.
White beans mash well and are perfect for plant-based burgers, but if you don't have white beans in the pantry, black beans work well too.
This recipe lends itself to variations and substitutions you already have on hand. Fresh cilantro can be substituted for dried in a ratio of three to one, so for the 3 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, you would use 1 tablespoon of dried.
You could also sub out the mushrooms for corn, or add a quarter cup of cooked quinoa for more protein.
Get the California White Bean Burger Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Vegan Cajun Red Beans and Quinoa
- Calories: 361
- Protein: 14 grams
This dish comes straight out of your pantry and adds a few long-lasting veggies.
Quinoa is a complete protein and helps increase the amount of total protein when combined with the kidney beans. Your kidney beans are going to give you 2 milligrams of iron, and the vitamin C in the bell peppers and tomatoes are going to help your body absorb it better, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
If you find yourself without quinoa, you can swap it for brown rice. You can also use canned tomatoes in place of fresh. Don't feel limited on making this delicious recipe by not having the exact ingredients on hand.
Pair this dish with either a green salad or seasonal fresh fruit for a delicious and healthy plant-based meal that will fill you up.
Get the Cajun Red Beans and Quinoa recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Vegan Couscous Verde Bowl with Black Beans and Corn
- Calories: 311
- Protein: 13 grams
A pantry meal in less than 20 minutes? Believe it.
The recipe calls for fresh corn, but that's hard to come by unless it's in season, so canned corn works well here too. Add some canned black beans, jarred salsa verde and couscous, and you've just made yourself a Tex-Mex meal your family will love.
If you have the fresh vegetables, you can jazz this up with even more nutrition with chopped tomatoes, avocado, onions and radishes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that only one in 10 adults are getting enough fruits and vegetables every day. Canned, frozen and fresh vegetables all count toward getting enough in your diet.
Get the Couscous Verde Bowl with Black Beans and Corn recipe and nutrition info here.
7. Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili
- Calories: 172
- Protein: 16 grams
A slow-cooked chili may be just what you need right now. This vegetarian chili takes a little time to get the squash cooked, but it will be well worth the wait.
You probably have all of the ingredients on hand right now, and if you don't have fresh butternut squash, you can slash the prep time and use frozen.
When you can get 16 grams of protein and 17 grams of fiber for only 172 calories, you get to have seconds.
Be mindful, though: If you're not used to having that much fiber in one sitting, ease into it. Increase your fiber slowly to avoid gas, bloating and cramping, per Harvard Health Publishing. However, once you start eating the recommended amount every day, you'll be good to go and won't experience any side effects.
Get the Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili recipe and nutrition info here.
8. White Bean and Mushroom Pizza
- Calories: 392
- Protein: 18 grams
You probably didn't think pizza was in the cards when it comes to meals rich in protein and fiber that clock in under 500 calories, but this one is right on target.
Using pita rounds is a convenient and time-saving tip to get your pizzas done without having to make a crust. You can also sub out the fresh tomatoes for canned and use frozen spinach instead of fresh if that's all you have.
A bonus here is the mushrooms, which are a great source of immune-supportive vitamin D. According to January 2015 research in the International Journal of Microbiology, mushrooms are the only natural plant-based source of vitamin D (other plant-based sources are fortified).
Get the White Bean and Mushroom Pizza recipe and nutrition info here.
9. Tuna and White Bean Salad
- Calories: 284
- Protein: 33 grams
This one-bowl meal will lead you straight to the Mediterranean.
Cannellini beans are one of the creamiest canned beans you can find and go perfectly with seafood. So if you have a tuna packet or can in your pantry, pairing it with cannellini beans is a smart choice.
There are 33 grams of protein in this dish and 9 grams of fiber from the beans and veggies.
If you are watching your salt intake, the sodium is a little high, so it's probably okay to cut out the extra addition of salt and use the saltiness from the tuna, beans and capers.
Get the Tuna and White Bean Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
10. Fiesta Mexican Bean and Organic Corn Casserole
- Calories: 379
- Protein: 19 grams
If casseroles seem a little too far out of your wheelhouse, give this one a try. It's a make-ahead and freezer-ready meal that only needs reheating in the microwave.
On board? Using canned kidney beans with the eggs takes the protein factor up higher.
Dark red kidney beans hold up well to freezing and, according to a November 2017 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, dark red kidney beans contain quercetin. Quercetin is a polyphenol present in many plant foods and it may help reduce inflammation, according to March 2016 research published in Nutrients.
Get the Fiesta Mexican Bean and Organic Corn Casserole recipe and nutrition info here.
Concerned About COVID-19?
Read more stories to help you navigate the novel coronavirus pandemic:
- National Institutes of Health: "Iron"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Fiber"
- American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine: "Closing America’s Fiber Intake Gap"
- American Heart Association: "How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day?"
- National Institutes of Health: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids"
- USDA: "Ground Beef, Cooked"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Iron"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "How to Get More Fiber In Your Diet"
- International Journal of Microbiology: "Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life"
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Polyphenol-Rich Dry Common Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) and Their Health Benefits"
- Nutrients: "Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity"
- Clinical Diabetes: "Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake"