If you're looking to boost your intake of plant foods, consider the benefits of black beans, which are an excellent source of vital nutrients. A serving of black beans provides everything from low-fat protein to slow-digesting carbs to high amounts of minerals and B vitamins. Regular consumption of black beans and similar legumes may even help prevent or manage conditions such as type 2 diabetes and support the health of your digestive system. Use a calorie counter app to find out more about the nutritional value of black beans.
Calories in Black Beans
The recommended serving of cooked black beans equals 1/2 cup. When you're eating in a restaurant or helping yourself to the offerings at a salad bar, you can't measure this amount exactly. Visualize 1/2 cup as the size of a standard computer mouse. In that serving, you'll get 114 calories, or about 6 percent of the daily value if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet. According to MyPlate, the calorie count for black beans is roughly comparable to that of other legumes, such as pinto beans and kidney beans.
Remember that these calories are for plain cooked beans. If you top your beans with cheese, salsa or sour cream, you will boost the calories — and often the fat content — significantly.
Protein in Black Beans
Your body needs the macronutrient protein to build bones, muscles, blood and tissues. The daily value for protein intake is 50 grams, but you may need more or less — depending on your age, gender and level of physical activity. Most Americans consume adequate protein, according to the FDA. You'll get 8 grams of protein in a serving of black beans, or 15 percent of the recommended daily value, or DV.
While 8 grams of protein may not sound like much compared to the double-digit count in a serving of meat, black beans provide low-fat protein with none of the saturated fat associated with animal proteins. Too much saturated fat in your diet may elevate your blood cholesterol levels, putting you at risk for heart disease, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov.
When you replace animal proteins with plant-based sources of protein — even just a few times a week — you may cut your risk of serious illness.
Carbs in Black Beans
Your body needs carbohydrates, another macronutrient, to fuel its many processes. As a plant food, black beans are a good source of this nutrient. A serving supplies 20 grams of carbs, or 7 percent of what the average person needs.
Carbs have gotten a bad rap, though, for spiking blood sugar levels and prompting weight gain, but the type of carbs you choose is what's important. The carbs in black beans are the beneficial, slow-digesting ones that won't spike your blood sugar levels and will stay with you to promote satiety.
Benefits of Fiber in Black Beans
Fiber comprises more than a third of the carbs in black beans, which accounts for why they're so beneficial. A 1/2 cup serving gives you 8 grams of fiber, or 30 percent of the daily value. On a low-carb diet, you would subtract the 8 grams of fiber from the 20 grams of carbs in black beans to arrive at the "net carbs" of 12 grams.
Only found in plant foods, fiber is an indigestible carb with numerous advantages. Not only does fiber slow down digestion, but it also helps clean your colon, and keeps your digestive system running smoothly to help prevent constipation. The fiber and protein in black beans are a dynamic duo that can help you lose or manage weight by keeping you feeling full.
While the indigestible fiber in black beans is keeping you regular, it also contributes to the prevention and management of chronic diseases of the digestive system. An animal study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry in 2018 found that black bean supplementation supported gut health by improving the strength of the epithelial barrier, tissues in the gut that may become inflamed and damaged. This boost in gut health can help inhibit symptoms of colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.
Black Beans for Long-Term Health
The fiber in black beans may also prove beneficial to individuals experiencing chronic health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. That's a group of conditions — high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, high blood sugar and excess belly fat — that put you at greater risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
A study published in Nutrients in 2015 found that adding black beans to a regular Western diet improved post-meal blood sugar levels in participants. The researchers attributed the result to the high-fiber content of black beans. They concluded that the regular consumption of black beans with meals could help ward off the onset of heart disease and diabetes in people with markers of metabolic syndrome.
Minerals in Black Beans
Black beans also supply good amounts of minerals and vitamins, or micronutrients. Among the most noteworthy minerals in 1/2 cup of black beans are magnesium, iron, copper and manganese.
A serving of black beans supplies 15 percent of the DV for magnesium, a macromineral important for contracting muscles and building strong bones.
You may associate iron, a trace mineral, with organ meats, mollusks and spinach, but black beans are also a good source, providing 10 percent of the daily value in 1/2 cup. Your body uses iron to carry oxygen throughout the bloodstream, and a deficiency can bring on excessive fatigue.
Black beans supply excellent amounts of two other trace minerals, with 17 percent of the DV for manganese and 20 percent for copper. Manganese and copper both make up many of the body's enzymes, and your body requires copper to metabolize iron.
Black Beans and B Vitamins
Black beans provide a mix of the B vitamins as well, most notably thiamine, or B-1, and folate, or B-9. The body can't store these water-soluble vitamins, so you have to get a regular supply through your dietary choices. The B vitamins work in tandem to perform a variety of functions in the body.
A serving of black beans gives you 18 percent of the daily value for thiamine. This nutrient helps the body metabolize food into energy and also supports nerve health.
You'll also get a whopping 32 percent of your daily requirement for folate in 1/2 cup of black beans. This vitamin helps produce red blood cells and is vital in the growth of the nervous systems of fetuses. Getting sufficient folate can help prevent infant birth defects like spina bifida.
An article published in the journal Nutrients in 2016 outlined the vital role all the B vitamins, including both thiamine and folate, play in brain health. According to the author, a deficiency in folate has links to psychiatric symptoms.
Folate may also prove beneficial in preventing heart disease and stroke. According to a meta-analysis of 30 clinical trials, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2016, folate supplementation reduced risk of stroke by 10 percent and risk of overall cardiovascular disease by 4 percent among participants. The vitamin plays a role in lowering serum levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is a risk factor for heart disease.
How to Prepare Black Beans
You may have steered away from black beans and other legumes because of their notoriety for causing gas and other uncomfortable digestive side effects. The hard-to-digest starches in hard legumes like black beans can bring on significant distress.
If you're using canned beans, make sure you rinse them thoroughly before eating. With dried beans, soaking them before cooking helps neutralize the starches so that your body can more easily digest them. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests you rinse the dried beans well. Then place them in a pot with 3 inches of water above them; cover and soak them for six hours or more. Before cooking, dispose of the soaking water and rinse the beans again.
Occasionally, you may still experience intestinal discomfort from eating beans. The Harvard Health Letter advises that over-the-counter supplements containing alpha-galactosidase, an enzyme that helps break down the carbohydrates in beans, may alleviate gas and bloating.
Whenever you increase your fiber intake, you should boost your water consumption too. Fiber absorbs water, which in turn helps move it through your system. This can help prevent gas, cramps and other side effects of eating foods like beans that are naturally high in fiber.
Get Creative With Black Beans
Black beans are a versatile and healthy addition to your meal plans, especially if you like the crisp flavors of Southwestern foods. You don't need to use high-fat toppings like cheddar cheese and sour cream to produce delicious dishes, however.
Cold or room-temperature black bean salads make a nutritious lunch, side dish or light dinner. Mix black beans with chopped scallions, jicama, tomatoes, red or orange peppers, corn, chili powder, fresh cilantro and a splash of oil and vinegar for a colorful salad.
Black bean soup is a hearty dish for chilly evenings. Sauté garlic and red onion, and stir in vegetable broth, canned tomatoes, black beans, oregano, cilantro and chili powder; when cool, puree until smooth with a handheld mixer. Top with a dollop of plain yogurt, and serve with a leafy green salad and a slice of cornbread for a satisfying meal.
You can make veggie burgers with black beans too. Chop the beans in a food processor, then put them in a bowl. Add chopped red onion, garlic, bell peppers, jalapeno, oregano, chili powder and an egg and cornmeal to hold the mixture together. Form into patties and bake, and then top with fresh avocado slices and salsa.
You may be accustomed to using pinto beans in burritos, but black beans work just as well. Smash the cooked beans, and sauté with red onion, garlic, bell peppers, chopped tomatoes, oregano and a dash of cayenne. Mix in a tablespoon or two of grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese. Fold the mixture into whole-wheat tortillas, roll up and bake. Serve with the tomato salsa of your choice.
- Veterans Affairs Weight Management Program: Serving Sizes
- MyFoodData.com: Pinto Beans, Kidney Beans, Black Beans
- FDA.gov: Protein
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Why Is It Important to Make Lean or Low-fat Choices from the Protein Foods Group?
- Cleveland Clinic: Good Carb, Bad Carb
- Atkins: What Are Net Carbs and How to Calculate Them
- University of California, San Francisco: Why Fiber Is So Good for You
- The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry: Navy and Black Bean Supplementation Attenuates Colitis-associated Inflammation and Colonic Epithelial Damage
- Nutrients: Blacks Beans, Fiber, and Anti-oxidant Capacity Pilot Study
- University of Michigan Medicine: Minerals
- Better Health Channel: B Vitamins
- Nutrients: B Vitamins and the Brain
- JAHA: Folic Acid Supplementation and the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases
- Dr. Weil: Cooking with Beans and Legumes
- Harvard Health Letter: Gut Reaction