Is It Healthy to Eat Beans and Rice All the Time?

Spicy Beef Tortilla
Red beans and rice in a wrap with lettuce and tomato. (Image: Brett Mulcahy/iStock/Getty Images)

Beans and rice, also called arroz con habichuelas or arroz con frijoles in Spanish, are staple foods in many countries, including the United States. A combination of cost-effectiveness, nutritional value, availability and taste makes these two items a popular meal at any time of the day. Eating beans and rice as part of a balanced diet that includes dairy, vegetables, fruit and other protein and grain sources yields many health benefits.

Protein

Rice and beans both contain dietary protein, which is important for health. Although the word protein may conjure up an image of huge muscles, protein is needed for more than just building muscle mass. Protein makes up every cell, tissue and organ in your body, so to keep them healthy and strong, you must have an adequate intake of protein daily. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans get more protein than they need, since it is contained in many foods. Beans and rice eaten together provide adequate protein and amino acids.

Carbohydrates

Rice is considered a carbohydrate. White rice is a simple carbohydrate, because it breaks down fast in the body and increases blood insulin levels. Brown rice, on the other hand, is considered a complex carbohydrate, which takes longer to break down in the body, causing insulin to rise slowly. Carbohydrates provide energy in the body, and, according to MedlinePlus, the majority of this energy goes to the brain and nervous system. Diabetics or people with insulin problems should choose wild rice or brown rice over white rice to control blood insulin levels.

Dietary Fiber

Beans contain a form of dietary fiber called soluble fiber. Soluble fiber lowers low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, which, if left unchanged, could lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. A diet high in dietary fiber can help reduce inflammation and blood pressure, which helps to protect the heart. Soluble fiber also slows the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, which helps to improve blood sugar levels in diabetics.

B-complex Vitamins

Beans and rice both contain B-complex vitamins. B-complex vitamins include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid and cobalamin. These vitamins work together to regulate chemical reactions in the body, convert food to energy, maintain the nervous system and hormones and support overall growth and development. Eating beans and rice together should give you a variety of B vitamins, although you should choose whole-grain rice to get the highest concentration of B vitamins.

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