Is Eating Rice and Beans Healthy?

Rice and beans are a healthy addition to your diet when eaten in moderation.
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A homecooked meal of rice and beans is not only satisfying to your tastebuds — it can be a healthy addition to your diet. A plate of beans and rice will give you important nutrients like carbs, protein and fiber.

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Many have asked if eating beans and rice is healthy, and the answer, as it is with most foods, depends on how much of it you eat, and how often.

It's important to eat a well-rounded diet filled with different types of foods, but rice and beans have been a staple in cultures around the world for many years, and this popular combination can help you meet your daily needs for vegetables and grains.

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A plate of homecooked rice and beans can absolutely be part of a nutritious diet. In just a half cup of black beans alone, for example, you'll get 8 grams of protein and fiber, according to the USDA.

The combination of rice and beans gives you even more protein and fiber, as well as other important vitamins and minerals, like folate.

Although it probably won't harm you to eat rice and beans every day, it's best to include a variety of nutritious foods in your diet for complete nutrition.

Nutrition in Rice and Beans

There are so many different variations of rice and beans out there. Some have Creole-inspired flavors of the American South, while others traditionally hail from Latin American countries.

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No matter which one you prefer, you can be sure you're getting some serious nutrition from rice and beans.

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Whether you eat your beans with white rice or brown rice, you'll get about the same amount of calories, carbs, fat and protein, per the USDA. Eating brown rice with beans may give you a bit more fiber.

Black Beans and Rice

Black beans and white rice is a staple dish in cuisines around the world, including Cuba and Mexico. Depending on how it's prepared, the dish can be higher or lower in sodium and fat.

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According to the USDA, a 1-cup serving of black beans and white rice will give you:

  • Calories​:​ 272
  • ​Total fat​:​ 7 g
    • ​​Saturated fat​:​ 1 g
    • ​Trans fat​:​ 0 g
  • ​Cholesterol​:​ 0 mg
  • ​Sodium​:​ 388 mg
  • ​​Total carbs​:​ 42 g
    • ​Dietary fiber​:​ 8.5 g
    • ​Sugar​:​ 0 g
  • ​Protein​:​ 10 g

Serving up a cup of black beans and rice gives you just under 300 calories, 7 grams of fat, 42 grams of carbs, an impressive 8.5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of satiating protein.

Both rice and black beans offer high amounts of protein, while the black beans account for the fiber in this dish.

Black beans and rice offer other important nutrients, too. Specifically, you'll get a dose of minerals like copper, manganese, magnesium and iron. You'll also get a significant amount of B vitamins, which are high in both white rice and beans.

The exact amount nutrients will, of course, depend on how the rice and beans are prepared.

Black Beans and Brown Rice

Some people prefer eating brown rice over white rice, which provides more fiber because it's a whole grain. According to the USDA, a 1-cup serving of black beans and brown rice gives you:

  • Calories​:​ 267
  • ​Total fat​:​ 8 g
    • ​​Saturated fat​:​ 1 g
    • ​Trans fat​:​ 0 g
  • ​Cholesterol​:​ 0 mg
  • ​Sodium​:​ 359 mg
  • ​​Total carbs​:​ 39.8 g
    • ​Dietary fiber​:​ 9.3 g
    • ​Sugar​:​ 0.5 g
  • ​Protein​:​ 10.3 g

The nutritional value of brown rice and black beans isn't so different from the version with white rice. A 1-cup serving also rings in at just under 300 calories, 8 grams of fat, 42 grams of carbs, an impressive 8.5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of satiating protein.

Again, you'll get protein from both the brown rice and beans in this dish. Brown rice offers slightly more fiber than white rice, but most of the fiber still comes from the black beans.

Black beans and rice offer other important nutrients, too. Specifically, you'll get a dose of minerals like copper, manganese, magnesium and iron. Rice and beans also both contain B vitamins, which work together to help your metabolism function properly, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This dish is particularly high in folate (vitamin B9), which your body uses to form red blood cells and to grow and develop new cells, per the Mayo Clinic.

Pinto Beans and Rice

Pinto beans are a popular staple in Mexican cuisine, and they're often served as a dish with white rice. In Spanish, they're called "frijoles pintos," which translates to "painted beans."

According to the USDA, a 1-cup serving of pinto beans and rice has:

  • Calories​:​ 282
  • ​Total fat​:​ 7 g
    • ​​Saturated fat​:​ 1 g
    • ​Trans fat​:​ 0 g
  • ​Cholesterol​:​ 0 mg
  • ​Sodium​:​ 388 mg
  • ​​Total carbs​:​ 43 g
    • ​Dietary fiber​:​ 9 g
    • ​Sugar​:​ 0 g
  • ​Protein​:​ 10 g

Similar to black beans and rice, a 1-cup serving of pinto beans and rice comes in at 282 calories, 7 grams of fat, 43 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein. This dish is high in fiber too, giving you 9 grams per serving.

And thanks to both the rice and beans, you'll get high amounts of minerals like copper and manganese, as well as B vitamins like folate, per the USDA.

Benefits of Rice and Beans

Depending on the type of beans in your beans and rice, you'll get different nutrients. In general, though, beans give you a good amount of fiber and protein. There are some other advantages, too.

Protein

One of the benefits of eating beans and rice together is that they contain all of the essential amino acids and make a complete protein. Individually, beans and rice are low in certain types of essential amino acids, but together, each offers what the other lacks, per the American Heart Association.

Beans are a source of plant-based protein that isn't high in saturated fats, as some animal proteins are. This may have benefits for people trying to reduce their cholesterol, or those actively managing heart disease, per the American Heart Association.

Fiber

Brown rice, as a whole grain, and beans, regardless of type, are high in dietary fiber. Fiber helps regulate how your body uses sugar, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

You need between 25 and 38 grams of fiber a day, but most people are only getting around 15. Eating a serving of rice and beans can help you meet your daily requirements.

More Veggies and Grains

In addition to protein, beans and rice can also help you eat more grains and vegetables. Beans are unique in this sense, as they count as a member of the protein group and the vegetable foods group, per the USDA.

A diet rich in whole grains like brown rice has been linked to a lower risk of conditions like obesity, heart disease and diabetes, per June 2016 research in the ​British Medical Journal​.

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