Health Benefits of Black beans

health-benefits-of-black-beans

Recent research has shown that black beans provide special support for digestive tract health, and particularly our colon. The indigestible fraction (IF) in black beans has recently been shown to be larger than the IF in either lentils or chickpeas. It has been shown to be the perfect mix of substances for allowing bacteria in the colon to produce butyric acid. Cells lining the inside of the colon can use this butyric acid to fuel their many activities and keep the lower digestive tract functioning properly. By delivering a greater amount of IF to the colon, black beans are able to help support this lower part of our digestive tract. Lowered colon cancer risk that is associated with black bean intake in some research studies may be related to the outstanding IF content of this legume.

  • The soaking of black beans in water has always found fairly widespread support in food science research as a way of improving overall black bean benefits. Yet, the discarding of the bean soaking water has been a topic of considerable controversy. A recent study that may help put this controversy to rest looked at many different advantages and disadvantages of tossing out the water used to soak beans. It found that the advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages. On the advantage side of things, getting rid of the soaking water also means getting rid of some of the phytates and tannins that can lower nutrient availability. It also means reducing flatulence-related substances like raffinose (up to 33% removed along with the soaking water) and stachyose (up to 20% removed). A final advantage was the retention of resistant starch. While some of the total carbohydrate content in the black beans was lost along with the discarding of the soaking water, the amount of resistant starch remained unchanged. (Resistant starch is a type of carb that will typically make its way all the way down to the large intestine without being digested. Once it arrives in the large intestine, it can help support the growth of desirable bacteria in that area of the digestive tract.) On the disadvantage side of things was that 15% of total phenols were lost, we actually don’t think that that is an amount that is of concern. There was a slight loss of some additional phytonutrients as well as minerals. When adding up all of their findings, the researchers concluded that the many advantages of discarding bean soaking water clearly outweighed the disadvantages and then made this recommendation a firm part of their research conclusions.

  • We tend to think about brightly colored fruits and vegetables as our best source of phytonutrients, but recent research has recognized black beans as a strong contender in phytonutrient benefits. The seed coat of the black bean (the outermost part that we recognize as the bean’s surface) is an outstanding source of three anthocyanin flavonoids: delphinidin, petunidin, and malvidin. These three anthocyanins are primarily responsible for the rich black color that we see on the bean surface. Kaempferol and quercetin are additional flavonoids provided by this legume. Also contained in black beans are hydroxycinnamic acids including ferulic, sinapic, and chlorogenic acid, as well as numerous triterpenoids.

  • In Brazil—a country that, along with India, grows more black beans than any country in the world— beans have been given an exclusive place on the Brazilian Food Pyramid. In other words, beans are recommended as their own unique food group! The country’s 2006 Food Guide for the Brazilian Population recommends that beans be consumed at least once every day. That recommendation is actually quite close to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which establish 3 cups of cooked legumes per week, or 1/2 cup serving six days per week, as the minimum desired amount. Recent research linking bean intake to lower risk of type 2 diabetes, many types of cardiovascular disease, and several types of cancer was one of the key factors used by the Brazilian government and the U.S. government in establishing their bean intake recommendations.

    WHFoods Recommendations

    Many public health organizations–including the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society–recommend legumes as a key food group for preventing disease and optimizing health. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 3 cups of legumes per week (based on a daily intake of approximately 2,000 calories). Because 1 serving of legumes was defined as 1/2 cup (cooked), the Dietary Guidelines for Americans come very close to the recommendation of 1/2 cup of cooked legumes on a daily basis. Based on our own research review, we believe that 3 cups of legumes per week is a very reasonable goal for support of good health. However, we also believe that optimal health benefits from legumes may require consumption in greater amounts. These greater amounts are based on studies in which legumes have been consumed at least 4 days per week and in amounts falling into a 1-2 cup range per day. These studies suggest a higher optimal health benefit level than the 2005 Dietary Guidelines: instead of 3 cups of weekly legumes, 4-8 cups would become the goal range. Remember that any amount of legumes is going to make a helpful addition to your diet. And whatever weekly level of legumes you decide to target, we definitely recommend inclusion of black beans among your legume choices.

    You will find many of our recipes containing beans gives you the choice between using home cooked beans and canned beans. If you are in a hurry canned beans can be a healthy option. Unlike canned vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritional value, there is little difference in the nutritional value between canned garbanzo beans and those you cook yourself.Like most packaging processes, canning can take place in a variety of ways, and some aspects of canning have raised research concerns with respect to canning materials and their potential health risk. One special concern in the canning area has been the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in resin-based can liners. For more information on this topic, please click here to see the discussion in our Ask George section entitled, You recommend canned organic beans in many of your recipes. Yet, isn’t there a concern that these cans may contain Bisphenol A (BPA)?

    Nutrients in
    Black Beans
    1.00 cup cooked (172.00 grams)
    Nutrient%Daily Value


     molybdenum172%


     folate64%


     fiber59.8%


     tryptophan56.2%


     manganese38%


     protein30.4%


     magnesium30.1%


     vitamin B128%


     phosphorus24%


     iron20%


    Calories (227)12%


    This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Black beans provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Black beans can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Black beans, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

    • Health Benefits
    • Description
    • History
    • How to Select and Store
    • Tips for Preparing and Cooking
    • How to Enjoy
    • Individual Concerns
    • Nutritional Profile
    • References

    Health Benefits

    Among all groups of food commonly eaten worldwide, no group has a more health-supportive mix of protein-plus-fiber than legumes. Included here, of course, is the amazing protein-plus-fiber content of black beans. From a single, one-cup serving of black beans you get nearly 15 grams of fiber (well over half of the Daily Value and the same amount consumed by the average U.S. adult in one entire day of eating) and 15 grams of protein (nearly one third of the Daily Value and equivalent to the amount in 2 ounces of a meat like chicken or a fish like salmon). You won’t find this outstanding protein-fiber combination in fruit, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy products, nuts and seeds, or seafood. The almost magical protein-fiber combination in legumes—including black beans—explains important aspects of their health benefits for the digestive tract, the blood sugar regulatory system, and the cardiovascular system. Each area of systems benefit has a strong research basis.

    Digestive Tract Benefits

    Unlike dietary sugar, which can move very quickly through the digestive tract and out of the digestive tract into the bloodstream, or dietary fat, which can move very slowly through the digestive tract and out of the digestive tract into the lymphatic system or bloodstream, both protein and fiber can move through the digestive tract at a moderate pace. In terms of digestion, both protein and fiber help to “steady” digestive processes. Movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine (called “gastric emptying”) and movement of food through the small intestine and the large intestine can occur at a more desirable pace when foods are rich in protein and fiber. This steadying of the digestive process helps lessen the burden on any one part of the digestive tract. This allows food to move along in a way that supports optimal chemical balances and populations of micro-organisms.

    The idea of digestive tract support from black beans may sound surprising. Many people think about black beans (and beans in general) as problem-causing foods in the digestive tract, perhaps largely because of gas production. But recent research has shown that black beans actually provide special support in the lower large intestine (colon) where gas if often produced. The indigestible fraction (IF) in black beans has recently been shown to be larger than the IF in either lentils or chickpeas. It is the perfect mix of substances for allowing bacteria in the colon to produce butyric acid. Cells lining the inside of the colon can use this butyric acid to fuel their many activities and keep the lower digestive tract functioning properly. By delivering a greater amount of IF to the colon, black beans are able to help support this lower part of our digestive tract. Lowered colon cancer risk that is associated with black bean intake in some research studies may be related to the outstanding IF content of this legume.

    Benefits for Blood Sugar Regulation

    The landmark “protein-plus-fiber” combination in black beans and other legumes is also a key to their outstanding support for blood sugar balance and blood sugar regulation. As described earlier, protein and fiber can move through our digestive tract at a moderate pace. Unlike dietary sugar (which can move too quickly), or fat (which can move too slowly), both protein and fiber can move at a moderate pace. By steadying rate of movement through the digestive tract, protein and fiber help to steady the breakdown of food into component parts, including simple sugars. This better-regulated breakdown of food helps to prevent extremes with respect to simple sugar uptake from the digestive tract. Too much simple sugar uptake all at once can result in an unwanted blood sugar spike. Too little simple sugar uptake can result in an unwanted blood sugar drop. Either extreme can work to destabilize blood sugar balance. The 15 fiber grams and 15 protein grams in one cup of black beans help prevent both extremes – excessive simple sugar release from the digestive tract, and also insufficient simple sugar release.

    With respect to prevention of type 2 diabetes, researchers have become especially interested in some of the alpha-amylase inhibitory effects of black beans. Naturally occurring compounds in this legume slow down the activity of alpha-amylase enzymes. Since these enzymes are important for breaking down starch into sugar, their slowing down can result in less sugar release from food starches. We suspect that the alpha-amylase inhibitors in black beans work together with proteins and fibers to help steady blood sugar levels and make this legume especially valuable for blood sugar regulation. Although we’ve seen numerous studies showing decreased risk of type 2 diabetes following increased intake of fiber from plant foods (and especially legumes), we have yet to see a large-scale human study showing particular benefits for type 2 diabetes prevention from increased intake of black beans (versus increased intake of plant fibers, including all legume fibers). But we would not be surprised to see a black bean study that showed this legume to be a standout in the area of type 2 diabetes prevention.

    Cardiovascular Benefits

    Much of the original research on bean intake and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease focused on the outstanding soluble fiber content of beans. One cup of black beans provides over 4 grams of soluble fiber, and this is precisely the type of fiber that researchers have found especially helpful in lower blood cholesterol levels. Decreased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and myocardial infarct (MI, or heart attack) have both been associated with increased intake of soluble fiber from food. In particular, they have been associated with increased intake of soluble fiber from legumes. So it is anything but surprising to see black beans included in the list of legumes that provide us with cardiovascular benefits.

    More recent research, however, has gone beyond this soluble fiber story and added new aspects of black bean nourishment to its list of cardiovascular benefits. Included here is the impressive variety of phytonutrients (both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory) contained within black beans. While we tend to think about brightly colored fruits and vegetables as our best source of phytonutrients, black beans are actually a standout food in this phytonutrient area. The seed coat of black beans (the outermost layer that we recognize as the bean’s surface) is an outstanding source of three anthocyanin flavonoids: delphinidin, petunidin, and malvidin. These three anthocyanins are primarily responsible for the rich black color that we see on the bean surface. Kaempferol and quercetin are additional flavonoids provided by this legume. All of these flavonoids have well-demonstrated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Also contained in black beans are hydroxycinnamic acids including ferulic, sinapic, and chlorogenic acid, as well as numerous triterpenoids. These phytonutrients also function as antioxidants and, in some cases, as anti-inflammatory compounds as well. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection is especially important for our cardiovascular system. When our blood vessels are exposed to chronic and excessive risk of oxidative stress (damage by overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules) or inflammation, they are at heightened risk for disease development. The prevention of chronic, excessive oxidative stress and inflammation is a key to decreased risk of most cardiovascular diseases. We expect to see increased attention to the phytonutrient content of black beans in future research on cardiovascular support from this special legume.

    When addressing the issue of cardiovascular support, it would be wrong to ignore the rich supply of conventional nutrients in black beans. One cup of black beans provides nearly two-thirds of the Daily Value (DV) for folate–arguably one of the most important B vitamins for decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease. Black beans also provide about 120 milligrams of magnesium per cup. That’s nearly one-third of the DV for a mineral that is more commonly associated with cardiovascular protection than any other single mineral. Antioxidant minerals like zinc and manganese are also plentiful in black beans. Finally, black beans provide about 180 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per cup in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

    Other Health Benefits

    Given the impressive array of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in black beans, we have not been surprised to see numerous studies connecting black bean intake with reduced risk of certain cancers, especially colon cancer. Chronic excessive oxidative stress and chronic excessive inflammatory are both risk factors for the development of many cancer types. By increasing the body’s supply of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, black beans may be able to help lower cancer risk. Most of the studies we’ve seen have been studies on laboratory animals, or laboratory studies on different cancer cell types. (In other words, we have yet to see large-scale human studies showing decreased risk of cancer following increased intake of black beans.) But these preliminary animal and laboratory studies have been relatively consistent in their findings and have shown black beans to inhibit the development of certain cancers and especially colon cancer. Breast cancer and liver cancer are two additional cancer types that have been studied in animals with respect to black bean intake, although the evidence here is not as strong as evidence in the area of colon cancer. As our knowledge of black bean phytonutrients increases, we expect to see increasing interest in this important area of health research.

    Description

    Black beans could not be more succinctly and descriptively named. They are commonly referred to as turtle beans, probably in reference to their shiny, dark, shell-like appearance. With a rich flavor that has been compared to mushrooms, black beans have a velvety texture while holding their shape well during cooking.

    Black beans are actually a variety of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) and belong to the popular legume family of plants. Black beans share many characteristics with their fellow bean family members, including red (kidney) beans, white (navy) beans, yellow beans, pinto (mottled) beans, pink beans, and anasazi beans.

    History

    Black beans and other beans such as pinto beans, navy beans, and kidney beans are all known scientifically as Phaselous vulgaris. (This scientific name refers to the genus and species of the plant; navy, kidney, pinto, etc. are different varieties of beans, all found within the species vulgaris). The word “common” is used to describe all of these different varieties, since the word vulgarisin Latin means “common.” The common bean originated in parts of Central and South America. Even though the common bean falls into a different scientific category than the soybean, research in comparative genetics has shown that these two types of beans (Phaselous vulgaris and Glycine max) share many interesting genetic aspects. Beans were introduced into Europe in the 15th century by Spanish explorers returning from their voyages to the New World and were subsequently spread to Africa and Asia by Spanish and Portuguese traders. For a wide variety of reasons—including ease of growth, long-term storage ability, taste and texture, and nutrient content (especially protein)—beans have become popular in many cultures throughout the world. Black beans are an important staple in the cuisines of Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

    Today, the largest commercial producers of dried common beans are India and Brazil. Nearly 18 million metric tons of dry beans are produced in these two countries alone. In their green, non-dried form, beans are produced in the greatest volume in China, where nearly 6 million metric tons are produced annually. Other important areas for bean production are Central America, other countries in South America, Mexico, Indonesia, and the United States.

    How to Select and Store

    Both dried and canned black beans are available throughout the year. Dried beans are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as in bulk bins. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the black beans are covered and that the store has a good product turnover to ensure the beans’ maximal freshness. Whether purchasing black beans in bulk or in packaged containers, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage and that they are whole and not cracked.

    Canned black beans can be found in most markets. Unlike canned vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritional value, there is little difference in the nutritional value of canned black beans and those you cook yourself. Canning lowers vegetables’ nutritional value since they are best lightly cooked for a short period of time, while their canning process requires a long cooking time at high temperatures. On the other hand, beans require a long time to cook whether they are canned or you cook them yourself. Therefore, if enjoying canned beans is more convenient for you, by all means go ahead and enjoy them. We would suggest looking for those that do not contain extra salt or additives. (One concern about canned foods is the potential for cans to be lined with a resin-based material that includes bisphenol A (BPA). To learn more about reducing your exposure to this compound, please read our write-up on the subject.

    Store dried black beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep up to 12 months. If you purchase black beans at different times, store them separately since they may feature varying stages of dryness and therefore will require different cooking times. Cooked black beans will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days if placed in a covered container.

    Tips for Preparing and Cooking

    Tips for Preparing Black Beans

    Before washing black beans, spread them out on a light colored plate or cooking surface to check for, and remove, small stones, debris or damaged beans. After this process, place the beans in a strainer, rinsing them thoroughly under cool running water.

    To shorten their cooking time and make them easier to digest, black beans should be presoaked (presoaking has been found to reduce raffinose- and stachyose-type oligosaccharides, sugars associated with causing flatulence.) There are two basic methods for presoaking. For each you should start by placing the beans in a saucepan and adding two to three cups of water per cup of beans. The first method is to boil the beans for two minutes, take the pan off the heat, cover and allow to stand for two hours. The alternative method is to simply soak the beans in water for eight hours or overnight, placing the pan in the refrigerator so that the beans will not ferment. Before cooking the beans, regardless of method, drain the soaking liquid and rinse the beans with clean water. We realize that there has been some debate in the public press over discarding of the bean soaking water. Some websites and commentators have argued that this soaking water contains too many valuable nutrients to discard. We believe that a recent study has helped to put this controversy to rest by comparing a wide range of factors involved with the content of the soaking water. Research analysis has shown that getting rid of the soaking water also means getting rid of some of the phytates and tannins that can lower nutrient availability, as well as flatulence-related substances like raffinose (up to 33% removed along with the soaking water) and stachyose (up to 20% removed). Discarding the water will result in an unwanted loss of total phenols, but the extent of that loss will be relatively small (about 15%). While some of the total carbohydrate content in the black beans will be lost along with the discarded soaking water, the amount of digestion-enhancing resistant starch will remain unchanged.

    The Healthiest Way of Cooking Black Beans

    To cook the beans, you can either cook them on the stovetop or use a pressure cooker. For the stovetop method, add three cups of fresh water or broth for each cup of dried beans. The liquid should be about one to two inches above the top of the beans. Bring the beans to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, partially covering the pot. If any foam develops, you can skim it off during the simmering process. Black beans generally take about one and one-half hours to become tender using this method. They can also be cooked in a pressure cooker where they take about one-half hour to prepare.

    Regardless of cooking method, do not add any seasonings that are salty or acidic until after the beans have been cooked since adding them earlier will make the beans tough and greatly increase the cooking time.

    If you are running short on time, you can always use canned beans in your recipes. If the black beans have been packaged with salt or other additives, simply rinse them after opening the can to remove these unnecessary additions. Canned beans need to only be heated briefly for hot recipes while they can be used as is for salads or prepared cold dishes like black bean salad.

    How to Enjoy

    A Few Quick Serving Ideas

    • Include black beans with your other favorite toppings next time you make a stuffed baked potato.
    • Black bean soup or chili is certain to warm you up on cold winter days or anytime of the year you want to enjoy its nurturing essence.
    • For a “mucho bueno” twist on traditional burritos, use black beans in place of refried pinto beans.
    • Blend cooked black beans with tomatoes, onions and your favorite spices to create a delicious bean soup.
    • For a simple yet delicious lunch or dinner entrée, serve a Cuban inspired meal of black beans and rice.
    • In a serving bowl, layer black beans, guacamole, chopped tomatoes, diced onions and cilantro to make a delicious layered dip.

    WHFoods Recipes that Feature Black Beans

    • 10-Minute Huevos Rancheros
    • Poached Huevos Rancheros
    • 15-Minute Black Bean Salad
    • Mexican Cheese Salad
    • Zesty Mexican Soup
    • Southwestern Salmon & Black Beans
    • Black Bean Burrito, Indian Style
    • Black Bean Chili
    • Quick Black Bean Chili
    • Spicy Black Bean Burrito

    Individual Concerns

    Black beans contain purines. Purines are naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and humans. In some individuals who are susceptible to purine-related problems, excessive intake of these substances can cause health problems. Since purines can be broken down to form uric acid, excess accumulation of purines in the body can lead to excess accumulation of uric acid. The health condition called “gout” and the formation of kidney stones from uric acid are two examples of uric acid-related problems that can be related to excessive intake of purine-containing foods. Yet, recent research has suggested that purines from meat and fish increase risk of gout, while purines from plant foods fail to change the risk. For more on this subject, please see What are purines and in which foods are they found?

    Nutritional Profile

    The seed coat (outermost surface) of black beans is an outstanding source of three anthocyanin flavonoids: delphinidin, petunidin, and malvidin. Kaempferol and quercetin are additional flavonoids provided by this legume. Also contained in black beans are hydroxycinnamic acids including ferulic, sinapic, and chlorogenic acid, as well as numerous triterpenoid phytonutrients, Black beans also provide about 180 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per cup in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

    Black beans emerged from our food ranking system as an excellent source of enzyme-supporting molybdenum. In addition, they are a very good source of heart-healthy dietary fiber and folate. In the case of folate, for example, a one cup serving of black beans provided about two-thirds of the DV for folate.

    Our food ranking system also qualified black beans as a good source of antioxidant-promoting manganese, muscle-building protein, energy-producing magnesium, thiamin (vitamin B1), phosphorus and iron. In the case of protein, for example, a one cup serving of cooked black beans provided about one third of a day’s protein requirement.

    For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Black beans.

    In-Depth Nutritional Profile

    In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Black beans is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

    Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

    In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn’t contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food’s in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients – not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good – please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you’ll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food’s nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling.” Read more background information and details of our rating system.

    Black Beans
    1.00 cup cooked
    172.00 grams
    227.04 calories
    Nutrient Amount DV
    (%)
    Nutrient
    Density
    World’s Healthiest
    Foods Rating
    molybdenum 129.00 mcg 172.0 13.6 excellent
    folate 256.28 mcg 64.1 5.1 very good
    fiber 14.96 g 59.8 4.7 very good
    tryptophan 0.18 g 56.2 4.5 very good
    manganese 0.76 mg 38.0 3.0 good
    protein 15.24 g 30.5 2.4 good
    magnesium 120.40 mg 30.1 2.4 good
    vitamin B1 0.42 mg 28.0 2.2 good
    phosphorus 240.80 mg 24.1 1.9 good
    iron 3.61 mg 20.1 1.6 good
    World’s Healthiest
    Foods Rating
    Rule
    excellent DV>=75% OR
    Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
    very good DV>=50% OR
    Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
    good DV>=25% OR
    Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%
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