Are pinto beans healthy? Here’s what a dietitian has to say


Dried pinto beans

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Like other varieties of beans, pinto beans are a vegetable protein that adds flavor, texture and color to a variety of dishes. What might surprise you is that pinto beans are the the most popular type of beans consumed by Americans, claiming the first place among all varieties of beans. What makes this versatile bean so popular? Are pinto beans healthy? Read on to find out the nutrition, health benefits, potential harms, and ways to benefit from pinto beans.

What are pinto beans?

Pinto beans are oval shaped beans that are beige in color with reddish brown spots. Metaphorically, each pinto bean looks like a painting, and in Spanish “pinto” means painted. Pinto beans are a staple in Mexican and Southwestern American cuisine. The beans are sweet, creamy, nutty, and earthy, making them perfect for burritos, fajitas, tacos, and quesadillas.

You can find pinto beans in grocery stores as dry beans or canned beans. They are affordable, easy to prepare and nutritious. This cholesterol-free and gluten-free plant protein is vegetarian and vegan, making it a commonly used ingredient in many savory and sweet dishes.

Are pinto beans healthy?

Pinto Bean Nutrition

According to USDA, each serving of 1/2 cup cooked pinto beans without salt provides:

Pinto beans are very nutritious and to research suggests that eating them may help provide protection against many chronic diseases. They are gluten and cholesterol free and are high in protein, fiber and folate. Pinto beans also contain essential nutrients such as iron, magnesium, thiamine, calcium, and zinc. They are low in fat and sodium when prepared without salt or additives.

Health Benefits of Pinto Beans

Excellent source of vegetable protein

Each 1/2 cup serving of cooked pinto beans provides 8 grams of protein, which makes it a great protein option for meals. Adding them to a recipe can increase the amount of protein in the dish. Their proteins and the iron The content makes pinto beans an ideal food choice for vegetarians and vegans. However, pinto beans are not a complete protein, which means they don’t contain all of the essential amino acids that the body needs for nourishment. Vegetarians and vegans will need to eat a variety of plant-based foods, such as whole grains, nuts, and seeds, to ensure they are getting all of the essential amino acids.

Rich in fiber

Each 1/2 cup serving also provides 8 grams of dietary fiber, which is between one-fifth and one-third of your recommended daily intake of dietary fiber, depending on your age and gender. Fiber makes you feel full, which can make you less likely to overeat. Most importantly, consuming pinto beans and other foods containing fiber on a regular basis provides many health benefits, such as improved heart health, digestive health, cholesterol, weight maintenance and more.

Low Glycemic Index Foods

Although pinto beans contain carbohydrates, they do not increase blood sugar quickly because they are slowly digested and absorbed. For this reason, pinto beans are considered a low glycemic index food. This is largely due to their high fiber and protein content, which makes them a healthy choice for people with diabetes.

Rich in folate

Pinto beans are a great source of folate, with each 1/2 cup serving providing more than a third of your recommended daily allowance. Folate is essential for making cells, tissues, and red blood cells in the body. It is also an essential nutrient for preventing neural tube defects in early pregnancy.

Loaded with antioxidants

Beans contain bioactive compounds, such as flavonoids, which are thought to act as antioxidants. Pinto beans are particularly high in kaempferol, one of the many antioxidants found in plant-based foods. Kaempferol has properties that can effectively reduce inflammation and protect cells from free radicals, which can reduce the risk of cancer.

Potential disadvantages of pinto beans

Lack of vitamin B12

Pinto beans contain no vitamin B12, an essential nutrient for the brain and nerves and for making red blood cells and supporting DNA production. Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal sources, including meat, poultry, clams, and oily fish like salmon and trout. You can also find vitamin B12 in eggs, cheese, and yogurt. Vitamin B12 is also added to fortified cereals and some herbal drinks. Be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list to make sure B12 is added.

If you are not eating enough foods rich in vitamin B12, or if you have problems absorbing vitamin B12, you may need a vitamin B12 supplement. Talk to your primary health care provider or dietitian to find out if supplementation is right for you.

Gas and bloating

Eating beans can cause discomfort for some people, causing unpleasant symptoms like gas and bloating. These symptoms are due to raffinose, a type of carbohydrate that is not digested. When it reaches your colon, the bacteria present break it down, creating byproduct gas.

If you are sensitive to gas and bloating, consider soaking dried beans overnight. This can help reduce the amount of raffinose present. You may want to be careful about how much pinto beans and other legumes you eat at one time to reduce these unpleasant symptoms.

Drinking plenty of water with your high-fiber meals throughout the day can swell your stools and move them through your digestive tract faster and easier (goodbye constipation!).

How to enjoy pinto beans

One of the main reasons for the popularity of pinto beans among Americans is their versatility. You can enjoy them in several ways: as an accompaniment like these Spicy Pinto Beans or as protein for a meatless meal, like our Vegetarian Sloppy Joes with Pinto Beans. You can also use them in soups or add them to salads, stews, rice dishes and more. Because of their soft texture, pinto beans are also great for dips, spreads and toppings.

Use canned pinto beans rather than dry beans for our Chipotle Chicken Quinoa Burrito Bowl and other dishes is super effective for busy meals. You can minimize the salt content by draining the brine and rinsing the canned beans before consuming them. If you prefer to use dried beans, soaking them overnight will speed up the cooking time.

Final result

Pinto beans are very nutritious. Packed with protein, fiber, and many other essential nutrients, pinto beans can help promote bowel regularity, control your blood sugar, and lower your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Their affordable price and versatility also make them a staple in your pantry. Start enjoying it anytime of the day with our pinto bean recipe collection.


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