Q. I hear a lot about black beans and garbanzo beans being used in healthy foods. What about pinto beans? How do they rank for nutrition?
A. Pinto beans are the most popular dried beans in the United States (thanks to their inclusion in chili, Latin cuisine, and baked beans). The beans are beige with reddish-brown specks when dried but become a solid light brown or pale pink when cooked. They have an earthy, almost nutty flavor and are simple to prepare. Pinto beans are regularly eaten whole or mashed and are not only full of vitamins and minerals but may also offer several impressive health benefits.
Pinto beans contain carbohydrates, fiber (a type of carbohydrate), and protein. They also pack an incredible punch of vitamins and minerals including thiamine (to help your body convert food into energy), iron (to help minimize fatigue), magnesium and potassium (to help prevent high blood pressure).
Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate found in plant foods. It’s very important for your digestive health, as it helps feed the good bacteria in your gut. Yet, most people don’t reach their daily recommended fiber intake. Women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should get 38 grams. A half-cup serving of boiled pinto beans provides an impressive 7.5 grams of fiber. Adequate intake of fiber-rich foods, including pinto beans, may promote heart health, blood sugar control, proper digestion, gut health, and even weight loss. Sounds pretty great, right? Read on for additional health benefits.
Pinto beans contain healthy antioxidants, including polyphenols and flavonoids. These powerful compounds protect your cells against damage from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can contribute to disease over time. One flavonoid (kaempferol), rich in pinto beans, is associated with both repressed cancer growth and reduced inflammation.
Pinto beans are a heart-healthy choice. Several studies have shown that eating 1/2 cup (86 grams) of pinto beans every day significantly decreased both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol — high levels of which are associated with increased heart disease risk.
If you prefer to keep your dollars in your wallet, pinto beans are an inexpensive and easy-to-prepare choice. One of the easiest ways to prepare them is on the stovetop. If you’re using dried beans, you should wash them and remove any bad beans — those that are broken, split, or unnaturally dark. Soaking the beans overnight will speed up the cooking process. To cook, cover the beans with water or broth in a large pot. Bring the beans to a boil on medium-high heat for 1 minute, then simmer for 2–4 hours on low heat until tender. If cooking dried beans for a few hours isn’t your thing, have no fear, canned varieties offer the same nutrition in a fraction of the time (simply purchase the no salt added variety or drain and rinse to reduce the sodium content).