Your Guide to the Healthiest Types of Beans
Open up any pantry, and chances are you’ll see at least one can of beans. Whether they’re black beans or kidney beans, all types of beans are an easy, tasty addition to an endless number of recipes. Plus, they last a long time and they’re nutritional powerhouses!
“Beans are a good source of fiber, protein, and many vitamins and minerals,” explains Keri Gans, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet and host of the podcast The Keri Report.
Although different types of beans are similar in nutrition, they do vary in flavor and texture. To help you pick the best kind of beans for your culinary and dietary needs, here’s a list of all the healthiest beans, plus some ideas on how to cook each.
1. Black Beans
Per ½ cup: 109 calories, 7 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber
Soft, mild-flavored black beans are a star in many Mexican dishes like burritos and this Southwestern Salad. Gans also suggests topping a baked potato with black beans, sour cream, and a fried egg and serving a vegetable on the side for a simple dinner. “Or sometimes I make a bolognese sauce with half ground beef and half black beans to decrease the saturated fat,” she adds.
2. Pinto Beans
Per ½ cup: 124 calories, 7 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber
These light brown beans have speckles when dried, but lose their spots when cooked. Their earthy, creamy taste is great in our Healthy Chicken Burrito Bowl that may make you never order take-out again.
3. Black Eyed Peas
Per ½ cup: 118 calories, 7.5 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrates, 5.5 grams fiber
Named for the distinctive black spot on them, legend has it that these legumes bring good luck if eaten with greens on New Year’s Day. Or, you can try seasoning them with dill and parsley for a tasty side. You can even turn them into Indian fritters for a vegan appetizer!
4. Cannellini Beans
Per ½ cup: 151 calories, 10 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 6.5 grams fiber
There are many types of white beans — cannellini are the big ones that some call white kidney beans. Earthy and nutty, they’re great in White Bean Chicken Chili. You can also toss them in pasta dishes to add protein (10 grams per half cup!). Gans likes to sauté a variety of veggies, including mushrooms, eggplant, and spinach, and serve that with noodles and these beans.
Per ½ cup: 132 calories, 7 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrates, 6.5 grams fiber
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are the base of hummus and falafel. Creamy when mashed up and blended, their texture completely transforms when you roast them. Try this by mixing them in oil and spices, then baking them in the oven until crispy and golden brown, turning every so often so they don’t burn. Eat them as a snack or toss them into a mix of roast veggies and quinoa for a plant-based lunch.
6. Great Northern Beans
Per ½ cup: 150 calories, 10 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber
Milder and firmer than cannellini beans, great northern beans make an excellent addition to soups, chilis, and pasta. “I like to sauté garlic and oil with shaved Brussels sprouts and shrimp, and then toss with great northern beans and pasta, adding a little parmesan on top,” Gans says.
7. Kidney Beans
Per ½ cup: 122 calories, 8 grams protein, 22 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber
Probably the best beans for chili, red kidney beans are firm and hearty. They’re the bean featured in minestrone soup, and are also part of the classic three-bean salad recipe (which also includes green beans and chickpeas).
8. Lima Beans
Per ½ cup: 95 calories, 6 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber
If you’ve never tried them or have bad memories of them, you really should give lima beans a shot. When cooked properly—such as with lemon and garlic, with tomatoes and pesto, or baked with veggies—they taste nothing like the bland, overcooked beans from your childhood.
9. Fava Beans
Per ½ cup: 91 calories, 7 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber
Not to be confused with lupini beans, fava beans are nutty with hints of bitter and sweet. You can grill them in the pod or, if you shell them, remove the outer membrane. Then cook those fava beans and puree them into dips or add them to salads, pastas, and toasts.
10. Navy Beans
Per ½ cup: 148 calories, 10 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber
There’s nothing navy about these beans except for their name. White in color, navy beans take on a creamy texture when cooked. That’s why they’re so often used in soups. They’re also pretty high up in terms of protein content per half cup, clocking in with an impressive 10 grams.
11. Adzuki Beans
Per ½ cup: 147 calories, 9 grams protein, 28.5 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber
For a different take on the classic Middle Eastern dip, you can puree these slightly sweet legumes into a dip like hummus. They also taste great when added to a burrito bowl, stuffed in roasted squash along with rice and veggies, or combined into a simple adzuki bean salad for a picnic.
Per ½ cup shelled: 94 calories, 9 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber
Either plain or seasoned with herbs and spices, buttery, mild-tasting edamame is more than just a good appetizer and snack. Use the shelled edamame in Asian dishes like stir-fries, salads with or without grains, or puree them into hummus.
13. Mung Beans
Per ½ cup: 143 calories, 6 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber
Mung bean sprouts are those thin, white roots often used to top salads. But then there are whole, cooked mung beans, which take on the flavor of whatever you cook them with. Use them in falafel, soups, curries, and salads.
Per ½ cup: 154 calories, 16 grams protein, 7.5 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber
A plant-based complete protein, soybeans have a super mild flavor, so spice them up! They also take on whatever flavor your dish is, making them a great blank slate for cooking. And you can’t ignore their protein content — 16 grams per half a cup!
Canned vs. Dried Beans
Once you determine which type of bean you want to cook, the next step is to consider if you want to use canned or dried beans. “Nutritionally speaking, they are almost equal,” Gans explains, “except that canned varieties may have more sodium.” Canned beans also cost more per serving than dried beans. However, dried beans take longer to cook, making them less convenient.
If sodium is a concern but you don’t want to cook dried beans, choose low-sodium or no-salt-added types of canned beans. Then drain them into a colander and rinse well with cold water. This will help remove some sodium. Bonus tip: Save the liquid from your beans. “I use it to thicken sauces for pasta dishes,” Gans says.
- FoodData Central fdc.nal.usda.gov/