The World's Healthiest Foods
Black beans

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.

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.

 


Health Benefits

Black beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other legumes. In addition to lowering cholesterol, black beans' high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as rice, black beans provide virtually fat-free high quality protein. You may already be familiar with beans' fiber and protein, but this is far from all black beans have to offer.

Sensitive to Sulfites? Black Beans May Help

Black beans are an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for detoxifying sulfites. Sulfites are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods like delicatessen salads and salad bars. Persons who are sensitive to sulfites in these foods may experience rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation if sulfites are unwittingly consumed. If you have ever reacted to sulfites, it may be because your molybdenum stores are insufficient to detoxify them. A cup of black beans will give you 172.0% of the daily value for this helpful trace mineral.

A Fiber All Star

Check a chart of the fiber content in foods; you’ll see legumes leading the pack. Black beans, like other beans, are rich in dietary fiber. For this reason, black beans and other beans are useful foods for people with irregular glucose metabolism, such as diabetics and those with hypoglycemia, because beans have a low glycemic index rating. This means that blood glucose (blood sugar) does not rise as high after eating beans as it does when compared to white bread. This beneficial effect is probably due to two factors: the presence of higher amounts of absorption-slowing protein in the beans, and their high soluble fiber content. Soluble fiber absorbs water in the stomach forming a gel that slows down the metabolism of the bean's carbohydrates. The presence of fiber is also the primary factor in the cholesterol-lowering power of beans. Fiber binds with the bile acids that are used to make cholesterol. Fiber isn't absorbed, so when it exits the body in the feces, it takes the bile acids with it. As a result, the body may end up with less cholesterol. Black beans also contain insoluble fiber, which research studies have shown not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

Loaded with Antioxidants

Research published in the November 2003 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry indicates that black beans are as rich in antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins as grapes and cranberries, fruits long considered antioxidant superstars.

When researchers analyzed different types of beans, they found that, the darker the bean’s seed coat, the higher its level of antioxidant activity. Gram for gram, black beans were found to have the most antioxidant activity, followed in descending order by red, brown, yellow, and white beans.

Overall, the level of antioxidants found in black beans in this study is approximately 10 times that found in an equivalent amount of oranges, and comparable to that found in an equivalent amount of grapes or cranberries. (December 30, 2003)

Protection against Cancer

A study published in the December 2003 issue of Food Chemistry and Toxicology suggests not only that black beans may help protect against cancer, but that whole foods naturally contain an array of compounds that work together for our benefit. When researchers fed mice a 20% black bean diet to see if it would cause any mutagenic or genotoxic activity, not only did black beans not promote cancer, but a clear reduction in the number of pre-cancerous cells was seen, even in animals who were simultaneously given an agent known to promote cancer, the mutagen, cyclophosphamide. In an attempt to identify the bean components responsible for this protective effect, the researchers tested a single commercial anthocyanin, but instead of being protective on its own, the flavonoid, at the highest dose administered (50 mg per kg of bodyweight), actually induced DNA damage. The moral we draw from this tale: the synergy of compounds brought together by Mother Nature in the creation of whole foods is highly likely to be of greater benefit than a single extracted compound. (January 2, 2004)

Lower Your Heart Attack Risk

In a study that examined food intake patterns and risk of death from coronary heart disease, researchers followed more than 16,000 middle-aged men in the U.S., Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Japan for 25 years. Typical food patterns were: higher consumption of dairy products in Northern Europe; higher consumption of meat in the U.S.; higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, fish, and wine in Southern Europe; and higher consumption of cereals, soy products, and fish in Japan. When researchers analyzed this data in relation to the risk of death from heart disease, they found that higher consumption of legumes was associated with a whopping 82% reduction in risk!

A study published in the September 8, 2003 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as black beans, helps prevent heart disease. Almost 10,000 American adults participated in this study and were followed for 19 years, during which time 1,843 cases of coronary heart disease (CHD) and 3,762 cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD) were diagnosed. People eating the most fiber, 21 grams per day, had 12% less CHD and 11% less CVD compared to those eating the least, 5 grams daily. Those eating the most water-soluble dietary fiber fared even better with a 15% reduction in risk of CHD and a 10% risk reduction in CVD.(December 3, 2003)

Black beans' contribution to heart health lies not just in their fiber, but in the significant amounts of folate, and magnesium these beans supply. Folate helps lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is an intermediate product in an important metabolic process called the methylation cycle. Elevated blood levels of homocysteine are an independent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease, and are found in between 20-40% of patients with heart disease. It has been estimated that consumption of 100% of the daily value (DV) of folate would, by itself, reduce the number of heart attacks suffered by Americans each year by 10%. Just one cup of cooked black beans provides 64% of the DV for folate.

Black beans' good supply of magnesium puts yet another plus in the column of its beneficial cardiovascular effects. Magnesium is Nature's own calcium channel blocker. When enough magnesium is around, veins and arteries breathe a sigh of relief and relax, which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies show that a deficiency of magnesium is not only associated with heart attack but that immediately following a heart attack, lack of sufficient magnesium promotes free radical injury to the heart. Want to literally keep your heart happy? Eat black beans. A cup of black beans will provide you with 30.1% of the DV for magnesium.

Black beans also contain compounds called polyphenols that are useful for those with elevated cholesterol because they act as antioxidants in the bloodstream, preventing cholesterol from oxidation by free radicals. Only after cholesterol has been damaged by free radicals does it form plaques on blood vessel walls, initiating the development of atherosclerosis. The polyphenols in black beans also have some potentially negative effects. Some of the polyphenols are tannins that can bind to some of the protein and iron these beans supply, preventing absorption of these nutrients. But don't let this concern you if you have a varied diet that provides you with protein and iron from a range of sources; if so, you can easily offset any negative consequences of the nutrient-binding tanins found in black beans.

Black Beans Give You Energy to Burn While Stabilizing Blood Sugar

In addition to its beneficial effects on the digestive system and the heart, black beans' soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels. If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, black beans can really help you balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Studies of high fiber diets and blood sugar levels have shown the dramatic benefits provided by these high fiber foods. Researchers compared two groups of people with Type II diabetes who were fed different amounts of high fiber foods. One group ate the standard American Diabetic diet, which contained 24 grams of fiber/day, while the other group ate a diet containing 50 grams of fiber/day. Those who ate the diet higher in fiber had lower levels of both plasma glucose (blood sugar) and insulin (the hormone that helps blood sugar get into cells). The high fiber group also reduced their total cholesterol by nearly 7%, their triglyceride levels by 10.2% and their VLDL (Very Low Density Lipoprotein--the most dangerous form of cholesterol) levels by 12.5%.

Iron for Energy

In addition to providing slow burning complex carbohydrates, black beans can increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores. Although the tannins in black beans may block absorption of some of the iron they contain, a cup of black beans contains so much iron--20.1% of the daily value for this important mineral--that you will still benefit. Particularly for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency, adding to their iron stores with black beans is a good idea--especially because, unlike red meat, another source of iron, black beans are low in calories and virtually fat-free. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. And remember: If you're pregnant or lactating, your needs for iron increase. Growing children and adolescents also have increased needs for iron.

Manganese for Energy Production and Antioxidant Defense

Black beans are a good source of the trace mineral manganese, which is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defenses. For example, the key oxidative enzyme superoxide dismutase, which disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within our cells), requires manganese. Just one cup of black beans supplies 38.0% of the daily value for this very important trace mineral.

Protein Power Plus

If you’re wondering how to replace red meat in your menus, enjoy the rich taste of black beans. These smoky flavored beans are a good source of protein, and when combined with a whole grain such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice, provide protein comparable to that of meat or dairy foods without the high calories or saturated fat found in these foods. And, when you get your protein from black beans, you also get the blood sugar stabilizing and heart health benefits of the soluble fiber provided by these versatile legumes. A cup of black beans will provide you with 15.2 grams of protein (that's 30.5% of the daily value for protein), plus 74.8% of the daily value for fiber. All this for a cost of only 227 calories with virtually no fat.

Description

Black beans could not be more succinctly or descriptively named. They are just what they say they are, beans that are black. They are commonly referred to as turtle beans, probably in reference to their shiny, dark, shell-like appearance. Along with a rich smoky flavor that has been compared to mushrooms, black beans have a velvety texture, yet hold their shape well during cooking.

History

Black beans and other beans such as pinto beans, navy beans and kidney beans are all known scientifcially 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). These varieties are all referred to as "common beans," probably owing to the fact that they all derived from a common bean ancestor that originated in Peru. From there, they were spread throughout South and Central America by migrating Indian tribes.

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 Portugese traders. As beans are a very inexpensive form of good protein, they have become popular in many cultures throughout the world. Black beans are an important staple in the cuisines of Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Guatamala and the Dominican Republic. Today, the largest commercial producers of dried common beans are India, China, Indonesia, Brazil and the United States.

How to Select and Store

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

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 the raffinose-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.

To cook the beans, you can either cook them on the stovetop or use a pressure cooker. For the stovetop method, add three to four 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.

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.

Safety

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. For this reason, individuals with kidney problems or gout may want to limit or avoid intake of purine-containing foods such as black beans.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.

 

Beans, Black, Boiled
1.00 cup
227.04 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
molybdenum 129.00 mcg 172.0 13.6 excellent
folate 255.94 mcg 64.0 5.1 very good
dietary fiber 14.96 g 59.8 4.7 very good
tryptophan 0.18 g 56.3 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 (thiamin) 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%

References

  • Azevedo L, Gomes JC, Stringheta PC, Gontijo AM, Padovani CR, Ribeiro LR, Salvadori DM. Black bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) as a protective agent against DNA damage in mice. Food Chem Toxicol. 2003 Dec;41(12):1671-6.
  • Bazzano LA, He J, Ogden LG, Loria CM, Whelton PK. Dietary fiber intake and reduced risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. Arch Intern Med. 2003 Sep 8;163(16):1897-904.
  • Choung MG, Choi BR, An YN, Chu YH, Cho YS. Anthocyanin profile of Korean cultivated kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Nov 19;51(24):7040-3.
  • Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Queiroz Kda S, de Oliveira AC, Helbig E et al. Soaking the common bean in a domestic preparation reduced the contents of raffinose-type oligosaccharides but did not interfere with nutritive value. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo) 2002 Aug;48(4):283-9.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

This page was updated on: 2004-11-19 15:23:11
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation