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Why are black beans so popular? Is there anything nutritionally unique about them?

As more and more people begin to discover how uniquely delicious and nutritious black beans are, their popularity has begun to soar. Also called black turtle beans, Mexican beans, black Spanish beans, Tampico beans and Venezuelan beans, black beans have been a long time staple in Mexican, Central American and South American cuisines. They are now becoming very popular in the United States, appearing on grocery store shelves, salad bars and restaurant menus, as individuals discover that not only do they taste great but that they can also be an important part of a health promoting diet.

Black bean nutrition — focus on protein and fiber

When it comes to three basic categories of nourishment — protein, fiber and anti-oxidant related substances — few foods have as solid a nutritional profile as black beans. Black beans, like other beans, really pack a punch when it comes to protein and fiber. On average, each cup features about 15 grams of both protein and fiber. That amount of protein is about the same as contained in two 8-ounce glasses of milk, but in the case of milk, there is no fiber to be found.

Black bean nutrition — focus on flavonoid anti-oxidants

While all beans are exceptionally healthy foods when it comes to their protein and fiber content, it's the color coat on black beans that makes them particularly interesting in contrast to other beans. Researchers have found at least 8 different flavonoids in the black bean's color coat. Flavonoids are color-producing phytonutrients pigments that have great anti-oxidant potential. They work together with vitamins to help the body avoid oxygen-related damage.

Many other foods have been studied for their flavonoid content, and foods like red grapes or red wines are famous for their rich supplies of one flavonoid family, called anthocyanins. As it turns out black beans are an equally rich source of this flavonoid family, containing about 2.37 grams of anthocyanins per 100 grams of seed coat.

Black bean nutrition — focus on omega-3 fatty acids

Black beans also contain small amounts (about 180 milligrams per cup) of omega 3-fatty acids. This amount is about three times that available from many other beans, including kidney beans. While the amount of omega-3 fats in one cup of black beans is roughly equal to the amount in one ounce of a cold water fish like halibut, it's still a valuable addition to your meal plan since omega-3 fats are essential to protecting our health.

Black bean nutrition — focus on vitamins and minerals

In addition to the nutrients already discussed, black beans also feature concentrated amounts of other important vitamins and minerals. Based upon our nutrient rating system, black beans are an excellent source of one nutrient, a very good source of four nutrients and a good source of five nutrients (see table 1 below for more details).

Table 1: Profile of Concentrated Nutrients: Black beans (serving size = 1 cup cooked)

Nutrient Amount %DV Density Quality
Molybdenum 129.0 mcg 172.0 13.6 Excellent
Folate 256.3 g 64.1 5.1 Very good
Dietary fiber 15.0 g 59.8 4.7 Very good
Copper 0.4 g 40.0 3.2 Good
Manganese 0.8 mg 38.0 3.0 Good
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) 0.4 mg 35.0 2.8 Good
Phosphorus 240.8 mg 34.4 2.7 Good
Protein 15.2 g 30.5 2.4 Good
Magnesium 120.4 mg 30.1 2.4 Good
Iron 3.6 mg 20.1 1.6 Good

Practical tips

It's easy to incorporate black beans into your meal plans. Not only are they a versatile food, but they also make a great addition to many dishes because of their distinct rich, smoky flavor, velvety texture and a shape that holds well during cooking. To find recipes with black beans, use the website's Recipe Assistant. You can also find some quick serving ideas in the black bean article.

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