Black Beans: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts, and How to Prepare Them

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on August 31, 2022
3 min read

Black beans have been a staple of North American diets for at least 7,000 years. Known as Phaseolus vulgaris in scientific circles, they’re also called “turtle beans” in English and frijoles negros in Spanish.

Black beans have a satisfying texture and mildly sweet flavor. They’re also incredibly healthy, providing multiple vital nutrients with minimal fat and sugar.

The antioxidants, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates in black beans make them nutritionally powerful. A diet rich in beans can reduce your risk of several serious medical conditions and help your body to process calories more effectively.

Blood Sugar Regulation

Unlike many other foods that are high in carbohydrates, black beans don’t cause a spike in blood sugar. Studies have actually found the opposite. When people eat black beans with rice, their blood sugar levels tend to be lower than if they only ate rice. For people with diabetes, adding beans to a healthy diet can improve blood sugar control while reducing heart disease risk.

Cancer Prevention

Research has shown that a diet rich in beans may help to reduce your risk of certain cancers, including those of the stomach, kidney, and colon. Early studies on animals show that beans might also help to fight the growth of breast cancer tumors, but more studies on humans are needed.

Eye Health

The antioxidants in black beans can help to protect your eyes against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. A major research project by the National Eye Institute showed that when people at high risk of advanced macular degeneration took high doses of antioxidants, their risk of the condition decreased by 25%. Antioxidants also reduced vision loss in the same high-risk group by 19%.

Heart Health

Studies show that eating beans can lower the total amount of cholesterol and levels of “bad” cholesterol in your blood. This may reduce your risk of developing heart disease. One study showed that eating a single serving of dried beans per day can reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 38%.

Weight Control

Surveys have shown that people who eat beans regularly may weigh less and have smaller waists. In one study, a group of obese men who ate mostly beans and other legumes lost more weight and had larger decreases in “bad” cholesterol compared to men following other types of diets.

Scientists believe that these effects come from beans’ high levels of protein, fiber, and slow-digesting carbohydrates. These can all help your body to feel fuller for longer and absorb nutrients better.

Black beans are rich in antioxidants, which can protect the cells in your body and reduce your risk of conditions like heart disease and cancer. Black beans provide you with the following vitamins and minerals:

Nutrients per Serving

One serving of cooked black beans (1/2 cup) contains:

Things to Watch Out For

Black beans can be high in carbohydrates, so they may not be ideal for people following a low-carb diet. They also contain some difficult-to-digest compounds that can cause gas and intestinal discomfort if you eat too many.

To get all the health benefits of black beans, start with dry beans rather than canned. Rinse the beans thoroughly with cold water and soak them. Soaking is an important step for preventing intestinal gas.

The best method is the “hot soak. Add 10 cups of cold water to every 2 cups of beans. Bring the water to a boil and leave it at a rolling boil for one to three minutes.

Next, take the pot off the heat and let it stand for 4 hours. After you drain and rinse the beans, they’re ready to cook.

Try using your beans to make one of these dishes:

  • Bean and cheese quesadilla
  • Bean enchilada
  • Black bean burrito
  • Turkey and bean chili
  • Black bean and fruit salsa
  • Bean-stuffed bell peppers