Baked Beans Nutrition: Are baked beans healthy?

This article is expository on baked beans nutrition. There is a question on the lips of many, and that is – are baked beans healthy? Well, we know that beans have a very high protein content. They are prepared and consumed in various forms. Baked beans are one form in which beans are consumed. Baked beans are legumes covered with sauce. They are prepared from scratch or sold precooked in cans.

Baked beans are popular in the United States, eaten mainly as a side dish. In the United Kingdom, baked beans are eaten on toast.

Even though beans are generally considered to be healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if you questioned the nutritional value of baked beans.

This article will discuss baked beans nutrition, while also answering the unique question – are baked beans healthy?

Baked beans nutrition
Photo Credit: BBC Good Food

BAKED BEANS? WHAT ARE THEY?

The best way to start this article on baked beans nutrition is by answering the question – what are baked beans? Well, baked beans are basically made with white navy beans – the small ones precisely.

Other ingredients that are used to prepare baked beans include herbs, sugar, and spices. Some recipes may include vinegar, tomato sauce, mustard, and molasses.

While some people may prepare their baked beans the vegetarian way, others add small amounts of salted pork or bacon – just for the flavor of course.

The name notwithstanding, baked beans are actually not always baked. You can prepare it using other methods, such as cooking in a slow cooker or on a stove.

BAKED BEANS NUTRITION – THE NUTRITIONAL FACTS

Baked beans are loaded with a lot of nutrients. I’m pretty sure that this section will answer the question – are baked beans healthy?

Even though there may be variations in the number of nutrients, a 130g serving (1/2 cup) of baked beans will give you the following (1):

  • Calories: 119
  • Total fat: 0.5 grams
  • Total carbs: 27 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Sodium: 19% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Potassium: 6% of the RDI
  • Iron: 8% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 8% of the RDI
  • Zinc: 26% of the RDI
  • Copper: 20% of the RDI
  • Selenium: 11% of the RDI
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 10% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 6% of the RDI

Baked beans are loaded with plant-based protein and fiber. They are also rich in zinc, thiamine, and selenium. These compounds boost energy production, thyroid health, and immune function (2, 3, 4).

It is important to note that legumes are rich in phytates. Phytates are compounds that can affect mineral absorption. However, because baked beans are cooked and canned, the phytate content is drastically reduced (5).

Baked beans are also rich in polyphenols and other healthy plant compounds.

Are baked beans healthy? Yes! Why? Because all these compounds that are present in baked beans prevent your cells from getting damaged by free radicals. They also inhibit inflammation. Studies have shown that free radicals and inflammation contribute to cancer, heart diseases, and other chronic ailments (6, 7).

Because baked beans is rich in nutrients, and because they are associated with good health, the United States Dietary Guidelines have recommended at least 275g (11/2 cups) of baked beans per week for a 2,000 calorie diet (8).

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF BAKED BEANS?

Apart from the fact that they are loaded with nutrients, baked beans have many other benefits.

They have a good taste

Baked beans have a rich flavor. Most people like them, and are encouraged to eat more legumes.

A particular study revealed that a high percentage (57%) of adolescents actually liked baked beans compared to the number that liked salad or lentil soup made with beans (9).

Also, baked beans are easy to prepare. Just open the can, heat it up, and you are good to go.

Baked beans enhance gut health

From 130g of baked beans, you can get 18 percent of the RDI for fiber. Fiber promotes good gut health and also enhances the regular movement of the bowels (1).

The fiber also serves as nourishment to your gut flora. This may increase the number of good gut flora linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer (10, 11, 12).

Also, baked beans are rich in daidzein and apigenin, plus other nutrients that protect you against colon cancer (13).

Baked beans reduce cholesterol

Baked beans contain compounds called phytosterols. Phytosterols are capable of inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol in the gut. With this, the risk of high blood cholesterol is reduced. Recall that high blood cholesterol is an important risk factor for heart disease (14, 15).

A study showed that daily consumption of a ½ cup of baked beans by adults with high blood cholesterol, for two months, resulted in a 5.6 percent reduction in total cholesterol (16).

Another study involving men with borderline high cholesterol showed that weekly consumption of 5 cups of baked beans for a month, reduced the total and LDL cholesterol by 11.5 percent, and 18 percent respectively (17).

DEMERITS OF BAKED BEANS

Baked beans have some disadvantages – however, most of these disadvantages can be minimized from the scratch.

Baked beans have a high sugar content

Baked beans are sweetened foods. They usually contain maple syrup or sugar.

A ½ cup of baked beans contains roughly 3 teaspoons of sugar. This is 20 percent of the daily limit for a 2000-calorie diet (1, 8, 18).

Excess consumption of sugar can cause tooth decay and is linked to a high risk of heart disease, obesity, memory loss, and type 2 diabetes (19, 20, 21, 22).

Baked beans are salty

Most people are concerned about the sodium content of their food. Among this class of people are those who are prone to high blood pressure with the high salt intake (23).

130g or ½ cup canned baked beans gives roughly 19 percent of the recommended daily intake for sodium, which is mainly from added salt (1).

Some brand has the low-sodium varieties.

If you are preparing baked beans at home, you can reduce the amount of salt that you use. If you are using canned beans, drain it. Doing so will reduce the sodium content by 40 percent (24).

Baked beans are loaded with additives

Most canned baked beans have a lot of additives in them. That’s a big blow to baked beans nutrition. A lot of people avoid additives (25, 26).

The commonest additives used are:

  • Modified corn starch (27, 28, 29).
  • Caramel color (30, 31).
  • Natural flavors (32, 33, 34).

Baked beans contain the Bisphenol A contaminants

The interior of bean cans is lined with bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical. BPA can attach itself on foods (35).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has marked the chemical safe but many scientists disagree. Some studies have shown that BPA may raise the risk of obesity and reduce fertility rate (35, 36, 37, 38).

A recent study involving the examination of foods collected from a grocery showed that baked beans ranked 4th among the foods containing high amounts of BPA. 55 different foods were collected and baked beans ranked 4th (39).

Some brands of baked beans are sold in cans that are free of BPA. However, these brands are more expensive.

Baked beans also cause gassiness. This is due to the fermentation of fiber and other indigestible carbs by the gut flora (40).

THE SUMMARY

We have studied baked beans nutrition. This article has answered the question – “are baked beans healthy?”

We have seen that baked beans have a high amount of fiber, protein, and other nutrients. They boost gut health and improve cholesterol levels. The canned versions are loaded with sugars, additives, BPA contaminants, and salt. Your best bet is to make your baked beans from the scratch with minimal salt and sugar.

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