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Beans are High in Fiber and Good for your Health

If you are looking for an inexpensive protein substitute that is high in fiber and a good source of plant-based protein, then beans should be your choice. They are loaded with fiber, have a low glycemic index, contain no cholesterol or sodium and are virtually fat free.


A bean provide heart-healthy amounts of folate, an essential nutrient that helps protect against heart disease and is beneficial to women of child bearing age. Folate may help reduce the risk of birth defects like spina bifida and anencephaly.

The fiber, especially soluble fiber found in legumes, may reduce our risk for heart disease by helping lower cholesterol. A half cup of cooked dry beans provides about 6 grams of fiber. Since beans contain no cholesterol, are virtually fat free and, unless sodium is added during canning or cooking, are low in sodium, they are a good choice.

Beans have their place in weight management as well. They have a lower glycemic index, which means they will have less impact on blood sugar levels. They are also high in fiber, which provides a sense of satiety or fullness that helps reduce food cravings. Depending on variety, a half-cup of cooked dry beans averages about 120 calories.

Aside from the potential health benefits, there are a few other reasons to eat beans. Beans are great on the budget. A drained and rinsed 15- to 16-ounce can of cooked beans, such as pinto, kidney, or black beans, provide about three one-half cup servings. Beans are frequently recommended as a nutrient-dense source of low-cost protein.

Dry beans are one of the most common types of legumes. Their kidney or oval shape distinguishes them from other legumes, such as peas, which are round, and lentils, which are flat and disk-like.

Beans are sometimes referred to as an incomplete protein since they don't provide one of the essential amino acids needed from food for building protein in the body. In actual practice, this isn't a concern. Grains, which lack a different essential amino acid, provide the amino acid missing from dry beans and vice versa. Together, they complement each other. Examples of complementary protein include beans and rice, a bean burrito, and beans and cornbread.

Some individuals stay away from beans because of the distress they can provide in the gastrointestinal system. There are ways to minimize the gaseous effect. Try discarding the soaking water when preparing dry beans from scratch and rinse beans thoroughly before cooking them.

It is also important anytime you are increasing fiber in your diet to gradually increase the amount and frequency of beans in your diet. This will give your body a chance to adjust to them. For example, start with one-fourth cup of beans sprinkled on top of a salad or added to a serving of soup.

There are also non-prescription products available in the pharmacy section of many stores which contains an enzyme that breaks down the gas-producing substances in beans. It may be available in liquid or tablet form and is most effective when used immediately before consuming beans.

As with adding all types of fiber to your diet, drink plenty of fluids and maintain regular physical activity. This helps your gastrointestinal system handle the increased fiber.

For free information on cooking with beans, contact the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture in the Miller County Courthouse, call 870-779-3609, or e-mail me at You may also follow me on facebook at

By Carla Haley Hadley M.S.
County Extension Agent
Family & Consumer Sciences
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley Hadley M.S.
County Extension Agent
Family & Consumer Sciences
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service

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