Black beans are classified as legumes. Also known as turtle beans because of their hard, shell-like appearance, black beans are, in fact, the edible seeds of the plant.
The black bean contains a dense, meaty texture and can be cooked in a variety of ways without losing nutritional properties – even when exposed to high temperatures. When black beans are combined with rice or quinoa, the combination forms a complete protein. A complete protein is a food source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet.
Like other legumes, such as peanuts, peas, and lentils, black beans have a high protein and fiber content. They also contain several other key vitamins and minerals.
One cup of cooked black beans provides:
- Calcium 46.4 mg 5% DV (Daily Value)
- Iron 3.6 mg 20%
- Magnesium 120 mg 30%
- Phosphorus 241 mg 24%
- Zinc 1.9 mg 13%
- Copper 0.4 mg 18%
- Manganese 0.8 mg 38%
- Selenium 2.1 mcg 3%
- Thiamin (B1) 0.4 mg 28%
- Folate (B9) 256 mcg 64%
The iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc in black beans all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength. Calcium and phosphorus are important in bone structure, while iron and zinc play crucial roles in maintaining the strength and elasticity of bones and joints.
Roughly 99 percent of the body’s calcium supply, 60 percent of its magnesium, and 80 percent of its phosphorus stores are contained in bone. This means it is extremely important to get enough of these nutrients from the diet to keep your bones strong.
The potassium, calcium, and magnesium in black beans also have been found to decrease blood pressure naturally.
Studies have shown that individuals with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels. Additionally, people with type 2 diabetes may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels. One cup of cooked black beans contributes 15 g of fiber. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 25 g of fiber per day based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
The fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and phytonutrient content of black beans, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health. The fiber content helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Vitamin B6 and folate prevent the buildup of a compound known as homocysteine. When excessive amounts of homocysteine accumulate in the body, it can damage blood vessels and lead to heart problems. (You can’t get homocysteine from your diet. It has to be made from methionine, which is another amino acid that is found in meat, fish, and dairy products. Eating too much of these foods can cause higher homocysteine levels. Vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B12 and folic acid are needed to make this reaction occur. Foods containing methionine are transformed into homocysteine in the bloodstream.)
The quercetin and saponins found in black beans protect the heart. Quercetin is a natural anti-inflammatory that appears to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, plaque build up in your arteries.
As with many beans and legumes, black beans contain starch, a form of complex carbohydrate. Starch acts as a “slow burn” energy store that is slowly digested by the body, preventing a spike in blood sugar levels.
Selenium is a mineral that is not present in most fruits and vegetables but can be found in black beans. It plays a role in liver enzyme function and helps detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body. Additionally, selenium may prevent inflammation and decreases tumor growth rates.
Dietary fiber is commonly recognized as an important factor in weight loss and weight management by functioning as a “bulking agent” in the digestive system. High fiber foods increase the sense of fullness after eating and reduce appetite.
Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like black beans decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
How to Buy
Black beans are available year-round and are found in grocery stores either dried and packaged or canned. They will be in the bulk section of your local co-op. They have almost a meaty texture that makes them a popular source of protein in vegetarian dishes.
If you are using canned black beans, be sure to select those with no added sodium and to drain and rinse them.
How to Store
Dried black beans can be stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry place up to 1 year. Despite their long shelf-life, do not mix new beans with any remaining older dried beans when restocking your dried beans. Old beans will take longer to cook, and the oldest beans will stay tough and chewy no matter how long they simmer.
How to Cook
When preparing dried black beans, it is important to sort them, picking out any small rocks or other debris that may have wound up in the package. Wash and soak them in water for at least 8 to 10 hours before cooking to achieve optimum flavor and texture.
You can tell they are finished soaking when you can split them easily between your fingers. Soaking dried legumes reduces the amount of time needed to cook them, and also helps remove some of the oligosaccharides that cause gastrointestinal distress. Soaking beans for longer periods can help to reduce phytates. Phytates may reduce mineral absorption.
- Make a hearty black bean soup by blending cooked black beans with onions, tomatoes, and your favorite spices
- Add black beans to burritos
- Blend cooked black beans with garlic, onion, fresh cilantro, and lime juice for a quick and easy bean dip
- Mix black beans, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, sharp cheddar cheese** and salsa together for a simple taco salad
**You can find vegan options from Treeline cheese! All of their cheeses are: 100% vegan and free from dairy, lactose, casein, gluten or soy. They don’t add any gums, thickeners, artificial preservatives or oils – definitely no palm oil! All Treeline products are certified non-GMO and Kosher Parve by KOF-K.