Black beans and rice can be a very healthy meal when prepared properly. Black beans are high in protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. Pairing them with rice provides additional fiber, carbohydrates, and nutrients. Eating black beans and rice as part of a balanced diet can provide numerous health benefits related to heart health, blood sugar levels, digestive health, and more. However, preparation methods can add extra sodium, fat, and calories, so care should be taken to prepare black beans and rice in a healthy way. Overall, black beans and rice are a nutritious combination that can be a staple in a healthy diet.
Nutritional Profile of Black Beans and Rice
Black beans are packed with nutrition. Here are some of the nutrients found in black beans (1 cup cooked):
- Calories: 227
- Protein: 15g (30% DV)
- Fiber: 15g (60% DV)
- Folate: 256mcg (64% DV)
- Magnesium: 120mg (30% DV)
- Phosphorus: 241mg (24% DV)
- Iron: 3.6mg (20% DV)
- Zinc: 1.9mg (13% DV)
- Copper: 0.4mg (22% DV)
- Manganese: 0.8mg (39% DV)
As you can see, black beans are high in protein, fiber, folate, magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals. They contain no cholesterol and are low in fat.
Rice also provides some nutrition:
- Calories: 205 (for 1 cup cooked white rice)
- Carbohydrates: 44g
- Protein: 4g
- Fiber: 0.6g
- Thiamin: 7% DV
- Niacin: 5% DV
- Iron: 5% DV
Rice provides carbohydrates for energy as well as some B vitamins and iron. Brown rice offers slightly more fiber and nutrients than white rice.
So combined, black beans and rice provide a complete protein, high amounts of fiber, a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrates for energy. The mix of plant-based proteins and complex carbohydrates makes it a nutritionally balanced meal.
Benefits of Black Beans and Rice
Eating black beans and rice regularly can provide the following health benefits:
The fiber, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants in black beans and rice can help reduce blood pressure and bad LDL cholesterol. This may lower risk of heart disease and stroke (1, 2).
Blood Sugar Control
The protein and fiber in black beans helps slow the absorption of sugar, preventing spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. This is beneficial for diabetes management and can also reduce risk of developing diabetes (3).
The 15g of fiber in a cup of black beans accounts for a whopping 60% of the daily value. This can improve regularity, relieve constipation, and promote a healthy gut (4).
The protein and fiber in this meal combination helps induce feelings of fullness. This can prevent overeating and lead to healthy weight management and weight loss (5, 6).
The antioxidants and phytochemicals in black beans, including anthocyanins, may help protect against certain cancers according to some studies (7, 8).
Black beans and rice provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and antioxidants. This combination can be a nutrient-dense part of a healthy diet.
Black beans and rice are ingredients that are versatile enough to include in many types of cuisine from Latin dishes to soup and salads. This can help increase vegetable and plant-based protein consumption.
There are a few potential concerns with black beans and rice:
Phytic Acid in Beans
Black beans contain phytic acid. This can impair the absorption of some minerals like iron, calcium, and zinc (9). However, cooking and sprouting the beans can significantly reduce phytic acid. Consuming beans with foods high in vitamin C also improves absorption.
Arsenic in Rice
Rice may contain traces of inorganic arsenic, which is a concern. To reduce exposure, source rice from arsenic-free growing regions. Rinsing rice thoroughly before cooking can also help remove some arsenic. Limit rice intake to a few times a week.
Gas and Bloating
The fiber content in beans may cause gas, bloating or diarrhea in some people as their gut bacteria adjust. Introducing beans gradually and always rinsing and soaking before cooking can help. Staying hydrated can also help minimize discomfort.
High Sodium Content
When dining out, black bean and rice dishes can be high in sodium from soy sauce, salt and other seasonings. Be mindful of sodium content and prepare homemade as often as possible.
How to Make Black Beans and Rice Healthy
Here are some tips for making healthy black beans and rice:
Use Low Sodium Seasonings
Flavor black beans with fresh herbs, spices, garlic, onion, lemon, or hot sauce instead of salt. Skip the soy sauce or use low sodium soy sauce.
Choose Healthy Cooking Oils
Saute aromatics like onion, garlic, and chili in a touch of avocado, olive or grapeseed oil instead of lard or other saturated fats.
Boost Nutrients With Veggies
Add extra vegetables like sautéed peppers, onions, kale or spinach. This boosts the fiber, vitamin, and mineral content.
Use Brown Rice
Opt for brown rice over white rice whenever possible. Brown rice is higher in fiber and nutrients.
Rinse Beans Properly
Always rinse canned beans before use to remove excess sodium. Soak and rinse dried beans before cooking as well.
Watch portion sizes as even healthy dishes add up in calories. Plan for 1/2 cup rice and 3/4 to 1 cup beans per serving.
Refrain from frying beans or making fried rice, which adds unnecessary fat and calories.
Healthy Black Bean and Rice Recipes
Here are some tasty and nutritious ways to enjoy black beans and rice:
Vegetarian Black Bean Burrito Bowls
Burrito bowls with cilantro-lime rice, black beans, sauteed peppers and onions, avocado, salsa and a sprinkle of cheese for a satisfying plant-based meal.
Southwestern Black Bean and Quinoa Salad
Mix together cooked black beans, cooked quinoa, corn, diced bell pepper, cilantro and chili powder then dress with lime juice and avocado oil.
Black Bean Soup
Puree black beans with vegetable broth, cumin, paprika, garlic and onions for a fiber-filled soup. Top with roasted red peppers, avocado and pumpkin seeds.
Coconut Curry Black Bean Stew
Saute onion and curry powder, add black beans and lite coconut milk, simmer until thickened. Serve over brown rice.
Black Bean Enchiladas
Fill corn tortillas with black beans, peppers, onions, green chiles and reduced fat cheese, then bake with enchilada sauce.
Are Canned Black Beans as Healthy?
Canned black beans are just as nutrient-dense as dried beans. The canning process does not significantly impact their nutritional value. Canned beans are cooked and ready-to-eat, which makes them more convenient. However, rinse canned beans before use to remove any excess sodium from the canning liquid. Also opt for low-sodium or no-salt-added beans when possible. Avoid baked beans or other versions with added sugar and flavors. With proper rinsing and selection, canned beans are an easy shortcut to enjoying black beans regularly.
Black beans and rice can make up a healthy plant-based meal that provides protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. The combination offers many benefits including improved heart health, blood sugar regulation, digestive health and weight management. Prepare homemade versions using fresh, nutritious ingredients to maximize the health value. Limit added sodium, oil and fat for the healthiest outcome. As long as moderation and proper preparation are kept in mind, black beans and rice can be enjoyed regularly as part of a balanced diet.