By Tami Weiser
Bean popularity waxes and wanes but it’s health benefits are unassailable and timeless. A colossal body of scientific research continues to link bean eating with multiple benefits for people in a variety of age groups and in many healthy eating lifestyles. This includes some of the real bears in American health, including reducing risk of heart disease, helping tame type 2 diabetes, and providing fullness that may help with obesity.
Beans can be a valuable and healthy part of a diet. The real issue is whether or not cooking them from dried is worth the time. There are a few factors to consider. Cost, accessibility, ease of preparation, cooking times, avoiding additives and preservatives as well as taste and texture. When it comes to time, ease of preparation and storage, canned beans win hands down. Dried and cooked beans are fresher tasting and you can alter how long you cook to get the type of texture you want for each recipe. They are also crazy cheap, not that canned beans aren’t inexpensive as well. Both dried beans and canned beans can be stored for years. Ultimately it comes down to what works best for you.
Here’s what you need to know to make the right decision for you.
Canned Beans vs Dried Beans: Which is Better for Me?
Beans are unique food. USDA MyPlate guidelines actually include beans as both a vegetable and a plant-based protein source. As a vegetable, beans are a complex carb “in the form of starch, resistant starch (digested by beneficial bacteria in the gut), and small amounts of non-starch polysaccharides (also digested by beneficial gut bacteria)” according to the Bean Institute. Beans, however, also happen to contain such a large amount of protein (about 20% by weight) that they are often the central plant based food in entrees and meals across the globe.
For the vast majority of us, there are only two options, dried beans and canned, but within that there are many choices. There are about a dozen commonly found beans with a canned counterpart, from Adzuki to Pintos, but the differences between the varieties don’t tell the nutrition story. Beans and legumes may be unique in terms of taste, color and even texture but how they hold up to cooking and canning is almost identical across types.
So which should you get? Which is better for you? You know your body best of all and learning which is better for you may not only be a matter of general considerations, but part of your uniquely tailored nutrition plan.
Let’s break it down the basics.
How to Decide Between Dried Beans and Canned Beans
Across the many colors and types of beans, some things are consistent: Beans are abundance in soluble fiber, folate, plant based protein, plant based iron, vitamin B1, vitamin K, and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and copper, all while being naturally low in sodium
The big picture: A study conducted indicated that “Compared to canned beans, dried cooked beans were significantly more energy dense, contained more protein, fiber, iron, potassium and magnesium; and less sodium than canned beans.” Yet, rinsed canned beans are a close second.
To rinse or not to rinse? On occasion, it’s fine to add canned bean cooking liquid (aquafaba) to some recipes, but by and large a solid rinse in a colander under running water does the trick. The Bean Institute is clear: “A 2009 study conducted at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, showed that draining beans removes, in average, 36% of the sodium in canned beans. Draining and rinsing removes, on average, 41% of the sodium.”
Rinsing beans, cooked at home or after opening the can has one other side effect that is quite nice — it can help reduce the amount of gas some folks produce after eating beans. The cooking liquid is actually the real culprit, although it’s not a fool proof promise. Some folks really are very sensitive, regardless of cooking method and prep.
Looking for the details about the most popular beans? Our friends at Healthline shared the nutrition of the top 9 beans, so you can check out your fav.
Cost & Accessibility
Dried beans are cheap. Seriously cheap. Usually less than 15 cents preserving (about ½ cup dry). Dried beans also triple in volume when cooked, so there is no question, really whether canned beans are pricier. The difference however isn’t terribly pronounced: canned beans are around 40 to 50 cents per serving.
Both dried and canned beans are widely available throughout the US, online and in brick and mortar stores, with a variety of brands to choose from, including organic and non GMO. Canned options now even comes in low-sodium varieties.
Ease & Convenience
Nothing beats the ease of canned beans. Period. It’s ready to use with the pop of a can, and a solid rinse. As to dried beans, which are traditionally soaked overnight before they are cooked and can take up to 5 hours to cook. Making an entire bag at once and storing small, manageable containers of beans in the freezer, is a monthly chore in my kitchen, although almost all of the cooking time is hands-off, it still takes quite a while.
A guide on canned beans we love: Kelli Foster over at thekitchn.com, wrote a very handy and damn correct piece that’s worth the read.
Additives and Preservatives
Most canned beans as well as dried beans have neither additives or preservatives but the only way to be sure is to read the specific package.
Taste and Texture
Dried beans gives you more control over texture, something that might be important to you if you’re making something like hummus, where the longer soaking and then the long cooking time can result in a creamier finished product. M. Tess Abalos, holistic health coach, suggested another reason dried beans might be a better option. The lengthy soaking and cooking in water has one other value- it reduces the phytic acid, which produces abdominal gas,can make beans a wee bit easier to digest and may produce less discomfort for some people.
Recently, there is some discussion in nutrition and dietetics communities that beans may have some negative nutritional effects, called antinutrients. Nutritionist Sharon Palmer and others have debunked this theory. She noted that canned beans have even less of these so-called antinutrients, but suggests rinsing either before adding to your dish.
The vast majority of dietetics and nutritional communities, take a very pro-bean stance for most folks and it’s clear why it’s such a winner. So buy, cook or open, rinse and go cook.