Are Dried Beans *Actually* Better Than Canned Beans?
If you have ever made dried beans from scratch, you’re likely aware of some of the pros and cons: Compared to canned beans, dried beans deliver superior taste and texture. They taste so much fresher and more flavorful. They can be cooked until just tender (as opposed to ready to turn to mush in your mouth). And you can also find a lot more variety beyond the normal pintos and black beans. Of course, they also take a lot more time and effort to make.
But what about nutritionally speaking? Are dried beans better for you than canned beans?
The short answer is yes: Dried beans are more nutritionally dense, with more protein, fiber, iron, potassium and magnesium, and less sodium than canned beans. Still, rinsed canned beans are a close second. Let’s take a closer look.
But, First: The Health Benefits of (All) Beans
Beans are a unique food. Technically a vegetable, beans are a complex carb; however, they contain such a large amount of protein (about 20% by weight) that USDA MyPlate guidelines include beans as both a vegetable and a plant-based protein source.
Then, of course, there’s the wide variety of beans from from Adzuki to Pintos. But across the many colors and types of beans, some things are consistent: Beans are abundant in soluble fiber, folate, protein, iron, vitamin B1, vitamin K, and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and copper — all while being naturally low in sodium.
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.
Dried Beans vs. Canned Beans
As mentioned above, studies indicate that dried beans are more robust nutritionally speaking. They also contain less sodium. And the lengthy soaking and cooking in water reduces the phytic acid, which produces abdominal gas. In other words, soaking can make beans a wee bit easier to digest, and for some people, may produce less discomfort.
But, if you rinse and drain your canned beans, you’re moving in the right direction.
According to the Bean Institute: “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 also has another beneficial side effect; it can make you less gassy.
The Bottom Line
If you are choosing your beans solely on nutrition, dried beans are the clear choice. But, we so seldom make these decisions in a vacuum! And really, nothing beats the ease of canned beans. The real takeaway here is that beans are a healthy choice, regardless of whether you buy dried or canned.
So buy, soak, and cook or open, rinse, and cook! And look for one of these Clean Plates-approved brands: