Cannellini Bean Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

cannellini beans nutrition facts and health benefits

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

When it comes to beans, there’s no shortage of options that provide protein, fiber, and micronutrients. One such pint-sized powerhouse is the cannellini bean. This creamy white legume adds a pop of nutrition to salads and sides and brings velvety depth to soups or pastas.

Cannellini beans are popular in Italy and used in many Italian dishes (such as pasta e fagioli), and they have long been used in Mediterranean cooking. Cannellini beans can be substituted for other, similar white beans. Whether you’re trying to eat more plant-based protein or you just enjoy their taste and texture, cannellini beans are an excellent healthy choice.

Cannellini Bean Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for 1/2 cup (130g) of cannellini beans canned in water and sea salt, drained.

  • Calories: 110
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 90mg
  • Carbohydrates: 19g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Sugars: 1g
  • Protein: 8g

Carbs

All beans contain fairly high amounts of carbohydrates—but as complex carbohydrates, they’re a desirable macronutrient. A significant chunk of the carbs in cannellini beans is pure fiber. Of the 19 grams carbs in a half-cup serving, 5 grams are from fiber. A 150mg serving of drained, canned cannellini beans has a glycemic index of 31. The high fiber content helps you feel full and slows down digestion, which can help prevent big blood sugar spikes.

Fats

Cannellini beans contain little to no fat. Many canned varieties list 0g fat per 1/2 cup, or, at the most, just 0.5g.

Protein

Depending on the brand of cannellini beans and how they’re processed, you can expect to take in anywhere from 5–8g of protein in a serving. This may not be as high as some other beans, like soy, but it’s still a respectable dose.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cannellini beans contain plenty of the valuable nutrients iron and potassium, with around 2mg (10% of daily value) and 360mg (8% DV) per 1/2 cup, respectively. They even supply a little bit of calcium, at 40mg (4% DV) as well as folate.

Many canned cannellini beans are processed with high amounts of sodium, so be sure to watch out for this on nutrition facts labels. Some brands may contain up to 340mg of sodium (14% DV) per 1/2-cup serving. If you’re trying to cut back on salt, opt for a low-salt variety or rinse your canned beans well in water. Food scientists have found that draining canned beans can reduce the sodium amount by 36% while draining and rinsing can reduce sodium by 41%. You can also purchase dried beans and prepare them yourself with less salt.

Health Benefits

Some have called beans the perfect food—and for good reason. With their impressive levels of fiber, protein, and micronutrients, cannellini beans offer a number of health benefits.

Lowers Blood Sugar

Some research in people with type 2 diabetes suggests that a diet rich in legumes like cannellini beans can help lower blood sugar and overall A1C levels.

Lowers Blood Pressure

In the same study that found lower blood sugar in people on a low-glycemic diet featuring legumes, many participants also had lower blood pressure and overall lower cardiovascular disease risk.

Fights Cell Damage and Inflammation

Legumes like cannellini beans are excellent sources of polyphenols, micronutrients with antioxidant properties like protecting and repairing cells. In turn, that protective action lowers your risk of certain infections, cancers, and heart disease.

Balances Fluids in the Body

With their iron and potassium content, cannellini beans also contribute to the body’s ability to transport oxygen, keep the heart (and other muscles) pumping, and maintain fluid balance.

Safe for Many Diets

Cannellini beans fit well into many specialty diets, as they are plant-based, gluten-free (depending on preparation), and low in fat while offering plenty of protein and fiber.

Allergies

Peanuts are a legume and they are a highly allergenic food. But allergies to beans are quite rare, with the important exception of soybeans. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), having a peanut allergy does not make you more likely to have a bean allergy, so there’s no need to worry about feeding cannellini beans to a peanut-allergic child. Cannellini beans are closely related to red kidney and other beans, so if you have an allergy to any bean, ask your doctor or allergist before popping cannellini beans into your hummus or salad.

Adverse Effects

Lectins are proteins that have been labeled as “antinutrients,” since they block the absorption of certain nutrients. That has led to concerns about the lectin content of certain foods, especially beans. A particular lectin in kidney beans called phytohaemagglutinin was linked to gastrointestinal distress in some older animal studies, but more research is still needed to determine this effect in humans.

Consensus in the nutrition community has yet to confirm whether most consumers need to worry about lectins in food. The USDA's 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend all types of beans as a healthy source of vegetable protein.

However, if you follow a low-FODMAP diet due to Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you will likely need to avoid cannellini beans and other legumes.

Even if you do not have one of these conditions, you may find that eating beans of any type causes digestive distress or gas. Those who are extra sensitive to these side effects may want to use cannellini beans sparingly.

Varieties

Since great northern beans, baby lima beans, navy beans, and cannellini beans are all small and white, it can be tricky to tell them all apart. Often, if a recipe calls for “white beans,” any of these varieties will work, especially if you’re not picky about a very specific flavor. Feel free to substitute one for another.

Technically, however, the four varieties of white beans are distinct. Navy beans are the smallest and highest in fiber, and tend to become mushy more quickly. Great northerns come next in size, with a nuttier flavor and firmer flesh. Cannellini beans are somewhat larger and meatier than great northerns. Baby lima beans, also called butterbeans, are larger, richer, and starchier.

When They're Best

You may find fresh cannellini beans in the pod at farmers' markets in late summer. But it's more common to eat and cook with canned or dried beans.

Storage and Food Safety

Both canned and dried cannellini beans are nonperishable when stored properly (in sealed containers, away from temperature extremes).

How to Prepare

With their mild flavor, cannellini beans are a versatile ingredient that can make their way into a surprising variety of recipes, whether rounding out a green salad, mashed in a wrap, or simmered with spices. Unlike some other softer beans, cannellini beans retain their shape, even when cooked. If you want them to stay firm, however, be sure not to overcook them.

Cannellini beans do mash quite easily once cooked, so they can disappear smoothly into foods like hummus, dips, or puréed soups.

Recipes

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