Pinto Bean Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

pinto beans nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Pinto beans are budget-friendly, nutritious, versatile legumes commonly used in soups, stews, and rice dishes. They are very popular in Mexican cuisine. Since they are a good source of plant protein, fiber, and antioxidants, pinto beans make an easy and smart addition to your diet.

Pinto Bean Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one cup (172g) of cooked pinto beans with no added salt or fat.

  • Calories: 245
  • Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 2mg
  • Carbohydrates: 45g
  • Fiber: 15g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 15g

Carbs

Pinto beans provide a healthy dose of complex carbohydrates. There are nearly 30 grams of starch in a single serving of pinto beans. Carbohydrates in the form of starch provide the body with quick energy.

Pinto beans are also a good source of fiber (15 grams per cup). Fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar, boost satiety, and improve digestive health. Pinto beans provide less than 1 gram of naturally occurring sugar.

Pinto beans have a glycemic index (GI) of about 39; foods with a GI of 55 or below are considered low glycemic foods. The glycemic load of 150 grams (3/4 cup) of pinto beans is just 10. Glycemic load takes the serving size of the food into account when estimating the food's effect on blood sugar. A glycemic load of less than 10 is thought to have little effect on blood glucose response.

Fats

There is only 1 gram of fat in pinto beans, which makes them a naturally low-fat food. While some nutrition experts caution against the use of processed, low-fat foods for weight loss or healthy weight maintenance, foods like pinto beans that naturally provide good nutrition and little to no fat are a smart addition to any diet.

However, be advised that many processed forms of pinto beans may contain added fat. For example, if you buy canned refried beans, it is likely that the beans have been cooked with fat—often lard.

Protein

Each serving of pinto beans provides a substantial 15 grams of protein. For this reason, many vegans and vegetarians use pinto beans or other types of legumes to boost their protein intake.

However, pinto beans are not considered a complete protein. Complete proteins provide all of the essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body and therefore must be consumed in the diet. You'll also need to consume whole grains, nuts, or seeds in order to get all essential amino acids during the course of a day on a plant-based diet.

Vitamins and Minerals

Pinto beans are packed with nutrients. You'll get 74% of your daily recommended intake of folate (294mcg) if you consume one cup of pinto beans and you follow a 2,000-calorie per day diet. Folate, a B vitamin, helps boost red blood cell production and provides other health benefits.

You'll also get 36% (251mg) of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of phosphorus, and 33% (0.8mg) of your recommended intake of manganese, a vitamin that boosts nervous system and brain health.

Pinto beans are a good source of several other micronutrients. Per 1-cup serving:

  • Iron: 20% RDI
  • Magnesium: 20% RDI
  • Vitamin B6: About 20% RDI
  • Thiamin: 28% RDI
  • Potassium: 20% RDI
  • Copper: 40% RDI

Health Benefits

Legumes, like pinto beans, have been studied by nutrition researchers for years because they are commonly consumed around the world. Research suggests that increasing your intake of beans provides certain health benefits.

Helps Prevent Obesity

An evaluation of the nutritional value of legumes published in Obesity Reviews determined that "replacing energy-dense foods with legumes has been shown to have beneficial effects on the prevention and management of obesity and related disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome."

Lowers Risk of Death From Cardiovascular Disease

In one study that looked specifically at cardiovascular disease, people who consumed more flavonoids (a type of antioxidant found in pinto beans and other beans, fruits, and vegetables) had less risk of death from cardiovascular disease. This was true even in people whose intake of flavonoids was relatively small.

Lowers Cholesterol Levels

A review published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that including beans in your diet helps to lower LDL cholesterol (also called "bad" cholesterol).

Supports Glycemic Control

A different review study found that increasing intake of beans, peas, lentils can help both people with and without diabetes improve long-term glycemic control in their diets. Related: A 2013 study published evidence that flavonol, one of the antioxidants found in beans, could lower the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Another study, published in 2014, notes that the fiber content in beans also helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Increases Longevity With Fiber

A large review study (encompassing 1.75 million subjects) concluded that high dietary fiber intake is associated with lower mortality rates and specifically, mortality due to heart disease, cancer, digestive disease, infectious diseases, and other inflammatory diseases.

Allergies

Pinto beans are a legume like peanuts and soybeans, two of the top eight allergenic foods. Being allergic to peanuts or soy does not necessarily mean you will be allergic to other legumes, and vice versa, but you should exercise caution. If you suspect that you have an allergy to pinto beans or any legume, speak with your healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis.

Adverse Effects

Compounds that interfere with nutrient absorption are commonly referred to as "antinutrients." All plants contain these compounds, which have an effect only when consumed in extremely large quantities. The effects are negligible at the quantities you likely consume in pinto beans.

In addition, even though some consumers are concerned about antinutrients in grains and legumes, the substances are greatly reduced by appropriate soaking and cooking of the beans. So, unless you have a condition that may be impacted by these compounds (such as iron-deficiency anemia), you shouldn't worry about them too much. Plus, cooking beans actually increases their antioxidant activity and concentration.

However, if you have Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and follow a low-FODMAP diet to manage your symptoms, you may need to avoid pinto beans and other legumes.

Some people, even without a condition such as IBS, may find that eating beans causes indigestion or gas. If you are sensitive to them, you may want to use pinto beans sparingly. Or, try cooking them with a bit of kelp; some have found that seaweed can help reduce the gas caused by beans.

Varieties

Pinto beans are themselves a variety of the common bean, a type of legume. They come in a few different cultivars, but you will usually just see them sold as pinto beans. You may be able to find them fresh in the produce section. Fresh pinto beans will need to be shelled before cooking. Typically, though, you'll purchase them dried or canned.

Canned pinto beans are either whole or refried. Many popular Mexican food makers make refried beans in different varieties. If you are looking to reduce your fat or sodium intake, check the nutrition facts label before you buy. Salt and fat are commonly used to make refried beans.

When They're Best

Both dried and canned (prepared) pinto beans are available year-round.

Storage and Food Safety

When you buy any legumes, look for uncracked beans that have not been exposed to dust or moisture. You can buy dried beans in pre-packed containers, but many stores also sell pinto beans in the bulk section so you can buy only the amount that you need, often at a slight discount.

Store dried beans in an air-tight container in your pantry or another cool, dark place. If stored properly, legumes should stay good for up to 12 months. If you cook pinto beans, they will stay fresh for about three days when refrigerated in an airtight container.

How to Prepare

Before cooking pinto beans, rinse them to remove any dirt or dust. Remove any cracked or broken beans. Boil three cups of water and add one cup of beans. Simmer for roughly 20 minutes, although cooking time will depend on your taste preference.

If you enjoy refried or whole cooked pinto beans, try making your own at home to reduce your salt and fat intake. Once the pinto beans are cooked, add them to a frying pan to make refried beans. Fry in canola oil for five to seven minutes over medium heat, then smash with a potato masher. Add spices such as chili powder or cumin to taste. Salt according to your preference.

If you have a favorite soup, stew, or salad recipe, simply toss in a handful of cooked beans to add flavor and nutrition. If you do have a pinto bean recipe and you are out of the beans, substitute red beans or kidney beans.

Recipes

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