The health benefits of beans and why to include more of them in your diet

Beans are a classic staple for good reason - they’re full of nutrients to help you stay healthy, and given the many varieties, you don’t have to get bored of beans. Beans come in three forms - dried, frozen, and canned - and all of them are highly nutritious.

Here’s a list of beans:

  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Lima beans
  • Soybeans
  • Navy beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Mung beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Cannellini beans



Beans contain amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 amino acids, and nine are essential. Essential amino acids must be obtained through your diet every day. Some proteins are complete and contain all essential amino acids, and some are incomplete and contain some, but not all, essential amino acids.

Out of all the beans, soybeans are the only complete protein. However, this does not mean that other beans aren’t a good source of protein. While they don’t contain all of the essential amino acids, your body will combine them with amino acids from other foods to make complete proteins so long as you eat a varied diet. Grains, nuts, and seeds are a good complement to beans but do not have to be consumed in the same meal.

By the way, the role of protein extends far beyond muscle maintenance and growth! You also need protein for hormone and neurotransmitter production; supporting the immune system; and to maintain fluid balance in the body.

Highest in protein: Soybeans


Beans are known for creating gas in your digestive system, and this is due to their fiber content. Fiber is important because it improves your gut health; helps stabilize your blood sugar; supports your detoxification processes (through supporting how your gut and liver interact); can decrease cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease; and supports your hormonal health. Fiber can also help you control your appetite.

If you don’t already eat a high fiber diet, introduce beans slowly to decrease the gassy side effect!

Highest in fiber: Navy beans

Plant-based iron 

Your body needs iron to support the production of a protein called hemoglobin, which your body uses to carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Beans are a good source of nonheme (or plant-based) iron, whereas animal proteins contain both heme and nonheme iron. Because of the low bioavailability of nonheme iron, the iron needs for vegetarians and vegans is 1.8 times higher than non-vegetarians. To increase the bioavailability of nonheme iron, combine beans with a source of vitamin C, such as raw citrus fruits, broccoli, or peppers.

Highest in iron: Soybeans


Beans are rich in antioxidants, which help fight free radicals that can cause cell damage and increase the risk of chronic disease such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even obesity. They are an affordable way to increase the antioxidant content of your diet!

Highest in antioxidants: small red beans and red kidney beans


You can add beans to many dishes such as pastas, salads, and soups. They can be used in place of animal protein or in combination with animal protein. Combining beans with animal protein is a great option if you want to decrease your intake of animal proteins but don’t want to completely remove the food group. Chili is a perfect example of how to do this!

Vegetable and Butcher uses beans often for their many health benefits. Some crowd-favorite bean dishes include:

  • Mexican White Bean Chili
  • Cuban Bowl [pictured]
  • Cauliflower Chilaquiles
  • Sweet and Sour Chickpea Bowl
  • Sushi Bowl
  • Chickpea Potato Curry

Emily Smith

PR and Marketing Specialist of Vegetable and Butcher and a self-proclaimed nutrition nerd and sustainability junkie. Emily called DC home for three years before making her way to California. Emily has her master's in Nutrition Education and is a Certified Nutrition Specialist® (CNS®) candidate. She's passionate about helping people learn to use food to fuel their outdoor activities, and in her free time you can find her rock climbing. . You can connect with her on her website and on Instagram.

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