I am a dietitian and these are the reasons why I love canned beans

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Jessica Ball keeps it real about how to shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make Earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

As a dietitian on a budget, I’m always looking for ways to help my dollar go further at the grocery store. So I started adding more canned beans to my cart a few years ago. And since then, I have discovered many reasons to love it. In fact, today, running out of canned beans is my trigger for going to the grocery store and thrift store, so I always have a constant supply. Canned beans are a very nutritious, inexpensive and incredibly versatile food. Read on for more details on why I love them so much, plus some of my favorite ways to use them.

They are super nutritious

Foods made from scratch are often thought of as healthier than prepared foods. But is this the case with dried beans compared to canned beans? You might be surprised to learn that the nutrition is almost identical when you compare canned beans to dry baked beans. According to the Department of Agriculture, the nutrition for 1 cup of canned black beans and 1 cup of dry cooked black beans is as follows:

Nutrition 1 cup low-sodium canned beans 1 cup dried black beans
Calories 218 227
Carbohydrates 40 g 41 g
Dietary fiber 17 g 15 g
Total sugar 0.5 g 0.5 g
Added sugar 0 g 0 g
Protein 14.5 g 15 g
Total Fat 0.7g 0.9 g
Saturated fats 0.1 g 0.2 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 g
Sodium 331 mg 2 mg
Potassium 739 mg (28% of the daily value) 611 mg (24% DV)
iron 4.6 mg (26% DV) 3.6 mg (21% DV)
Magnesium 84 mg (26% DV) 120 mg (37% DV)

As you can see, canned and dried beans are almost equal in calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates. The main difference between the two is that canned beans can sometimes have more sodium added during processing, while you can control the amount of salt added to the beans you cook at home. If you’re trying to limit sodium in your diet, opt for “low sodium” or “no added salt” canned beans. Also, remember to rinse any canned beans, as the liquids they are stored in are where most of the sodium content resides.

Regardless of how they are prepared, beans are a great source of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals such as potassium, iron and magnesium. Basically, they are a great addition to your diet. In fact, some experts consider them the #1 food to help you live longer and healthier.

Related: What happens to your body when you eat beans every day

They are versatile and convenient

Not only are canned beans packed with nutrition, but they are also really convenient, especially compared to their dry counterparts. Dried beans can take hours of cooking before they are ready to add to a dish, while canned beans can be used as soon as you open the can. Plus, canned beans can last years in your pantry as long as the can isn’t dented or damaged in any way. So you can easily keep it on hand without worrying about it going bad.

Even more, canned beans come in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavors, making them a great addition to many dishes. Try it in a salad or grain bowl like our High-Fiber Spinach and White Bean Salad or Grilled Vegetable and Black Bean Spelled Bowls for some added protein and fiber. Or let it be the star of the show in dishes like chickpea puree salad with dill and capers or bean casserole. Dip them in a delicious, creamy dip like our Garlic Hummus when you need an appetizer in a pinch. You can also add it to sweet recipes like our Peanut Butter & Chickpea Blondies.

They are Budget-Friendly

Last but certainly not least, beans are one of the most cost-effective foods to help you eat healthier. They usually cost about $1 per can, only about $0.06 per ounce, while meats or meat alternatives can cost about $0.50 per ounce (for less expensive cuts like ground beef or thighs chicken). This means that the choice of meat can cost 10 times more than canned beans! And meat has a much shorter shelf life, so it’s more likely to lead to food waste than a trusty can. So, as you can see, canned beans are a budget-friendly way to add more satisfying protein to your meal.

Planning at least one bean-focused meal each week helps me eat more vegetables, save money, and meet my nutritional goals while staying in line with my budget. Hot tip: I like to stock up on beans at Costco to save even more and to make sure I always have some when needed.

The Bottom Line

If you’re trying to save money and eat healthy, canned beans are one of the best sources of protein. Plus, they last for years and are ready to use for quick and easy meals. They can also help you meet your nutrition goals and promote longevity, too! I hope these reasons motivate you to add more beans to your meals and grocery list. For even more inspiration, check out this collection of my favorite budget-friendly canned bean recipes.

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Image Source : www.eatingwell.com

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