Are refried beans good for you? Many people think that refried beans don’t fit into a healthy diet. But actually, a deeper look into refried beans nutrition details reveals that they can absolutely be healthy. Preparation makes a big difference in whether refried beans are healthy or unhealthy.
Generally speaking, refried beans prepared with animal fats tend to be high in unhealthy cholesterols and saturated fat. However, preparing refried beans with a small amount of oil (such as olive oil) can keep your beans relatively free from fat and bad cholesterol.
Another reason many people believe refried beans are unhealthy is because of the large amounts of salt in many recipes. To fix this, it’s best to minimize the amount of salt you add to your recipe or pick salt alternatives.
Also, when purchasing from the store, pay attention to the total amount of sodium and opt for low sodium options if possibles.
In short, the key to making healthy refried beans is to avoid unsaturated fat and add minimal or no salt. When doing this, they can be a great way to add protein, fiber, and complex carbs to your diet.
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What Are Refried Beans?
Typically, refried beans consist of pinto (or black) beans with added spices, salt, and sometimes lard or back fat. The animal fat and large amounts of added salt are what makes refried beans unhealthy. The same goes for protein powder. Those that contain animal ingredients—such as whey (a milk protein)—often cause bloating, gas, or exacerbated acne. It may be odd to compare the two, but we like our protein powder like our refried beans—always animal-free.
Let’s get back to the sodium issue. Many store-bought refried beans contain up to 22% of the recommended daily value (DV) for sodium per serving, with 3-4 servings per container. It’s easy to overeat, too, so you might be eating more than recommended. That means you’re intaking tons of added salt, which can increase your risk of hypertension, heart disease, and even contribute to bone density loss.
Refried Beans Nutrition + Health Benefits
We realize we’re a protein powder company, but we also believe in balanced diets filled with a variety of foods. We don’t expect people to get all their protein from powders, and healthfully prepared refried beans are a solid and comforting way to satisfy your body’s protein needs. If you can cut out a lot of the salt and remove the animal fat, you’re well on your way to making refried beans that are healthy and delicious.
Pinto and black beans are actually great sources of protein and daily fiber—a ½ cup of each provides about 15% of your DV for protein and 30% of your DV for fiber. While protein is essential for building muscle tissue, both protein and fat are also satiating, so they prevent you from overeating on other foods. Fiber also contributes to healthy bowel movements.
In addition to protein and fiber, both pinto and black beans provide excellent folate, which is a B vitamin that our bodies use to construct DNA and even prevent defects in fetuses. Pinto and/or black beans can give you up to 37% of the recommended DV for folate.
Pinto and black beans can also add minerals to your diet—magnesium and phosphorus are two examples. Moreover, these beans supply a great source of plant-based iron, which is responsible for moving oxygen from our lungs throughout our body.
Whenever you purchase refried beans (canned or boxed) from a store, it’s important to double-check the label. Specifically, avoid high sodium and unnecessary animal fats in your beans. There are many different companies and brands that provide a low-sodium, reduced-fat type of refried beans to help their customers eat healthy (they're also incredibly easy to make).
It’s a bit harder to check your refried beans nutrition facts when ordering from a restaurant. At big chains, you can usually check their nutrition facts online. If you’re eating at a smaller restaurant, feel free to ask your waiter if the kitchen provides a vegetarian, low-sodium option for refried beans.
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Making Healthy Refried Beans Yourself
If you really want to make sure your refried beans are healthy, your best option is to prepare them yourself.
To do so, purchase low-sodium pinto or black beans from a supermarket (you can also purchase dry beans that you soak overnight). Rinse them thoroughly. Sauté onions, garlic, peppers, and other vegetables in olive oil, and add spices like chili pepper and cumin for some more flavor. Add the beans and then mash them as the whole mix simmers.
Eating healthy refried beans two or three times a week is a great way to reduce the overall saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet, especially when you’re following a vegan or vegetarian diet. Rice and beans are also a classic combination that provides a complete protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
Specifically, brown/white rice is high in methionine but low in lysine; beans are high in lysine, but low in methionine. Thus, the two foods complement each other perfectly and combining them lets you get the essential amino acids that constitute a complete protein. In terms of portions, 1 full cup of rice and beans yields 12g of protein and 10g of fiber.
Are Refried Beans Healthy?
At the end of the day, it all depends on what they’re made from. But, if you’re intentional about what type of beans you buy, order, or cook at home, you can easily incorporate refried beans into a healthy diet!
Out of beans? Shake up a few scoops of our 22 Days Nutrition organic plant-based protein powder. With 20 grams of protein and 20-35 grams of iron (depending on the flavor), our delicious protein keeps you fueled and going strong.