Are Refried Beans as Healthy as Regular Beans?

Updated on May 18th, 2020
are refried beans healthy

Refried beans can be healthy food or unhealthy food — preparation makes all the difference. Refried beans made with animal fat can be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. In contrast, beans fried with a small amount of olive or canola oil can be relatively low in fat and cholesterol-free. When they’re cooked with wholesome ingredients and little or no added salt, refried beans are a healthy way to include protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates to your meals.

Comparing Brands

When you’re shopping for commercially made refried beans, read the nutrition facts labels thoroughly. Though most canned beans offer abundant protein, fiber, iron, potassium,  and other essential nutrients, refried beans vary in the amount of cholesterol, fat, and sodium they contain.

Data from the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) shows that one brand of conventional-style beans has 3 grams of fat, 217 calories,13 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, and 1,069 milligrams of sodium per one-cup serving.

Another brand has 16 grams of fat, 336 calories, 11 grams of fiber, 12 grams of protein, and 874 milligrams of sodium per cup. Both brands offer fiber, protein, and other vital nutrients, but one brand is remarkably higher in fat.

Refried Beans Nutrition

Refried beans and other legumes are high in protein, complex carbohydrates, iron, potassium, folate, magnesium. Refried beans provide both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which play essential roles in the absorption and digestion of food.

If you plan to cut back on red meat and vegetarians, refried beans offer both protein and iron, a mineral that your body makes use to transport oxygen through your bloodstream. They are also a rich source of potassium, an electrolyte that helps maintain healthy blood pressure.

Blood Sugar Effects

Dried beans are rated low on the GI or glycemic index, a tool used for estimating how dramatically a food will spike your blood sugar. Refried beans are rich in soluble fiber, a kind of fiber that slows the digestion of carbohydrates and reduces their effect on your blood sugar. Emphasizing low-glycemic index foods in your diet can help you maintain a healthy weight by delaying hunger and controlling your appetite, the GI Foundation notes.

Refried Beans Calories

Making your own refried beans can be easy and quick, according to the ADA (American Diabetes Association’s) “Diabetes Forecast,” and it can be the finest way to ensure that your beans are low in sodium and fat. Rinse and drain red or black beans, canned pinto, to remove extra sodium, then mash beans coarsely and add with cilantro, chili powder, garlic, and cumin.

Heat chopped onions with mashed beans in one tbsp of olive oil for a healthy-heart, low-fat recipe. One serving has 2.5 grams of fat, no trans fat or cholesterol, 4 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber, 80 calories according to “Diabetes Forecast.”


Consuming refried beans or other legumes in place of meat 2 or 3 times a week can reduce the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your food.  Serve refried beans with steamed broccoli, corn tortillas,  and fresh tomato salsa for a light Mexican-style dinner. The vitamin C in the tomatoes and broccoli will help your body absorb the iron in your refried beans.

[ Read: 9 Magical Health Benefits of Green Beans ]

Health Benefits of Refried Beans

1. Beans can prevent Cardiovascular Disease

Research has shown that people who take more legumes have a reduced risk of heart disease, and the phytochemicals found in beans can be partially to thank because they shield against it.

A 2017 review of medical studies in the journal BioMed Research International found that high legume intakes are linked with a lower risk of premature death—and in particular cardiovascular disease-related mortality. Legumes are one of the foods that are tied directly to younger-looking skin(1).

2. Beans can Battle Cancer

Beans contain a wide range of cancer-battling plant chemicals, specifically, isoflavones and phytosterols, according to the American Chemical Society, and all can help reduce cancer risk.

3. Beans can reduce Cholesterol

Beans replenish the body with soluble fiber, which plays a crucial role in controlling blood cholesterol levels. The HHS (U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources) says that five to ten grams of soluble fiber a day—the amount in half to 1 1/2 cups of navy beans—reduces LDL cholesterol by about 3 to 5 percent. Beans also contain phytosterols and saponins, which help lower cholesterol.

4. Beans can help you lose Weight

A serving of beans will make you feel full more rapidly because the rich fiber content satiates your stomach and causes a slower rise in blood sugar, according to a 2016 study(2) in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. That should stave off hunger for prolonged periods and give you a constant supply of energy.

5. Beans can help manage Diabetes

Beans are a superfood for people fighting with diabetes! The balance of protein and complex carbohydrates provides a steady, slow source of glucose instead of the sudden surge that can occur after consuming simple carbohydrates, research has found. Beans are part of the best foods for people with diabetes.

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