Beans are members of the legume family — plants that produce pods with seeds inside.

They’re a staple food in some cultures and an important source of plant-based protein and other essential nutrients, such as iron and folate (1).

People in the United States commonly consume black beans, pinto beans, and navy beans, among other types. You can buy them either dried or canned.

When we refer to canned beans in this article, we’re talking about cooked beans in a can with no flavoring, not baked beans or other prepared beans in a can.

People don’t typically recognize canned beans for their health benefits. Some might think they’re nutritionally inferior or harmful compared with dried beans. You may wonder if they’re unhealthy for you, particularly if you have high blood pressure (2, 3).

This article uncovers whether canned beans are good or bad for your health.

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Beans are partially cooked and canned under high heat and pressure.

In industrial bean canning, the dried beans are first rehydrated with hot water at 167–185°F (75–85°C). This process simultaneously kills any microorganisms on the surface of the beans.

They are then treated with any food additives, including salt, and canned under high pressure and heat, as detailed in this video. The video shows a production process for canned baked beans, but plain canned beans go through a similar cooking and preservation process.

Studies have shown that canning reduces the polyphenol content of the beans. Polyphenols are beneficial plant compounds that are naturally found in beans and can have protective effects in your body (4).

Canning also changes the weight and color of some beans and may slightly reduce their protein content (4, 5).

Summary

Manufacturers of canned beans cook the beans partially and then add food additives and use treatments to reduce microorganisms. Then they can the beans and put them under high pressure and heat.

People don’t often recognize dried or canned beans for their potential role in preventing and managing chronic disease (2, 3).

However, these versatile, nutrient-dense foods may reduce the risk of chronic disease and offer other health benefits too (3).

Here are some of the benefits of canned beans.

Plant-based protein

Beans are an important source of plant-based protein and are a suitable replacement for meat in the diet.

Here are estimated amounts of protein adults should consume per day (6):

  • Those under age 65: About 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.8 grams per kilogram) — that’s about 58 grams of protein for a person who weighs 160 pounds (72 kg).
  • Those over age 65: About 0.45 grams of protein per pound of body weight (1.0 grams per kilogram) — that’s 72 grams of protein for a person who weighs 160 pounds (72 kg).

Canned beans can help you meet your protein needs. For example, 1 cup (171 grams) of canned pinto beans provides 15.4 grams of protein (7).

Furthermore, plant-based diets have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome and may also improve brain function (8, 9, 10).

Protein is also an important nutrient for weight loss and weight management (11).

Dietary fiber

Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate your body can’t digest.

Research has shown it can help you feel full longer, which may support weight loss and lower blood cholesterol levels (12).

One cup (171 grams) of cooked pinto beans provides 15 grams of fiber, more than half the recommended Daily Value (DV) for fiber of 28 grams (7).

Gut health

Beans are also a prebiotic food — a source of nutrition for the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut (2, 13).

Beans contain compounds with anti-inflammatory and lipid-lowering properties, meaning they help reduce inflammation and levels of fats in the blood, respectively. They also support a diverse and healthy gut microbiome (13).

Your gut microbiome is the community of bacteria that live in your intestines. They play a role in your overall health, including weight management. Research suggests they may also protect against the development of neurodegenerative diseases (13).

Cost and convenience

Compared with their dried alternatives, canned beans are easy to prepare, have a long shelf life, and are relatively inexpensive (14).

For example, a 1-pound (454-gram) bag of dried black beans from Good & Gather costs $0.99, while the brand’s comparable 15.5-ounce (439-gram) can of black beans costs $0.59.

Canned beans are also precooked, and you don’t need to soak them overnight like dried beans. This majorly reduces the time it takes to prepare them.

Summary

Canned beans offer an array of nutritional value and health benefits and are a convenient processed food.

Canned beans have an impressive nutrient profile and are generally safe.

One 2020 study in Nigeria found that some canned foods contained environmental contaminants. However, this study focused mainly on canned meats and fish and made only minor mentions of canned beans (14).

It’s important to note that these results were from only one study and more research is needed.

Canned beans may contain nitrates and nitrites

Nitrates and nitrites are preservatives used in canned foods and as food additives in cured processed meats. They help prevent the growth of mold and bacteria (14, 15).

They are also used as a fertilizer and are naturally found in fruits and vegetables (14, 15).

High levels in canned beans may indicate contamination during farming and canning. Excessive consumption of nitrates and nitrites may disrupt blood and oxygen flow in the body (14, 15).

However, these compounds are safe in small doses. In fact, research has shown they play an important role in the production of nitric oxide in the body, helping lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, and reduce the risk of heart disease (15, 16).

Potential for heavy metal contamination

Heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, are dense metals that are toxic at low concentrations (17).

Although contaminated drinking water is the main source of exposure to heavy metals, one 2020 study discovered excess levels of cadmium in canned beans (14, 17).

Cadmium is found in soil. It’s a common food contaminant that, with long-term exposure, accumulates throughout the body and may impair kidney function and bone health (18).

May contain salt

Salt (sodium) is an essential nutrient that helps your body regulate blood volume and blood pressure (19).

While your body requires salt in small amounts, typical Western diets contain excessive amounts. Consuming too much salt can increase your risk of high blood pressure, kidney disease, and stroke (19, 20).

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting your daily intake of sodium to 2,300 mg, which is the equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt.

If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, you should further limit your intake to 1,500 mg (2/3 teaspoon) of salt per day (21).

One can of canned beans can contain up to 25% of the recommended daily intake of salt (570 mg).

Summary

Canned beans are safe to eat and provide many health benefits. Nevertheless, there is a low risk that canned foods may be a source of excess salt, nitrates, nitrites, and heavy metals that may pose human health risks.

When buying canned beans, check the can for dents or bulges and choose cans without any defects.

Read the nutrient labels and opt for products with lower salt levels. However, if this is not possible, rinse canned beans to remove some of the salt before cooking them.

Because canned beans are precooked, you don’t need to soak them before you cook them, as you would with dried beans.

The seasonings you add to your canned beans depend on the recipe you’re following, but people often use fresh onion, garlic, green onions, and black pepper, such as in this Brazilian black bean stew recipe.

Other ways to use canned beans:

Summary

Canned beans are versatile. You can use them in numerous recipes, such as stews, soups, and salads. Read nutrient labels and practice safety when purchasing canned foods.

Canned beans are a versatile processed food and offer a nutritional profile similar to that of dried beans.

They are an excellent source of fiber, plant-based protein, and other essential nutrients, such as folate and potassium.

Despite the potential for contamination, canned beans are generally safe to consume and prove to be a convenient and nutritious alternative to dried beans.