Beans for Heart Health: The Nutritional Benefits and Latest Research

Recipes, preparation tips, and my favorite heart healthy bean snack, Bada Bean!

When it comes to beans, all are good choices for heart health. Yes, all beans (and legumes) are high in fiber, protein, and other nutrients that support heart health. So there is no specific bean that is best for your heart.  They’re all awesome!  

Here are six reasons why you need beans in your life:

  • Beans are a Low Fat and Low Sodium
  • Beans Help Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels, 
  • Beans Help Keep You Regular (straining for bowel movements can increase blood pressure)
  • Beans Lower Cholesterol
  • Beans are a Source of Heart Healthy Nutrients
  • Beans are Anti Inflammatory

The Research on Beans and Legumes on Heart Health

Regarding heart health, research suggests that consuming beans and legumes are most certainly beneficial. Much of this has to do with the fact that they are rich in soluble fiber, which has been shown to help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. 

Additionally, they are a good source of plant-based protein. Research also shows that including more plant protein sources in your diet can help lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

A review of 26 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014 found that consuming beans and other legumes were associated with a 5% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. It also found that replacing one serving of red meat daily with legumes was associated with a 10% reduction in the risk of heart disease.

Wow!  Eating beans is a simple, inexpensive, and delicious way to improve your health and overall nutrition.

What is the Difference Between Beans and Legumes?

A white plate sits on a wooden table with a macrame runner.  Dry beans and lentils are divided into quarters on the plate.
All Beans are Legumes

Are they the same thing? Kind of!

Legumes are a family of plants that produce pods with seeds inside, and beans are actually a type of legume. Other legumes include lentils, chickpeas, peas, and peanuts.

So all beans are legumes, but all legumes are not beans!

Here are the Benefits of Eating Beans Every Day

  1. Lowered risk of heart disease: The soluble fiber in beans can help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  2. A happy gut and less constipation: The high fiber content in beans can support digestive health by promoting regularity, preventing constipation, and feeding beneficial gut bacteria.
  3. Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes: The complex carbohydrates in beans can help to regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  4. Increased satiety: The protein and fiber in beans can help you feel full and satisfied, which may help with weight management.
  5. Improved nutrient intake: Beans are a good source of several essential nutrients, including protein, iron, folate, and potassium.

Beans, Beans, They’re Good For Your Heart…But What About Your Stomach?

Some people may experience digestive discomfort when they first start eating more beans. Okay…most people will have some gas or bloating when they first increase their intake of beans!

This is because beans contain certain types of carbohydrates and fiber that can be difficult to digest. The good news is that fiber is great food for the good bacteria (gut microbiome) in your gut. We are just starting to discover all of the ways that a healthy gut microbiome influences our overall health. We want this undigestible fiber to reach the colon and feed our gut microbes!

Having a robust gut microbiome helps crowd out pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria. It is also believed to help with immunity. Even more exciting, new research on the gut microbiome and cardiovascular disease was recently published. I am working on an article summarizing it for you and hope to have it posted soon.

In the meantime, just google: “Gut microbiome and heart disease.” There is a lot of good stuff out there.

My best tip is to gradually increase your intake of beans over time. If you use dry beans, soak them before cooking to help reduce their gas-producing compounds. It works. I soak and rinse.  Then I soak them a bit longer and give them a second rinse before cooking.

Go slowly, and your body should adjust to the beans in a couple of weeks!

Are Beans A Good Source of Protein?

Beans are a good source of plant-based protein, although the protein content can vary slightly depending on the type of bean. Here are some examples of the protein content of common types of beans, based on a 1-cup serving:

  • Black beans: 15 grams
  • Kidney beans: 15 grams
  • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans): 14.5 grams
  • Lentils: 18 grams
  • Navy beans: 15 grams
  • Pinto beans: 15 grams

What About Other Nutrients?

Beans are a nutrient-dense food that provides a wide range of essential nutrients. Here are the approximate nutrient contents of one cup (about 240 mL) of cooked beans:

  • Calories 225-260
  • Protein 15-18 grams
  • Carbohydrates 40-45 grams (12-19g are in the form of fiber)
  • Fat 0-3 grams
  • Sodium 0 milligrams
  • Potassium 500-1000 milligrams
  • Iron 3-5 milligrams
  • Calcium 40-80 milligrams
  • Folate 50-300 micrograms

Beans are also a good source of other nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamin B6. Additionally, they are rich in antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds.

What are the Ways to Prepare Beans?

  1. Open Up a Can! Canned beans are the easiest way to have beans. They don’t even need to be cooked. You can eat them right out of the can or dump them into whatever dish you are making. (I do prefer to heat them up.)

Here’s where you must be careful: Beans are canned in salt.  Make sure you buy unsalted or “No Salt” versions.  Read those labels to be sure.  Some low salt versions have more salt than regular versions.

  1. Soaking: Soaking beans before cooking can help to reduce their cooking time and improve their digestibility. To soak beans, simply rinse them well and place them in a large bowl with enough water to cover them by a few inches. Let them soak for at least 4 hours or overnight, then drain and rinse before cooking.
  2. Boiling: Boiling beans in water until they are fully cooked is a simple and healthy way to prepare them. Avoid adding salt or other seasonings until the beans are fully cooked, as this can make them tougher and take longer to cook.
  3. Pressure cooking: Pressure cooking beans can help to reduce their cooking time and improve their texture. Using a pressure cooker can also help to retain more of their nutrients than boiling.
  4. Roasting: This is the most underappreciated way to prepare beans. Roasted beans are delicious!  Roasting beans in the oven can give them a crispy texture and enhance their flavor. Simply toss the beans with a bit of olive oil and your favorite seasonings, then roast in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes.

Of course, you can also buy roasted bean snacks. There are several snacks available. My absolute favorite brand of snack beans are Bada Bean.  

Here’s why: They are yummy.  They are low in sodium.  They are low in sugar.  They are also low in fat and calories with fiber.  See the end of the article for my review!

Canned Beans Comparison!

Canned beans are inexpensive, quick and easy! But they are also salty 🙁, really salty.  And they are unpredictably salty.  Check out the table below and remember that you must always read labels.  There are a ton of brands out there are the sodium varies widely. Some brands have lower sodium than the Lower Sodium version of other brands. Check this out.

Close up of label for Bush's Lower Sodium black beans which shows 210mg of sodium per 1/2 cup serving.
Bush’s Reduced Sodium Black Beans
Happy Belly Black Bean label shows 130mg sodium per half cup serving.
Happy Belly Label (Regular Version)

You might think about rinsing the beans.  It’s true, while rinsing the beans can decrease the sodium content, it doesn’t even get rid of half.  The actual estimate is that rinsing your canned beans twice in cool water for at least ten seconds will reduce the sodium by about 40%. 

While this can help some, it’s easier to just buy unsalted canned beans in the first place!

Great Value Black Beans130mg per ½ cup
Happy Belly Black Beans130mg per ½ cup
Bush’s Reduced Sodium Black Beans210mg per ½ cup
Goya Black Beans410mg per ½ cup
Great Value No Salt Added10mg per ½ cup
Eden Organic Black Beans15mg per ½ cup
Sodium Content of Popular Canned Beans

What are Some Healthy Ways to Eat Beans?

Beans are a versatile and nutritious ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of meals. Here are some healthy meal ideas that incorporate beans:

  1. Bean salad: Mix together cooked beans, chopped vegetables (such as bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers), and a simple vinaigrette for a delicious and nutritious salad.
  2. Bean soup: Combine cooked beans, vegetables (such as carrots, celery, and onion), and broth in a pot and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add herbs and spices to taste, such as thyme, rosemary, and black pepper.
  3. Beans, rice, and vegetables: Mix cooked beans with your favorite vegetables, such as broccoli, bell peppers, and onions. Serve over brown rice or quinoa. Add a favorite low sodium sauce.
  4. Bean tacos: Fill corn tortillas with cooked beans, diced avocado, salsa, and shredded lettuce.
  5. Bean chili: Combine cooked beans, vegetables (such as onion, bell peppers, and tomatoes), and spices in a pot and simmer until thick and flavorful. Serve with whole-grain crackers or a side salad.
  6. Bean and whole-grain bowl: Combine cooked beans with your favorite whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa, and top with roasted vegetables, avocado, and a simple vinaigrette.

These are just a few examples of the many healthy meals you can make with beans. Experiment with different types of beans, vegetables, and seasonings to create your own delicious and nutritious meals. And check out these bean recipes on the blog: Low Sodium Beans and Greens and Low Sodium Minestrone Soup I hope you like them!

Dry Beans or Canned Beans?

Dry and canned beans are both popular options for cooking with beans, but they have some differences in terms of preparation, taste, and nutritional value. Here’s a comparison of dry and canned beans:


Dry beans require soaking overnight before cooking to reduce their cooking time and improve their digestibility. Canned beans, on the other hand, are already cooked and can be used directly in recipes without any additional preparation.


Many people find that dry beans have a more flavorful taste and firmer texture than canned beans. Canned beans can sometimes have a slightly metallic or “canned” taste, although this can be reduced by rinsing them thoroughly before use.

Nutritional Value

Both dry and canned beans are nutritious sources of protein, fiber, and other essential vitamins and minerals. However, canned beans often contain added sodium, which can be of concern for people on a low-sodium diet. Dry beans also tend to have slightly more fiber and protein than canned beans, although the difference is relatively small.


Canned beans are more convenient than dry beans because they require less preparation time and can be used directly in recipes. However, dry beans are often more economical than canned beans, especially when purchased in bulk.

Overall, both dry and canned beans are nutritious and versatile ingredients that can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Choosing between dry and canned beans may come down to personal preference and convenience.

Can Beans Be Bad for You?

No!!! Not by themselves.  We make beans unhealthy by preparing them in unhealthy ways!

Refried Beans

Refried beans are delicious and filling, but they can be very unhealthy. Traditionally, refried beans are made by cooking and mashing pinto beans with lard or bacon fat, which adds a significant amount of saturated fat to the dish. And they are often loaded with sodium.

My advice is to look for low sodium canned versions or make them yourself so you can control the ingredients. Use a little bit of olive oil, leave out the salt, and add your favorite spices. Smash them up and heat them for a few minutes and you will have healthy homemade refried beans.  It really is that simple.

Baked Beans

Baked beans are also delicious.  They were one of my favorite things to eat when I was a kid. What makes them unhealthy is that they are made with added sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats.   

Many canned baked beans are made with high fructose corn syrup to enhance their flavor, as well as salt, and animal fats. Restaurant versions aren’t much healthier.  In fact, they can have even more salt, sugar, and fat than store versions.

Again, this is a case where you should make them yourself.  It’s not hard.  Use spices, a touch of maple syrup, and low sodium barbecue sauce with a touch of olive oil. 

Bada Beans! A Dietitian’s Favorite Bean Snack

A white bowl sits on a wooden table. The bowl is filled with Bada Bean snack bags -- Cinnamon, Zesty Ranch, and Sweet Onion and Mustard
These Flavors of Bada Beans are Low Sodium!

I have included my favorite bean snack in this article.  They are not a sponsor, they are just my favorite.  In fact, I contacted them and asked them to send me their low sodium flavors because I love them so much.  They were happy to oblige.  

Bada Beans are fully plant based and gluten free.  They have six flavors in all, and three are low sodium, low in fat, low in sugar, high in fiber, and high in protein.

One of those three “Sweet Cinnamon” is ZERO sodium with 6g protein and 5g of fiber per one ounce (110 kcal) serving.  Bada Beans are all very low in sugar.  Even the Sweet Cinnamon flavor has only 1g of added sugar.

A handful of Sweet Cinnamon bean snacks.
Sweet Cinnamon Bada Bean

The other low sodium flavors squeak into the category with 140mg of sodium per serving.  Those flavors are Zesty Ranch and Sweet Onion & Mustard.  My very favorite thing about Bada Beans is their CRUNCH.  They are so crunchy and crisp.  I think this is one of the many reasons they really satisfy your snack craving.  

Label close up of Sweet Onion and Mustard showing 140mg of sodium per serving.
Sweet Onion and Mustard Bada Bean Label
Label close up of Zesty Ranch showing 140mg of sodium per serving.
Zesty Ranch Bada Bean Label

I have even tried making these myself, but I can’t get them to be nearly as good and nearly as crunchy!!!

Bada Beans come in perfect little 1-ounce serving packets or bigger 4.5-ounce bags.  I really think they are the perfect snack.  You can order them from their website: and multiple online stores, including Amazon.  

Take Home Message

  • If you have heart failure, and even if you don’t, you need beans and legumes in your life. 
  • Beans can provide a significant amount of protein per serving. They are also a good source of other important nutrients, including fiber, iron, and folate. 
  • Incorporating beans into your diet can be a healthy way to meet your protein needs while protecting your heart, keeping your cholesterol intake low, feeding your gut microbiome, and supporting overall health and wellness.

I hope you enjoyed this article.  Drop me a line and tell me your favorite bean recipes.  Check out my Instagram too @TheCHFDietitian. And don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list! The link is on the home page.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay in Touch

The CHF Dietitian is your one-stop solution to managing a diagnosis of heart failure and living your best life.


Related Articles