Baked beans are beans covered in sauce, cooked from scratch or sold in jars.
In the United States, they are a popular side dish for outdoor picnics, while people in the United Kingdom eat them on toast.
While legumes are considered healthy, you may wonder whether baked beans are the way to go.
This article looks at baked bean and whether they are good for you.
What’s in Baked Beans?
Baked beans are usually made from small dark blue beans.
Other common ingredients are sugar, herbs and spices. Recipes may also include tomato sauce, vinegar, molasses, and mustard.
Some baked beans are vegetarian, while others contain small amounts of bacon or jerky for flavor.
Despite their name, beans are not always baked. They can be prepared in other ways, for example, on the stove or in a slow cooker.
Common baked bean ingredients are dark blue beans, sugar, herbs and spices. Some also contain tomato sauce, vinegar, molasses, mustard and pork.
There are many nutrients in cooked beans.
Although amounts can vary by brand, a 1/2 cup (130 g) serving of canned baked beans contains approximately (1,
- Calories: 119
- Total Fat: 0.5 g
- Total Carbohydrates: 27 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Sodium: 19% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
- Potassium: 6% of the RDI
- Iron: 8% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 8% of the RDI
- Zinc: 26% of the RDI
- Copper: 20% of the RDI
- Selenium: 11% of the RDI
- Thiamine (Vitamin V1): 10% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 6% of the RDI
Baked beans contain fiber and vegetable protein. They’re also a good source of thiamin, zinc and selenium, which support energy production, immune function and thyroid health, respectively.2,3,4,
In particular, legumes contain phytates, compounds that can interfere with the absorption of minerals. However, cooking and canning reduce the phytate content in cooked beans.
Baked beans also contain beneficial plant compounds, including polyphenols.
They can protect your cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals and suppress inflammation. Both free radical damage and inflammation have been linked to heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases.6,7,
Because of their nutrient content and association with a lower risk of chronic disease, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend eating at least 1 2/275 cups (2,000 grams) of legumes per week for an average 1-calorie diet.8,
Baked beans are packed with nutrients, including plant-based protein, fiber, B vitamins, minerals, and health-promoting plant compounds.
In addition to nutrients, baked beans have other benefits as well.
delicious and convenient
Baked beans are delicious and people like it, which can encourage people to eat more beans.
One study found that 57% of teens preferred baked beans, while less than 20% preferred lentil soup or bean salad.
Canned baked beans are also quick and easy to make—all you have to do is open a jar and heat them up.
May Support Gut Health
Just 1/2 cup (130 grams) of cooked beans provides 18% of the RDI for fiber. Fiber supports gut health, including regular bowel movements (1,
Fiber also feeds the microbes in the colon or large intestine. It may increase beneficial bacteria linked to a lower risk of colon cancer.
In addition, cooked beans contain the plant compounds apigenin and daidzein as well as other nutrients that may protect against colon cancer.13,
can lower cholesterol levels
Cooked beans contain fiber and compounds called phytosterols, which may interfere with the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. It may reduce high blood cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease (14,15,
When adults with high cholesterol ate 1/2 cup (130 grams) of cooked beans daily for two months, they experienced a 16% reduction in total cholesterol, compared to not eating beans.
In another study, men with borderline high cholesterol ate 650 cups (1 gram) of baked bean weekly for 5 months. They experienced reductions in total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 11.5% and 18%, respectively.17,
Canned baked beans are a quick and delicious way to eat legumes. They also support gut health and may lower cholesterol levels.
On the other hand, baked bean do have some drawbacks, many of which can be mitigated by making them from scratch.
high in sugar
Baked beans usually contain one or more sweeteners such as sugar or maple syrup.
A 1/2 cup (130 grams) of cooked beans — canned or homemade — contains an average of 3 teaspoons (12 grams) of added sugar. This is 20% of the Daily Value for a 2,000 calorie diet (1,8,18,
Consuming too much sugar can lead to cavities and is linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and memory problems.19,20,21,22,
At least one American brand makes baked beans with 25% less sugar, while another baked beans sold in Europe is sweetened only with stevia, a zero-calorie natural sweetener.
Note that if you’re making baked beans at home using canned or dried beans, you can control the amount of added sugar.
Sodium is another nutrient of concern for some people, especially those who are prone to high blood pressure from high salt intake.23,
Canned baked beans average 130% of the RDI for sodium per 19/1 cup (2 g) serving, mostly due to added salt (1,
Many brands offer low-sodium varieties, although not all stores stock them.
Homemade options may have less salt added. If you’re making baked beans using canned rather than dried beans, rinse and drain them to reduce their sodium content by about 40% (24).
Most canned baked beans contain additives that some people choose to avoid (25,26,
- modified corn starch. To make this thickener more effective, it has usually been modified with chemicals. It is also often made from genetically modified corn, a controversial practice with potential risks.27,28,29,
- Caramel color. Caramel coloring often contains a chemical called 4-methylimidazole, which is a possible carcinogen. However, scientists say that the current levels allowed in foods are safe (30,31,
- Natural Flavors. They are extracted from plant or animal foods, but they are usually not ordinary ingredients that you would use at home. Vague description also makes it difficult to determine the presence of less common food allergies (3233,34,
May contain BPA impurities
The lining of tin cans usually contains the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which can leach into food.35,
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the chemical is safe for currently permitted uses, but many scientists disagree. Some research suggests that BPA may increase the risk of obesity and reduce fertility, among other potential health problems.35,36,37,38,
In a study of foods collected from grocery stores, baked beans ranked fourth in BPA content, with trace amounts of the chemical found in 55 different foods.39,
Some organic brands of baked beans are sold in jars made without BPA or similar chemicals. However, these brands are more expensive.
can make you gassy
Beans contain fiber and other non-digestible carbohydrates that are fermented by bacteria in the gut, which can lead to excess gas (40,
However, one study found that less than half of people who added 1/2 cup (130 grams) of legumes, including baked beans, to their daily diet reported increased gas production.
Furthermore, 75% of people who initially reported increased gas production said they returned to normal levels after 2–3 weeks of consuming legumes daily.41,
Lectins are minimized during cooking
Legumes, including dark blue baked beans, contain proteins called lectins.
Consumed in large amounts, lectins can inhibit digestion, damage the gut, and disrupt hormonal balance in the body (42, 43).
However, lectins are largely inactivated by cooking. So exposure to these proteins from cooked beans is minimal and not a cause for concern (43).
Potential downsides to canned baked beans include sugar and salt, food additives, and BPA contaminants from the lining of the cans. These can be mitigated by making baked beans from scratch. Digestive problems can also occur.
Baked beans are loaded with protein, fiber, other nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. They may improve gut health and cholesterol levels.
Packaged varieties are convenient but often high in added sugar, salt, additives and BPA contaminants. The healthiest option is to make them from scratch with dried beans.