Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Are Canned Beans Bad For You?



Short answer

Canned beans offer convenience and remain a nutritious option akin to dry beans, with slight reductions in fiber and certain minerals due to processing. They contain good levels of protein and significant minerals, though they often have higher sodium content, which can be mitigated by choosing low-sodium versions or rinsing. Canned beans may have additives like BPA in can linings, raising health concerns; opting for BPA-free cans when possible is advisable. Both canned and dry beans are healthful when prepared and consumed mindfully.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Canned Beans vs. Dry Beans

When we look at the nutritional content of canned beans versus dry beans, it's crucial to remember that while the two forms are essentially from the same source, the processing involved in canning can affect their nutritional value. Let’s dissect the primary nutritional differences between these two to provide a comprehensive understanding of what you gain, and potentially lose, when choosing canned beans over their dry counterparts.

To begin, it's important to highlight that dry beans require preparation, including soaking and cooking, which can both add to the time it takes to make them edible and also cause some nutritional losses due to the heat and water used in cooking. Canned beans, on the other hand, are precooked and ready to eat, offering convenience but also bringing into play the effects of preservation methods on their nutrition.

Here are some of the key nutritional aspects to consider:

  • Fiber: Both canned and dry beans are good sources of dietary fiber, which is essential for digestive health. However, some studies have shown that the canning process might slightly reduce the fiber content compared to cooked dry beans.
  • Protein: Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein. The protein content remains relatively stable through the canning process, so canned beans are nearly as good as cooked dry beans in terms of protein.
  • Vitamins: Heat-sensitive vitamins, such as vitamin C and certain B vitamins, could be reduced during the canning process. Nonetheless, the levels of other vitamins could be preserved or even enhanced through fortification.
  • Minerals: Essential minerals like iron, magnesium, and potassium are present in both canned and dry beans. Though the canning process may cause some mineral loss, these levels generally remain significant.
  • Sodium: This is one area where canned beans often have dry beans beat, but not in a good way. Canned beans can contain high levels of added sodium used for preservation, which can be a concern for those watching their salt intake. It's advisable to opt for low-sodium versions or drain and rinse the beans to remove some of the added salt.
  • Phytochemicals and Antioxidants: Beans are known for their phytochemicals and antioxidants, like flavonoids and polyphenols, which can help combat oxidative stress in the body. The levels of these compounds can be affected by the canning process, though research on the exact impact varies.
  • Phytic Acid: Phytic acid, which can inhibit mineral absorption, is present in both canned and dry beans. However, the soaking and cooking processes for dry beans can reduce phytic acid content more effectively than the canning process.
  • Preservatives and Additives: Canned beans may contain preservatives and other additives that are not present in dry beans. It’s important to read labels to understand what additional substances you might be consuming with canned beans.

It's worth noting that consumer choices and preparation methods can influence the actual nutritional content of the beans they consume. For instance, choosing organic canned beans may reduce exposure to certain chemicals, while rinsing canned beans can reduce sodium and preservative content. Ultimately, both canned and dry beans offer nutritional benefits and can be part of a healthy diet. The table below compares the average nutritional content of a 1-cup serving of canned kidney beans, rinsed, to that of cooked dry kidney beans:

Nutrient Canned Kidney Beans (1 cup, rinsed) Cooked Dry Kidney Beans (1 cup)
Calories 210 225
Protein 13g 15g
Fiber 12g 13g
Sodium 470mg <5mg
Iron 3mg 4mg
Potassium 700mg 750mg

Bearing in mind individual dietary requirements and health goals, inclusion of either canned or dry beans should be tailored to what best suits one's lifestyle and nutritional needs. Consulting recent dietary studies and guidelines can offer additional insight, empowering consumers to make informed decisions based on the latest scientific findings.

Bisphenol A (BPA) Exposure Through Canned Foods

Understanding the potential health implications of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical commonly used in the production of certain plastics and epoxy resins, is critical when considering the safety of consuming canned beans. BPA is often found in the lining of canned goods to resist corrosion and contamination. When assessing the risks associated with BPA exposure through canned foods, it is essential to discuss the following:

  • Research on BPA: Numerous studies have examined the effects of BPA on health. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods. However, other research suggests that BPA can mimic estrogen and may be associated with certain health problems, including hormone disruption, reproductive issues, and increased risk of certain cancers.
  • Routes of Exposure: BPA can leach into food from the can lining, especially when the cans contain acidic or basic foods like beans. The leaching may increase with the age of the can or when cans are subjected to high temperatures.
  • Vulnerable Populations: Specific groups, such as pregnant women, infants, and children, may be more susceptible to the potential adverse effects of BPA due to their developmental stages.
  • Regulatory Perspectives: Different countries have varying stances on BPA use. Some, like Canada and members of the European Union, have moved to restrict BPA use in certain products. Meanwhile, the FDA maintains that BPA is currently safe in the amounts occurring in canned food.
  • Consumer Choices: As a precaution, many consumers opt for canned beans labeled as "BPA-free." These products use alternative can linings that do not contain BPA, though the safety and efficacy of these substitutes are also subject to research and debate.
  • Reducing BPA Exposure: Besides choosing BPA-free products, consumers can reduce BPA exposure by preferring fresh or frozen beans or those packaged in glass or carton containers.

In summary, while the debate on BPA's safety continues, consumers have options to limit their exposure. Awareness of the potential risks and understanding the labels and packaging of canned beans can help in making informed dietary choices. To ensure comprehensive understanding, always stay informed about the latest findings and regulatory updates on BPA.

Sodium Levels in Canned Beans and Health Implications

When exploring the dietary impact of canned beans, a key factor to consider is their sodium content. Unlike their dried counterparts, canned beans often come with added salt, used as a preservative to enhance flavor and prolong shelf life. Consuming foods with added salt can increase the risk of high blood pressure, which is a contributing factor for heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day and moving toward an ideal limit of 1,500 mg per day for most adults.

Let's delve into the specifics:

  • Sodium Levels: A single cup of canned beans can contain anywhere from 400 mg to over 1000 mg of sodium, depending on the brand and product. This high sodium content can constitute a significant portion of the AHA's daily recommended maximum.
  • Label Reading: Nutrition labels on canned beans list sodium content, allowing consumers to make informed choices. Watching for key phrases such as "no salt added" or "low sodium" can guide healthier selections.
  • Draining and Rinsing: Draining and rinsing canned beans can reduce their sodium content by as much as 40%. This simple practice can significantly improve their nutritional profile.
  • Home Cooking: For those concerned about sodium intake, cooking dried beans at home allows for complete control over the amount of added salt. This is an excellent alternative to manage daily sodium consumption effectively.

The high sodium content in canned beans does not necessarily make them a universally unhealthy choice; moderation and preparation are critical. For individuals with hypertension, heart disease, or a need to monitor sodium intake for other health reasons, paying close attention to how canned beans are incorporated into the diet is essential.

According to a study published in the journal Food and Nutrition Sciences, rinsing canned beans can significantly decrease the amount of sodium while maintaining important nutrients like fiber and protein. The study highlights that with appropriate preparation methods, the health implications associated with high sodium levels can be mitigated.

When discussing the health implications of sodium levels in canned beans, consider these takeaways:

  • Compare brands and products to find those with the lowest sodium content if canned beans are a staple in your diet.
  • Consult current dietary guidelines specific to your health needs — such as guidelines provided by medical professionals for conditions like hypertension.
  • Opt for home-cooked beans when possible, and incorporate canned beans with mindful preparation.

By understanding and managing the sodium content in canned beans, individuals can enjoy the nutritional benefits such as fiber, protein, and essential vitamins while minimizing potential health risks.

Impact of Preservatives in Canned Beans on Health

When evaluating the impact of preservatives in canned beans, it's crucial to identify the types commonly used and their potential health effects. Preservatives are added to canned goods to prolong shelf life, prevent spoilage, and maintain textural integrity. Let's delve into some of the preservatives you might find in canned beans and discuss their implications for health.

Sodium Content: One of the primary preservatives in canned beans is sodium, often in the form of salt or sodium compounds. It acts as a preservative by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold. However, excessive sodium intake is a concern for many health experts, as it is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommended daily limit for sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams. Consuming canned beans can contribute significantly to this daily intake, especially if they are not drained and rinsed properly.

  • Rinsing canned beans can reduce their sodium content by as much as 40%, according to a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
  • Opting for low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties can also be a healthier choice for those monitoring their sodium intake.

Bisphenol A (BPA): BPA is a chemical that has been used to line food cans and preserve the food inside. Some research has linked BPA exposure to potential health risks such as reproductive disorders, heart disease, diabetes, and developmental problems in children. As a result, there is growing consumer demand for BPA-free canned goods, and many manufacturers are responding by phasing out BPA or labeling their products as BPA-free.

  • While the FDA maintains that BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods, these concerns have led to increased consumer awareness and demand for BPA-free products.
  • A study from Environmental Research suggests that consuming canned food is a primary source of BPA exposure in diet, highlighting the importance of BPA-free options.

Calcium Chloride and Calcium Disodium EDTA: Other preservatives, such as calcium chloride and calcium disodium EDTA, are sometimes added to retain the firmness of beans and prevent discoloration. While generally recognized as safe by the FDA, individual sensitivities and excess consumption can lead to health concerns.

  • Calcium chloride may pose minimal risk; however, in large amounts, it may lead to an imbalance in mineral and electrolyte levels.
  • Calcium disodium EDTA has been evaluated for safety at typical consumption levels, but its consumption should still be monitored due to potential accumulative effects over an extended period, especially in populations with higher vulnerability.

In summary, while preservatives play a role in maintaining the quality of canned beans, they can pose health risks if consumed in excess. Mindful selection, proper preparation (such as rinsing), and moderation can mitigate some of these risks. Always read labels carefully and choose products that align with your dietary needs and health considerations.

How Rinsing Canned Beans Can Make a Difference

Opening a can of beans and adding them directly to your favorite dishes is undoubtedly convenient, but taking a moment to rinse them can make a considerable difference to your health. Here's how rinsing canned beans can impact your well-being:

  • Reduces Sodium Content: Canned beans often come with added salt, used as a preservative to extend shelf life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high sodium intake can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that rinsing canned beans can reduce their sodium content by up to 41%.
  • Minimizes Preservatives: Besides salt, other preservatives like calcium chloride and disodium EDTA are added to maintain the firmness and color of the beans. Rinsing can help wash away some of these additives, although it’s important to check labels for these ingredients if you're watching your preservative intake.
  • Lowers the Risk of Gas and Bloating: Beans contain oligosaccharides, complex sugars that can be difficult for some people to digest, leading to gas and bloating. While rinsing won’t remove all oligosaccharides, it can help reduce their levels, making the beans easier on your digestive system.
  • Improves Flavor and Texture: The liquid in canned beans may have a starchy, off-putting flavor that can affect the taste of your dishes. Rinsing gets rid of this liquid and can improve the overall taste and texture of the beans.

Here's a simple step-by-step guide to efficiently rinse canned beans:

  1. Drain the liquid from the can and discard it.
  2. Place the beans in a colander or fine-mesh strainer.
  3. Run cool tap water over the beans for one to two minutes, stirring with your hand or a spoon to ensure that all beans get rinsed.
  4. Allow the beans to drain completely to remove excess water.
  5. Your beans are now ready to be added to your recipe!

Keep in mind that while rinsing can entail an extra step in your food preparation, the benefits to your health by reducing sodium and preservatives, and even possibly improving digestibility, make it a habit worth considering.

Frequently asked questions

Cooking dry beans at home provides several nutritional advantages, including lower sodium levels since you can control the amount of salt added, reduced phytic acid content due to soaking, and no exposure to preservatives or additives often found in canned beans. Furthermore, home cooking avoids the risk of BPA exposure from can linings, making it a healthier overall choice.

Yes, soaking dry beans before cooking can significantly reduce the phytic acid content, a natural substance that can inhibit the absorption of minerals. Canning does not offer the same level of reduction in phytic acid as soaking and cooking, making properly prepared dry beans a better option for maximizing mineral absorption.

The protein content in both canned and cooked dry beans is relatively stable, with canned beans providing nearly as much protein as their cooked dry counterparts. This makes canned beans a convenient and reliable source of plant-based protein in diets.

BPA-free canned beans eliminate the risk of bisphenol A (BPA) exposure, which has been associated with various health concerns, such as hormonal disruptions and increased risk of certain cancers. Choosing BPA-free options can therefore be particularly beneficial for vulnerable populations like pregnant women and children, who may be more sensitive to the effects of BPA.

Ask a question about Canned Beans and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • bloating
  • gas
  • high blood pressure

Possible long-term side effects

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • reproductive issues
  • hormone disruption
  • increased risk of certain cancers
  • mineral and electrolyte imbalance

Ingredients to be aware of

  • added sodium
  • bpa
  • phytic acid
  • preservatives (calcium chloride, disodium edta)


  • convenience
  • dietary fiber
  • plant-based protein
  • essential vitamins and minerals
  • phytochemicals and antioxidants

Healthier alternatives

  • low-sodium canned beans
  • bpa-free canned beans
  • fresh or frozen beans
  • home-cooked dry beans
  • glass or carton-packaged beans

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Eden Organic Black Beans

  • No Salt Added
  • Non-GMO
  • U.S Grown
  • Ready to Serve
  • Macrobiotic Friendly
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-07-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-07-2024

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