Fiber, Folate and Protein — Plus 4 More Pinto Bean Benefits

Pinto beans are the most popular dried bean in the United States. Unfortunately they’re typically consumed in restaurants as refried beans made with bacon fat or some other kind of artery-clogging lard. Pinto beans also have a reputation for causing gastrointestinal discomfort. If you’re in the bean-avoidance camp, I ask you to reconsider. Here’s why.

Pinto Bean Benefits

Pinto Bean Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

1. Pinto beans are an excellent source of protein and dietary fiber.

A one-cup serving of pinto beans supplies 245 calories of energy and almost 50% of the recommended daily intake of protein and fiber for older adults.

2. Dried pinto beans are fat free.

Dried pinto beans are fat and sodium free and rich in many vitamins and minerals, including iron which supports red blood cell production and heart health.

3. Pinto beans are very high in thiamin (also known as vitamin B1).

Vitamin B1 plays a key role in nerve, muscle and heart function. Adequate amounts of thiamin are critical for maintaining healthy brain function. Pinto beans are also high in niacin and riboflavin, two other B vitamins that help build strong tissues.

4. Pinto beans can counteract the effects of sulfites.

Molybdenum, a mineral rarely found in food, is abundant in pinto beans. A one-cup serving provides 285% of the recommended daily amount of this mineral. Molybdenum counteracts the effects of sulfites, a preservative found in many foods such as wine and dried fruits, which for some, can cause headaches and an allergic-like reaction.

5. Pinto beans are high in folate (a B vitamin).

One cup of cooked pinto beans contains 74% of the the recommended daily intake of folate. Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin naturally found in a variety of foods. Folate helps lower elevated levels of homocysteine, an amino acid associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. It’s also important for maintaining a healthy nervous system and there’s growing evidence that a lack of folate can affect mood and cognitive function in older adults.

6. Pinto beans are good for digestion — and diabetes.

Foods high in dietary fiber can help prevent constipation and disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis, a condition that develops when pouches form in the wall of the large intestine. Fiber also stabilizes blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics.

7. Pinto beans (a legume) may ward off certain types of cancers.

Pinto beans contain antioxidants called polyphenols, which may prevent some forms of cancer by slowing the growth of tumors. Past research links consumption of beans and other legumes to a decreased risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Tests using bean extracts also found it effective in preventing the proliferation of colon cancer cells.

Pinto Beans, Gas and Digestion

Research indicates that claims about intestinal gas and flatulence from beans may be exaggerated. Still, it’s not a totally misplaced concern. Beans contain oligosaccharide, a large sugar molecule that can’t be broken down by the enzymes in the small intestine. As a result, it passes into the large intestine intact where it’s eventually digested by bacteria — this is the gas-producing event.

However, the unpleasant side effects associated with eating beans can be minimized and even eliminated. One solution is Beano, a product that contains Alpha-galactosidase, the missing enzyme that allows for non-gaseous digestion of beans. Studies show that Beano causes a “significant reduction” in the severity of flatulence.

Another approach involves preparation methods. With dried pinto beans, the Mayo Clinic recommends frequently changing the water during soaking and/or simmering the dried beans until they’re very tender and easier to digest.

How to Prepare and Enjoy Pinto Beans

Canned pinto beans are convenient but may contain as much as 450 mg of salt in a single serving. Draining and rinsing helps reduce the salt content. Better yet; buy a no-salt-added alternative, like Eden Organic, which contains only 15 mg of salt.

If you’re a cook, you know that it can take 1-3 hours to cook dried beans. If you don’t want to watch a simmering pot that long, cook them in a crock pot or a pressure cooker. Make a delicious healthy vegan Mexican dish by adding tomatoes, onions and spices to pinto beans in a crock pot and walk away. A pressure cooker can reduce the cooking time to 22 minutes.

For an even faster result, precook the beans under high pressure for a minute and they’re ready to plate in as little as 7-10 minutes. Pinto beans can also be used in soups, stews and chilis. Mash them with your favorite spices and enjoy a tasty spread or dip. For a protein-enriched lunch, toss some of these tasty beans into your salad.

3 Recipes with Pinto Beans to Try

1. Mexican Pinto Beans from Minimalist Baker

Get the recipe

10 simple ingredients and one pot, these pinto beans get a ton of flavor from the chilli powder, cumin and chipotle peppers.


Minimalist Baker 

2. Smoky Vegetarian Chili with Pinto Beans and Corn from Umami Girl

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This delicious chili can be prepared in just 30 minutes and gets its smoky flavor from sweet smoked paprika.

3. Pinto Bean and Rice Soup from Tasty Mediterraneo

Get the recipe

A simple yet hearty soup that’s high in protein and satisfying enough to have on its own as a meal.


About the Writer

Lorie Eber

Lorie is a Certified Nutritionist and Gerontology Instructor who provides one-on-one weight loss coaching. She’s also certified by the Mayo Clinic as a Wellness Coach and a NASM Personal Trainer. She’s the author of 40 Ways to Leave Your Lover: That Would be Junk Food and How to Stay Healthy in A World Designed to Make Us Fat and Lazy.

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