Unfortunately, canned beans are often full of sodium – about 500 milligrams per half-cup serving. It would be real tough to stay within the American Heart Association and Pritikin Eating Plan’s guidelines of no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium for the entire day if you were blowing one-third of your quota on one small half-cup of salted beans.
So look for no-salt-added varieties. Hearteningly, there are many brands now in supermarkets, including Del Monte, Eden Organic, Goya, 365, and many store brands. Read the Ingredient List to see if sodium or salt has been added. Read the Nutrition Facts label to see how much sodium, per serving, the beans contain.
And do keep eating your beans, also called legumes, such as garbanzos (chickpeas), pintos, black beans, red beans, lentils, soybeans, and split peas. They are a super-rich source of nutrition, notably cholesterol-lowering fiber.
Cheerios vs beans
On TV commercials, you’ve likely heard that Cheerios’ fiber “can help lower cholesterol.” But what these commercials don’t tell you is that you’d need to eat 3 cups of Cheerios each day to get any cholesterol-lowering effect.
Per cup, Cheerios has 2.6 grams of fiber. Per cup, cooked beans like garbanzos have 12.5 grams of fiber. That’s right, nearly 5 times more fiber than Cheerios.
For heart health, you want soluble fiber, which beans are rich in.
Soluble fiber binds with bile acids in the gut. In doing so, it prevents the bile acids from being reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. But since we need bile acids for important digestive processes, the liver makes more bile acids by taking cholesterol out of our blood. That’s a good thing because it means that bad forms of cholesterol, like LDL, go down.
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Bottom Line | Are canned beans healthy?
Canned beans that are simply beans (no sodium, sugar, or other harmful ingredients added) are an excellent food choice.
To lower your bad cholesterol, also known as non-HDL cholesterol, eat beans. For a great source of protein, eat beans. To lose weight, eat beans. Beans are filling, moderately low in calorie density, tasty, and easy to add to all kinds of meals and snacks like salads, soups, main dishes, and side dishes. For inspiration, try this easy, delicious Pritikin recipe, always a hit at the Pritikin Longevity Center – Garbanzo Bean Soup.