Are Refried Beans Healthy?

In today’s world, we are always looking for ways to improve our diets and make ourselves healthier as human beings.

One of the best ways to do this is to find low fat and nutrient rich food to eat. There are many different foods out there that are like this, but one of the best groups are pulses, specifically beans.

Are Refried Beans Healthy?

Beans are fantastic to gain a lot of crucial nutrients and are especially good for vegans or vegetarians looking to increase their protein intake.

However, with some kinds of beans, it is harder to see whether they are as good for you as other beans. This is because they have been changed and processed to taste different or to add flavor.

This is particularly true with the beloved Mexican food refried beans. In this article, we are going to look at whether they are truly healthy or not.

What Are Refried Beans?

Refried beans are basically pinto beans that have been soaked, boiled, and mashed before being intensely pan fried in lard and salt.

These beans are a traditional and incredibly popular Mexican food that are typically eaten as a main meal with rice, tacos, or burritos.

The dish is so popular in fact that they have made their way into Tex-Mex, American, and the global food culture, with the premade version of the beans being available for purchase in many countries.

The beans are soaked overnight before being cooked and while the beans are often pinto beans, in other parts of Mexico they can be black, Peruano, or red kidney beans.

Some water or stock is kept back before frying to keep the beans moist, and then they are fried. This frying often includes onion, garlic, vegetable oil, bacon drippings, butter, and spices, but must include lard and salt.

Over this long fry process, the texture of the beans changes and the entire mixture becomes smooth and creamy in texture, rather than having a tough outside and soft innards.

While the process can be a little time-consuming, the results are well worth the effort, and you will find yourself enjoying making these beans more and more as time goes on.

Are Refried Beans Healthy?

Health Benefits Of Refried Beans

While many people probably see the words ‘lard’ and ‘salt’ and immediately discount refried beans as an unhealthy option to say the least, they actually have quite a few health benefits that many people could really use to improve their diet.

Heart Health

Refried beans are just a type of mashed and fried bean, as such they have all the benefits that beans do. This includes being high in fiber, magnesium, and potassium, all of which help to promote strong and healthy heart health.

Eating more fiber tends to lower the risk of heart disease and strokes by up to 24% and a lower rate of heart disease is shown in people who eat more beans and legumes in general.

Magnesium and potassium also help to lower blood pressure, by relaxing blood vessels in the body and regulating the muscle contractions that help blood pump.

Blood Sugars

Beans are naturally low on the glycemic index – the measurement for how fast food raises your blood sugar levels – and so it can help to lower and maintain low blood sugars, which is great for those with type-2 diabetes or at risk of it.

The high magnesium content of these beans also helps to halt insulin resistance, as people with a magnesium deficiency suffer from this condition more often.

Gut Health

As mentioned earlier, beans are incredibly high in fiber which is great for your gut, as it helps to promote digestion and helps to keep your bowel movements regular.

Studies have shown that increasing your fiber intake actually decreases your constipation by up to 3%. A cup of refried beans will give you about 10 grams of fiber, which is amazing.

Fiber also is a prebiotic that helps to encourage the growth of helpful and beneficial bacteria within your gut. These bacteria are already there and aid us in our digestive processes, but fiber greatly helps the process.

Immune System

The gut and the immune system are intertwined in how they affect the other. If you are sick, then you won’t be able to eat as well and if you have gut problems, your immune system won’t be able to fight off infections as well.

With this being the case, it is obvious that beans aiding the gut will no doubt have a positive impact on the immune system overall. This includes being full of antioxidants, which help to protect your cells from harmful molecules called free radicals.

Health Detriments Of Refried Beans

While refried beans are great, they also have some downsides, which you need to be aware of before including them in your diet:

Weight Loss

Due to the fats that they are cooked in and the fact that they are quite calorie rich themselves, refried beans could hamper your weight loss plans.

This is especially true if you eat them in great quantities alongside other calories rich foods, as the fats are incredibly calorie rich.

Yet, if you eat them instead of calorie rich foods, they can actually help you lose weight, due to them having a still lower calorie count and fat content than most calorie rich foods.

Cholesterol

Once again, the lard is the problem here. It will increase your cholesterol when you eat it, which can be problematic to you or anyone else in this situation.

Normally, you need to make sure your daily calorie intake is less than 10% to reduce your risk of heart disease and while refried beans do not contain much fat, it is still present.

Conclusion

Refried beans are in general quite a healthy food. They do contain a bit of saturated fat from the lard, but overall the benefits outweigh the small problems you get from them.

As such, if you are looking for a high calorie, nutrient, and protein rich substitute to other foods, then this is the one for you.

Jenna Priestly
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