Health Advice



Are pinto beans healthy? Here’s what a dietitian has to say

Novella Lui, RD, MHSc, on

Published in Health & Fitness

Like other bean varieties, pinto beans are a plant-based protein that adds flavor, texture and color to an array of dishes. What might surprise you is that pinto beans are the most popular type of beans eaten by Americans, claiming the top spot among all the bean varieties.

What are pinto beans?

Pinto beans are tan-colored, oval-shaped beans with specks of reddish-brown. Metaphorically, each pinto bean resembles a painting, and in Spanish “pinto” means painted. Pinto beans are a staple in Mexican and Southwestern American cuisine. The beans are soft, creamy, nutty and earthy, making them perfect for burritos, fajitas, tacos, quesadillas.

Are pinto beans healthy?

Pinto beans are highly nutritious, and research suggests that eating them may help provide protection against many chronic illnesses. They are gluten- and cholesterol-free and are rich in protein, fiber and folate. Pinto beans also have essential nutrients such as iron, magnesium, thiamin, calcium and zinc. They are low in fat and sodium when they are prepared without any salt and additives.

Health benefits of pinto beans


Excellent plant-based protein source: Every 1/2-cup serving of cooked pinto beans provides 8 grams of protein. However, pinto beans are not a complete protein, meaning that they do not contain all the essential amino acids which the body needs. Vegetarians and vegans will need to eat a variety of plant-based foods, such as whole grains, nuts and seeds, to ensure that they obtain all the essential amino acids.

High in fiber: Every 1/2-cup serving also provides 8 grams of dietary fiber, which can keep you feeling fuller longer. Fiber-rich foods can also help improve heart health, digestive health, cholesterol, weight maintenance and more.

Low-glycemic food: While pinto beans contain carbohydrates, they do not raise blood sugar quickly because they are slowly digested and absorbed. For this reason, pinto beans are considered a low-glycemic food.

Rich in folate: Pinto beans are an excellent source of folate, with every 1/2-cup serving providing more than one-third of your daily recommended intake. Folate is essential for making cells, tissues and red blood cells in the body, as well as preventing neural tube defects in the early stages of pregnancy.


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