Spoiler alert: It's a tie! They are both incredibly healthy. The nutrition differences between black beans vs. pinto beans are almost negligible, and they both provide plenty of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Read on for nutrition breakdown, nutritional benefits, arguments debunked, and tons of vegan black bean and pinto bean recipes.
Make sure to check out my 3-bean chili which includes both black beans and pinto beans for all the nutrition benefits in one!
Humans have eaten legumes for centuries. They are a staple food in many cuisines around the world such as in Latin American, Mediterranean, and Asian countries. Two of the most popular beans are black beans and pinto beans. They are not only cheap and delicious, but also provide many health benefits.
The popularity of legumes in the United States can be attributed to the melting pot of cultures and the rise of vegan and vegetarian diets, in which common beans like black beans and pinto beans are a good source of protein for plant-based diets.
Legumes are a sustainable crop due to their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil which enhances the soil and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers. Plant-based foods like black beans and pinto beans also have a lower carbon footprint than animal protein sources, making them an eco-friendly choice.
While black beans are sometimes considered a healthier option than pinto beans, the truth is that they are each a great addition to a healthy diet as they're full of plant-based protein, fiber, and essential nutrients.
Nutrition Facts Comparison
|Black Beans (1 cup)
|Pinto Beans (1 cup)
|Vitamin B 12
Nutritional Value of Pinto Beans vs Black Beans
As you can see from the nutrient breakdown chart of black beans vs. pinto beans, they are almost the same with only very slight nutritional differences. They both have 15 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber per cup.
The main difference is that pinto beans are slightly higher in calories and carbs (an extra 18 calories and 4g carbs per cup) but in the context of an entire day of eating, the difference is pretty negligible. There are also small differences in vitamins and minerals, but overall the two beans are very similar.
Health Benefits of Black Beans vs. Pinto Beans
If you're interested in learning the overall benefits of a plant-based diet, my evidence-based post is very informative and to the point.
But here we'll get into the benefits of legumes, specifically, on the body. And long story short, beans like pinto beans and black beans are fantastic for heart health, gut health, blood sugar regulation, cancer protection, and weight management.
Both black beans and pinto beans offer similar health benefits as they are both legumes with nearly identical nutrient breakdowns. Here's an explanation of the health benefits of black beans and pinto beans based on available evidence:
Legumes are associated with better heart health due to their low saturated fat content and high fiber and potassium content. In a meta-analysis, intake of legumes was associated with decreased risk of heart disease due to the favorable effect on blood pressure, blood sugar, and body weight.
Furthermore, a cross-sectional study showed intake of legumes was associated with increased HDL-C (aka "good" cholesterol) and decreased LDL-C (aka "bad" cholesterol). The reduction of LDL cholesterol is likely due to their soluble fiber content.
Legumes have tons of fiber that gets fermented by our gut bacteria into beneficial metabolites like SCFAs (short chain fatty acids), which improve our gut barrier, inflammation, immune function, glucose metabolism, lipid metabolism, and blood pressure.
An unhealthy gut microbiome has been linked to a myriad of health problems including heart disease, mental disorders, cancer, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, allergies, and more.
Research on the gut microbiome is still evolving, but what we do know is that having more diversity in gut bacteria is a good thing and that dietary fiber is essential to feeding our microbiome. The American Gut Project found that people who ate more than 30 different types of plants per week had a more diverse gut microbiome than those who ate 10 or less different plants per week.
Although beans contain carbs, they are also high in fiber and protein, which help to stabilize the blood sugar to avoid spikes and crashes. A cross-over study measured the effects of post-meal blood sugar after consuming rice alone vs with pinto beans or black beans. The blood sugar response was lower when the rice was eaten with beans.
Beans are considered a low-GI food (or low glycemic index food) meaning they take longer to be digested and absorbed, helping you stay full longer and keep a more steady blood sugar.
Anti-Inflammatory & Antioxidant-Rich
Beans are full of antioxidants like polyphenols, which help to reduce oxidative stress from free radicals. Uncontrolled oxidative stress causes chronic inflammation in the body and can lead to the development of cancer.
Antioxidants like polyphenols are known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-diabetic properties in the body. The only place we can get antioxidants in our diet is from plant-based foods like fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Due to the high fiber and protein content of beans, they can help keep us full for longer and decrease our overall caloric intake naturally. Studies show that people who consume legumes have significantly lower body weight and smaller waist circumference compared to people who don't consume legumes.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, higher intakes of fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and fish were associated with less overweight/obesity and weight gain while refined grains, red meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages were associated with more weight gain.
In another systematic review and meta-analysis, intake of legumes resulted in decreased body fat and modest weight loss even when not intentionally restricting calories.
Vitamins and Minerals
We also can't forget the amazing vitamin and mineral content of black beans and pinto beans. They are a good source of iron, B vitamins, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorus.
These nutrients can help to prevent common nutrient deficiencies like iron, especially in populations like infants, children, vegans, women of child-bearing age, and pregnant women.
Controversial Health Arguments about Legumes Debunked
Of course, as a dietitian, I am constantly hearing the same B.S. that you are online and on social media about health and nutrition from so-called "experts" (who hold no actual education in nutrition, by the way).
Some common arguments I've heard against beans are regarding "anti-nutrients", paleo diets, low-carb diets, protein quality, and digestive issues. Let's clear a little bit of that up, shall we?
Phytates are the storage form of phosphorus in plants. They can bind to nutrients like iron and zinc to reduce their bioavailability but can be reduced by sprouting, fermenting, cooking, and/or soaking legumes. Interestingly, the chelating and antioxidant properties of phytates may actually be helpful in preventing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney stones.
Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins found in legumes and other plant foods. In humans, excess lectins can lead to food poisoning symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The most notorious bean that is mentioned when it comes to lectins is red kidney beans.
However, eating beans with high amounts of active lectins is very rare as they are present in only raw legumes. Once the beans are properly soaked and cooked, the lectins are inactivated and no longer a concern. Similar to phytates, small amounts of lectins may be beneficial as they can act as antioxidants and help slow the blood sugar response.
Oxalates are a substance that can bind to minerals and decrease their absorption. Foods with high oxalate content include spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, beets, and rhubard, with smaller amounts in raw legumes, grains, nuts, cocoa, and tea. Therefore, consuming legumes that are properly cooked is not a concern.
Although it is often mentioned that consuming oxalates can lead to calcium oxalate kidney stones, studies have shown that dietary oxalate has little impact on kidney stones but that inadequate calcium intake is associated with higher kidney stone formation. Additionally, potassium, magnesium, phytates, and antioxidants all decrease kidney stone formation, making other plant-based foods less of a concern.
Interestingly, a study of 1,519 patients in China actually showed that higher consumption of pickled foods and animal protein were the main risk factors for developing kidney stones, while fluid intake, vegetables, tea, and physical activity decreased risk. Furthermore, a review on diet and kidney stones confirms that our available scientific evidence shows low calcium intake and high meat/animal protein diets are associated with increased risk of kidney stones.
Tannins are a class of polyphenols that may decrease absorption of minerals like iron. However, due to the fact that polyphenols are antioxidants, tannins also have "antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, immuno-modulatory, detoxifying, and cardio-protective activities."
Soaking and cooking legumes decreases the amount of tannins, and consuming a source of vitamin C with non-heme iron (the iron found in plants) will increase absorption.
The main reason that the Paleo diet does not allow legumes is due to the concern about "anti-nutrients." However, as I explained each of them in detail above, this is actually not a real concern. Paleo dogma calling legumes "toxic" is simply not based in science.
In case you need a quick summary of the section on anti-nutrients, most of them are removed just by normal soaking and cooking of beans. And research is finding the so-called "anti-nutrients" may actually provide health benefits due to their antioxidant properties.
Low-Carb or Keto Diets
The low-carb or keto communities are not solely against legumes themselves, but tend to be overly fearful of carbs as a whole with the idea that carbs cause weight gain. While low-carbohydrate diets may be helpful in some circumstances, they are not enjoyable or sustainable for most people. But most importantly, they aren't even necessary for health or weight loss.
Even for people with diabetes, cutting out carbs completely is not necessary. The goal instead is to eat a consistent and moderate amount of carbs throughout the day from mostly whole food sources such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits and pair them with sources of healthy fat, fiber, and/or protein to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Long story short, legumes are not the problem--excess sugary beverages, sweets, and refined grains are the problem.
Although it's true that beans are considered an incomplete protein due to low levels of the amino acid methionine, consuming beans with a grain source such as corn, rice, or wheat counts as a complete protein source as grains are high in methionine.
Some people find that high fiber foods can cause gut distress. However, this tends to be related to increasing fiber intake too quickly or from a disease state such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, food intolerance, or diverticulitis.
Most people do not consume enough fiber, which is beneficial for our gut microbiome, stabilizing blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, reducing risk of colon cancer, and maintaining healthy weight. If your body is not used to consuming an adequate amount of fiber, increasing it slowly over time can help reduce digestive problems like gas and bloating.
How To Decide Which Bean to Use
How do you decide between black beans or pinto beans? It depends on personal preference and taste.
- Flavor Profile:
- Black Beans: Black beans have a slightly sweet and earthy taste. They work well in a variety of dishes, from soups to salads.
- Pinto Beans: Pinto beans have a mild, slightly nutty flavor. They are often used in Mexican and Southwestern dishes.
- Some individuals may find one type of bean more digestible than the other. It's a personal preference, and some people may tolerate one variety better.
- Culinary Versatility:
- Black Beans: Black beans work well in a variety of dishes, including salads, soups, stews, and even desserts.
- Pinto Beans: Pinto beans are commonly used in Mexican cuisine, making them suitable for dishes like burritos, chili, and refried beans.
- Cooking Convenience:
- Canned vs. Dried: Consider the convenience of canned beans versus dried beans. Canned beans are ready to use, while dried beans require soaking and longer cooking times.
- Personal Preferences:
- Texture: Consider the texture preferences—whether you prefer the creamy texture of refried beans made from pinto beans or the firmer texture of black beans in salads.
Culinary Uses of Black Beans vs. Pinto Beans
Vegan Black Bean Recipes
Black beans are versatile and used in various recipes across different parts of the world, including Central America and South America countries like Mexico, Cuba, and Brazil. Here are some common black bean dishes, but with a vegan twist:
by Vegan In The Freezer
by Garlic & Zest
by Vegan on Board
by Hot For Food
by Cook Eat Live Love
by Haute & Healthy Living
by Easy Chickpeasy
by Stress Less Be Healthy
by Moon and Spoon and Yum
Vegan Pinto Bean Recipes
Pinto beans are a versatile ingredient used in various popular dishes, particularly in Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. Here are some well-known dishes that feature pinto beans, but with a vegan twist:
by Beyond Mere Sustenance
by Veggie Inspired
by Bites With Blair
by Strength and Sunshine
by Cook Eat Live Love
by A Cedar Spoon
by Friendly Vegan Kitchen
Ultimately, the choice between black beans and pinto beans depends on individual taste preferences, dietary needs, and the specific culinary application. Legumes like pinto beans and black beans provide numerous health benefits due to their protein, fiber, essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant content.
Both beans are an excellent choice to include in your next meal.
Did you try one of the recipes? Let us know what you thought in the comments!