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Refried beans can be part of a healthy diet when eaten with other nutrient-dense foods. They are high in fiber and protein and, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, high-fiber diets have many health benefits 34. As with all foods, refried beans should be enjoyed in moderation.
Refried beans are dried pinto beans that have been soaked, cooked and mashed. They are often cooked with lard and seasoned with dried spices and herbs. According to the USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory, 1 cup of canned refried beans has approximately 217 calories, 13 g of protein, 3 g of fat, 36 g of carbohydrate, 1,069 mg of sodium and 12 g of fiber. Canned fat-free refried beans have 182 calories, 12 g of protein, 1 g of fat, 31 g of carbohydrate, 1,012 mg of sodium and 11 g of fiber. Vegetarian refried beans have 201 calories, 13 g of protein, 2 g of fat, 32 g of carbohydrate, 1,041 mg of sodium and 12 g of fiber.
Federal dietary guidelines recommend 20 to 35 g of fiber a day. There are two types of fiber--soluble and insoluble fiber. The type of fiber in refried beans is soluble fiber. According to MedlinePlus, a publication of the National Institutes of Health, soluble fiber turns into a gel when it mixes with water and slows digestion 1. Soluble fiber is known to lower cholesterol and help prevent heart disease. Other foods rich in soluble fiber include oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, lentils and peas.
Insoluble fiber is found in bran, vegetables and whole grains. It speeds up digestion and adds bulk to stool. The USDA says high-fiber diets in general support a healthy weight because fiber is filling which prevents overeating and excess calorie consumption.
According to MyPyramid, refried beans can count as a vegetable serving or a serving from the meat and beans group 2. The average adults needs to eat 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day and 5 1/2 of meat or beans a day. One cup of refried beans is equal to 1 1/4 cups of vegetables or 4 oz. from the meat and bean group.
MedlinePlus says fiber can cause gas, bloating and abdominal cramps, especially when eaten in large quantities 1. Negative side effects from fiber usually subside once the body gets used to a high fiber diet, but adding fiber to the diet gradually will help reduce side effects. Drinking lots of water with fibrous foods will also ease digestion.
Refried beans can be high in sodium--especially canned and commercially-prepared varieties. According to the USDA, consuming too much sodium is unhealthy because it contributes to heart disease and high blood pressure. Cooking refried beans at home is a healthy option because the amount of sodium can be controlled. Consumers should also use nutrition facts labels to compare different brands of refried beans to determine which one is the healthiest.
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