Sunday, May 27, 2012

Healthy Is Not Expensive: Canned Beans - Updated 5/28/2012

I've been at this weight loss thing for 2 years and I have recently decided it's time to change the menu.  I'm really just tired of eating the same thing over and over, so I've decided to branch out.

Since I used to live on processed food, fast food and food high in sugar, salt and fat, I never ate many fruits, vegetables or beans growing up.  I am working on changing that.

Which brings us to beans.

I have always known that beans are low in fat, high in fiber, high in protein and contain many important nutrients.  It's the perfect food. But trying to find a way to eat them is the real challenge.

Our society is used to loading up beans with cheese, fat, sour cream, ham, etc.  So how can I eat beans and have it be a healthy food item?

First, let's look at how to acquire the beans.  You can buy them one of two ways: canned or dried in a bag.  Canned is the most convenient, because they are ready to go.  The beans are perfectly cooked at the factory and ready to go.  Warm them up and you're all set.

The problem with canned beans is they are LOADED with sodium.  And by loaded, I mean there is so much salt in a can of beans, your blood pressure doubles as soon as you finish eating them.  Or triples.  (Not really, but you get the point.)

Which brings us to dried beans.  They are cheap, sodium-free and the way to go.  But there is one big problem:  time.

It takes forever.  You must inspect the beans.  Rinse the beans.  Soak the beans overnight.  Cook the beans.  And on and on.

Honestly, that is more work than I am willing to put out for cooking beans.

So about a month ago, I began a search for canned, pre-prepared beans that were not loaded with sodium.  It was an interesting analysis.

First up: a standard can of regular black beans.  The sodium is 480mg, with 3 servings per can. That is 1,440mg of sodium in that one can.  Since I have high blood pressure, I am supposed to consume less than 1,500mg of sodium per day.  I will have used up my entire allotment on that one can of beans.  No can do.

Next, we have "reduced sodium" black beans.  The sodium in those is half of the regular, 240mg with 3 servings in the can. That is moving in the right direction, but what's with all the salt?  That's still 720mg of sodium per can.  Unacceptable.

So I started looking for the beans with no salt added. I searched high, I searched low.

The only one I could find was "Eden Organic No Salt Added" beans. Only 15mg of sodium per serving, 3.5 servings in the can.  52.5mg of sodium total. Nice!

Except....they were $2.39 a can.  A bit much.  Also, for some reason, they contained "Kombu Seaweed" as the third ingredient.  I could never get over this when I was eating them.  Why was there seaweed in my beans?  And why did it cost so much.

I kept looking.

And then, one day, while shopping at Whole Foods, of all places, there it was on the shelf.

Black Beans. No salt added.  Ready to serve.  99 cents a can.  Not only were there black beans, but they had kidney beans, pinto beans and garbanzo beans too.

But would there be seaweed in them?

Nope.  Ingredients: Prepared black beans and water.  Nothing more. 10mg of sodium per serving, 30mg total.

The best part?  They taste great! Here is what they look like. Remember: eating healthy does NOT have to be expensive, but you have to do some work.

Update 5/28/2012 11:07am:  It has been pointed out to me that Eden Organic uses "BPA-Free" cans, whereas Whole Foods does not for their store brand.  BPA is a chemical used in the lining of cans to preserve food and keep it stable, but many think it is harmful to your health.  More info about BPA here.


  1. Hi Bryan!

    You are so awesome, such an inspiration to me.

    Just wanted to let you know, as a bean fan, the kombu is there for several reasons.

    It supposedly adds that 'umagi' flavor without added MSG.

    I have also read that it is supposed to make the beans easier to digest, and reduce the 'gas issue.'

    I have cooked dried beans with it and did not see a difference, but those are the supposed reasons, for what it's worth.

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  3. PLEASE, cook the beans yourself! Do not buy the tasteless can.
    Cook them on the weekwend and use some for your meal and freeze the rest in small portions for the rest of the week. If you cook ie. 2 cups of black beans, add water above the level of the beans, boil them with 2/3 basil leaves and some salt/onions. Once they are SOFT, do the seasonings with fresh garlic, onions, some green peppers, and let it cook long until thickened and the beans are very soft. Serve them on top of white rice y "Buen Apetito::"

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