The 10 Healthiest Beans You Can Eat, According to a Dietician

Healthiest Beans You Can Eat Universal
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Beans are underappreciated and underrepresented in the American diet, but there are many reasons why we should all be consuming more legumes. From the antioxidant power of lentils to the muscle-building and cancer-preventing properties of navy beans, here’s our dietitian-approved roundup of the healthiest beans you can eat. We’ve also included how to best serve them up so you can add these good-for-you foods to your meal rotation ASAP.  

Note: All nutritional info courtesy of the USDA Food Data Central.

Meet the Expert

  • Alyssa Wilson, RD is a registered and licensed dietitian. She holds a Masters of Science in Nutrition from Georgia State University, and a Bachelors of Science in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of Georgia. Alyssa has experience working as a nutrition coach at major gyms as well as leading nutrition programs in corporate wellness, and currently works as a metabolic success coach at Signos.

20 Types of Beans and How to Cook Them

Lentils Top Healthiest Beans
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1. Lentils

  • Nutritional Information: 110 calories, 20 grams carbs, 9 grams protein, and 8 grams of fiber per ½ cup serving 
  • Best Ways to Prepare: serve them hot in soup, rice and pasta dishes; enjoy cold in salads 

Lentils are widely available, inexpensive and delicious; they are also one of the healthiest beans around. Per the dietitian: “Lentils are a great source of iron, folate, and vitamin B1, and are also low in sodium and saturated fat, which makes them a heart-healthy option.” Indeed, a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science found that “the consumption of lentil is immensely connected to the reduction in the incidence of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancers and cardiovascular diseases,” due to the bioactive compounds and antioxidant-rich polyphenols present in the humble legume.

Black Beans Top Healthiest Beans
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2. Black Beans

  • Nutritional Information: 120 calories, 20 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, and 8 grams protein per ½ cup serving 
  • Best Ways to Prepare: use them in corn salsa and chili; add to tacos and burritos 

Wilson tells us that this highly versatile and budget-friendly bean is rich in calcium, iron and choline—a nutrient that research suggests plays an important role in nerve function and mood regulation, and is particularly beneficial for pregnant women. Black beans are also an excellent source of protein for folks on vegetarian diets, so you really can’t go wrong with this legume.

Chickpeas Top Healthiest Beans 1
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3. Chickpeas

  • Nutritional Information: 135 calories, 22 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat, 6 grams fiber, and 7 grams protein per ½ cup serving 
  • Best Ways to Prepare: puree to make hummus; season and pan fry until crispy and add to rice bowls and salads 

We love popping chickpeas in the blender for some homemade hummus that we can season to our liking (i.e., just the right amount of tahini and a sprinkle of paprika) and find them equally delightful as a snack or salad topping when generously seasoned and pan-fried in vegetable oil until crisp. No matter how you prepare them, chickpeas rank high on our list of the healthiest beans. Indeed, Wilson tells us that this is one snack option (unlike potato chips) that has major health benefits. “Chickpeas have a low glycemic index, which means they do not raise blood sugar levels as quickly as other foods. They are also full of folate, iron, and potassium…[and] are a good source of polyunsaturated fats, which help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke,” the expert explains. And food researchers agree—just check out this 2016 study published in Nutrients, which concludes that “chickpeas and hummus may play a beneficial role in weight management and glucose and insulin regulation, as well as have a positive impact on some markers of cardiovascular disease (CVD).”

Red Kidney Beans Top Healthiest Beans 1
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4. Red Kidney Beans

  • Nutritional Information: 104 calories, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein per ½ cup serving 
  • Best Ways to Prepare: add to taco salads and burritos; serve with rice as a side dish to pork or chicken 

These beans get their name because, well, they look just like a tiny kidney. That’s not the most remarkable thing about them, though. Wilson tells us that red kidney beans are rich in many vitamins and nutrients, including calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin C. What’s more, Wilson explains that “the prebiotic fiber in kidney beans provides beneficial bacteria in the gut, which supports a healthy microbiota,” so consuming them will help your digestive system operate like a well-oiled machine.

Navy Beans Top Healthiest Beans
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5. Navy Beans

  • Nutritional Information: 148 calories, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of protein per ½ cup serving 
  • Best Ways to Prepare: add to your favorite chili recipe or minestrone soup 

Wilson recommends this bean as pre-workout fuel—namely because “the complex carbs in navy beans can help with developing lean muscle mass.” Navy beans also boast a low glycemic index and are an excellent source of manganese, which aids the immune and reproductive systems. Even more impressive are the findings from a 2008 study published in Nutrition and Cancer, which concluded that cooked navy beans have a considerable “cancer-protective effect.”

Adkuzi Beans Top Healthiest Beans 1
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6. Adkuzi Beans

  • Nutritional Information: 147 calories, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of protein per ½ cup serving 
  • Best Ways to Prepare: add them to soups, stews, curries and chilis; use them for desserts like Chinese red bean buns 

According to Wilson, these tiny, red beans—known as adzuki and consumed throughout East Asia—are estimated to have 29 different health-boosting antioxidants, making them one of the healthiest beans around. In other words, they’re a nutritional powerhouse that will do your body good in countless ways. According to a 2022 study published in Molecules, “adzuki beans and extracts have positive effects on the prevention and treatment of diseases, including diabetes, diabetes-induced kidney disease or kidney damage, obesity, and high-fat-induced cognitive decline…[which] also makes a case for the dual use of adzuki beans for food and medicine.” What’s more, their slightly sweet flavor profile lends itself to savory and dessert dishes alike, so you’ll have no trouble incorporating them into your diet.

White Beans Top Healthiest Beans
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7. White Beans

  • Nutritional Information: 125 calories, 22 grams of carbohydrate, 6 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of protein per ½ cup serving 
  • Best Ways to Prepare: add fresh herbs to make a creamy sandwich spread or dip (similar to hummus), throw them in a hearty chili, or saute them in olive oil with tomatoes and spinach for a healthy side dish 

Cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, butter beans…these white beans go by many names—but no matter the moniker, the health benefits are the same. White beans are rich in calcium, iron, folate and potassium. In fact, Wilson tells us that “just half a cup of white beans contains more potassium than a banana, which can be helpful in lowering blood pressure.” Interestingly enough, a 2020 study published in Nutrients found that white bean extract had weight loss benefits—namely because the legume has an enzyme that “[limits] carbohydrate digestion and absorption with small but potentially meaningful attendant beneficial effects on body weight and metabolic health.”

Lupini Beans Top Healthiest Beans
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8. Lupini Beans

  • Nutritional Information: 96 calories, 2 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 12 grams of protein per ½ cup serving 
  • Best Ways to Prepare: make a delicious hummus-style dip; add to a rice bowl or enjoy on their own 

“Lupini beans have become a popular snack and are widely accessible due to their rise in popularity,” says Wilson. “Since they are often available in portable snack packs, lupini beans are a great option when you’re on the go and need a fiber-packed snack,” she adds. Plus, the expert notes that lupini beans are an excellent source of zinc, which is important for optimal immune function. And since they’re incredibly versatile and tasty to eat on their own without any frills, lupini beans are particularly easy to incorporate into any meal plan.

Soybeans Top Healthiest Beans 1
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9. Soybeans

  • Nutritional Information: 172 calories, 9 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, and 18 grams of protein per ½ cup serving 
  • Best Ways to Prepare: enjoy them on their own as edamame, either cold or slightly heated and tossed with butter or olive oil and salt; consume them in the form of tofu in stir-fry recipes or drink soy milk as a dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk 

Soy is among the eight most common food allergens, so if that applies to you, keep scrolling. If not, consider adding these legumes to your weekly meal rotation because soybeans are some of the healthiest beans you can eat. Specifically, the nutritionist sings the praises of soybeans for their remarkably high protein content, which makes them a staple in vegetarian diets. In addition to their versatility as a culinary ingredient, a 2016 study published in Nutrients concludes that “soy protein is higher in quality than other legume proteins and the soybean is a good source of both essential fatty acids. Soy protein also directly lowers circulating LDL-cholesterol levels and may also modestly lower blood pressure.” In other words, if you don’t have a soy allergy, it’s time to start tossing some tofu into your stir-fry dinners.

Fava Beans Top Healthiest Beans
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10. Fava Beans

  • Nutritional Information: 110 calories, 20 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, and 8 grams of protein per ½ cup serving 
  • Best Ways to Prepare: add to salads, pestos or a mix of other seasonal vegetables; pair them with lamb or steam them for a simple side dish that works well with many proteins 

The fava bean is larger than most on the list and, though incredibly popular in Italy, it’s not nearly as well known stateside—namely because “growing fava beans is more labor-intensive than most other beans,” explains Wilson. That said, fava beans make a delicious accompaniment to lamb dishes and are a lovely addition to spring salads as well. Best of all, they are high in protein, incredibly nutrient rich and believed to aid weight loss and boost the immune system. (Psst: You can get the full rundown on the health benefits of fava beans here.)

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