Are baked beans healthy?
Are baked beans good for you? Discover the benefits of eating pulses as part of a balanced diet, and how to choose the healthiest shop-bought varieties.
What are baked beans?
Baked beans are usually made with white beans such as haricot or cannellini, and served in a tomato sauce along with spices and seasoning such as paprika, onion powder, salt and sugar.
Nutritional profile of baked beans
A 200g serving of baked beans (canned in tomato sauce) provides:
• 10g protein
• 1g fat
• 30g carbs
• 9.6g sugars
• 9.8g fibre
• 1.3g salt
If you're buying baked beans, it's worth keeping an eye on the salt and sugar content. On average, half a can of shop-bought baked beans can contain around 9g of sugar (10% of the daily reference intake) and up to 1.3g of salt, which is about 20% of the daily reference intake.
According to NHS guidelines, a portion of 80g (cooked weight) beans and pulses, approximately 3 heaped tablespoons, makes up one of your five-a-day. If you eat more than this amount it still only counts once towards your five-a-day. This is because although beans are a good source of fibre, they contain a lower nutrient density compared to other fruit and vegetables.
Are baked beans healthy or unhealthy?
Nutritionally speaking, beans (typically haricot or cannellini) are a good source of plant-based protein and are high in fibre, as well as being low in fat and calories. They also contain minerals such as iron and zinc, and are a good source of B vitamins such as folate. Including beans and pulses in your diet is also associated with a lower cardiovascular risk and may help balance blood sugar levels.
Shop-bought baked beans (canned in tomato sauce) are a quick, easy and cost-effective snack or component of a meal, but don’t forget they have added ingredients including salt and sugar. Typically, about a third of the can contents is tomato sauce, which is rich in lycopene – a protective carotenoid that's associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Baked beans can make up part of a balanced diet, but it's best to eat them alongside foods such as vegetables, eggs and slow-release carbohydrates to ensure a good balance of nutrients with not too much salt or sugar. Where possible, choose the lower salt variety, or make your own.
How can I buy the healthiest baked beans?
Check the nutritional information on the label when buying shop-bought baked beans, and check for any additional ingredients as well as the salt and sugar content.
You can buy varieties that are lower in sugar or salt, but these may use stevia or artificial sweeteners for flavour. Some brands also add ‘extras’ such as pork or meat-free sausages, which may increase the fat, calorie and sometimes sugar and salt content.
How do I make my own baked beans?
Making your own baked beans means you can control the levels of added sugar and salt. Soak dried beans overnight to ensure they are adequately hydrated before cooking them. Use different varieties of beans, or a combination.
Check out our homemade baked beans recipes.
Are baked beans safe for everyone?
Try one of our healthy baked beans recipes...
Enjoyed this? Now read...
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a registered nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in personalised nutrition & nutritional therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food. Follow Kerry on Instagram at @kerry_torrens_nutrition_
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.