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.

Baked beans on toast

What are baked beans?

Baked beans are usually made with white beans (haricot or cannellini) in a tomato sauce along with spices and seasoning such as paprika, onion powder, salt and sugar.

Nutritional profile of baked beans

Haricot and cannellini beans are a good source of 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 including folic acid.

If you are buying canned 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, which is 10% of the daily reference intake, and up to 1.2g of salt, which is 20% of the daily reference intake.

What is a healthy portion size of baked beans?

An average serving of baked beans is around 200g – half a 400g tin of shop-bought beans. However, according to the NHS guidelines a portion of 80g of 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 with other fruit and vegetables.

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.

A jacket potato filled with homemade baked beans

How to 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 often use stevia or artificial sweeteners for flavour.

Some brands also add ‘extras’ such as pork or meat-free sausages, which can increase the fat, calorie and sometimes sugar and salt content.

Tips for making your own baked beans

Making your own baked beans allows you to better control the levels of added sugar and salt. Soak dried beans overnight to ensure they're adequately hydrated before cooking them. Using different varieties of beans, or a combination, can be a nice change.

Try one of our healthy baked bean recipes...

Baked sweet potatoes & beans
Jacket potatoes with home-baked beans
Smoky beans on toast
Slow cooker breakfast beans

Smoky homemade baked beans on toast

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This article was published on 19th October 2018.

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.

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.

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