Are Baked Beans Good For You?

By Luke Daley MSc, RNutr from Daley Nutrition 299,657 views

Baked beans overview

A common question that our nutrition practitioners get asked by the public is ‘are baked beans good for you and your health?’.  The answer isn’t a simple yes or no answer unfortunately, there are a few factors to address, as not all baked bean tins are the same.

Brief overview – Nutrition research shows that the navy bean used in baked bean tins are full of macro-nutrients (plant-based protein, dietary fibre) and micro-nutrients (small but powerful nutrients such as potassium & iron). They are also a slow releasing energy food and great for people with diabetes due to their low glycemic index. However over the years more salt and sugar has crept into these tins.

In this post, we have included all the common questions we get asked about baked beans and created a conclusion on their health benefits:

  1. Are baked beans high in salt and sugar?
  2. Do baked beans cause weight gain?
  3. Can baked beans be good for your heart?
  4. Are there any cholesterol reducing benefits from beans?
  5. Do you know a homemade recipe?
  6. How to read a baked bean tin label.
  7. Why does eating baked beans give me gas?

1. Are Baked Beans high in Salt & Sugar?

Salt (sodium): An Australian serving of baked beans (1 cup=150g) can contain up to 1100mg of sodium (2.8g of salt)! Nearly 50% our daily sodium allowance. Our professional advice is to go for the no added salt versions that contain no salt (sodium) which will not affect your blood pressure. A ‘no added salt/sodium’ baked beans tin will cost a little more than your average tin, but your kidneys and your vascular system will thank you someday.

Sugar: An average serve (1 cup=150g) of baked beans can have up to 15g of added sugar, which is 3 teaspoons of sugar and a moderately high amount. According to the World Health Organisation we should ideally stay under 25g of sugar per day to stay healthy.  However some baked beans tins are a lot lower than this, so reading the label is crucial.

2. Do Baked Beans Cause Weight Gain? 

Any food eaten in excess can contribute to weight gain, but baked beans are high in protein and fibre which are known to have an appetite suppressant benefit, which can lead to feeling fuller and aid with weight loss and preventing mindless snacking.  However, if you are consuming the average baked bean tin which has more than 4g of added sugar per 100g or consuming the ham versions or sausage or curry flavoured versions then be prepared for some extra empty calories.  Further down this blog page we have included our star rating reviews for all the different Heinz baked beans products.

3. Can baked beans be good for your heart?

There is good evidence to advise that consumption of pulses (beans, pea, chickpeas, lentils) is good for a person’s heart health.  One study in particular from the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that eating one serving (2/3 cup) of legumes per day could reduce a persons LDL-cholesterol levels by up to 5%.  This doesn’t sound a lot but combine this with a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise and your chances of developing a heart attack are significantly reduced.

This study did also show a higher health benefit with men compared to women with legume consumption.  The study was a meta-analysis of a series of randomised control clinical trials, which analysed 1037 people in total.   It’s a rather cool piece of evidence if you ask us, this sort of research is what we base our clinical advise on as Nutritionist & Dietitians.

4.  Are there any cholesterol reducing benefits from beans?

Chickpeas, lentils and beans are linked to an improved liver function in both human and animal studies.  The digestion of beans, turns it into a fibrous sticky matter in the gut which works almost like a sponge and binds to cholesterol levels.  This sticky substance can prevent cholesterol from entering our circulatory systems leading to the liver.  There is good evidence to suggest protective properties from liver inflammation-oxidative stress, which can lead to liver steatosis (fatty liver) and potential scarring.

Sprouted mung beans have been shown to offer the most benefits due to their increase protein and antioxidants level, which can lead to a higher reduction in overall liver LDL cholesterol levels and inflammatory enzymes spartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase.

are baked beans good for your liver?

5. Do you know a homemade baked beans recipe?

Due to public demand, we have posted a homemade baked beans recipe up on our blog, the recipe can be found here.  This recipe is relatively quick to make, but the cannellini beans need to be soaked the night before cooking.  The recipe costs $0.70 to make, which saves you nearly $2 dollars compared the Heinz baked beans versions.

6. Baked beans label reading

Here is a video on how to read the label of a baked beans tin, including details on what to look out for and how to find the best versions in your local supermarket.  This should help to shed more light on the question are baked beans good for you?

Nutrition Information for Baked Beans

The below info is according to NUTTAB 2010 per 100g:

  • High fibre: (5.2g per 100g) – helps to reduce bad LDL cholesterol and fills you up
  • Low fat: (0.3g per 100g) – (good if you are on a weight loss plan)
  • Good protein source: (4.9g per 100g) (when mixed with toast it can make a complete protein meal)
  • Lycopenes: (470 micrograms per 100g) – known to reduce the risk of certain cancers such as prostate cancer
  • Folate: (50 micrograms) – helps with maintaining healthy DNA
  • Iron: (0.95mg per 100g) – required for energy production and healthy red blood cells
  • Magnesium: (25mg per 100g) – aids muscle contraction, sleep patterns & 100 other reactions in the body
  • Potassium: (238mg per 100g) – helps with muscle contractions, especially the heart and aids growth

are baked beans good for you?

7. Why does eating Baked Beans cause gas?

Consuming baked beans offers a variety of nutritional benefits, one of these benefits comes from fibre in particular soluble fibre. This source of fibre is what causes flatulence (fart response).  The reason behind this is due to our gut flora (bacteria) breaking down the fibre in the beans. If you can deal with the extra gas, then baked beans actually can promote a healthy gut. One type of fibre we get in baked beans is called inulin which works as a prebiotic to feed good bacteria and benefit our health.

These good bacteria break down the soluble fibre (mainly oligosaccharides) and as a by-product produces hydrogen, nitrogen and Carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes flatulence (farting). This causes no health issues unless you have issues with your gut bacteria. If you are making your own baked beans from scratch it is advised to soak them first. Soaking them helps with the digestive process of the beans and reduces the amount of gas produced, this goes for all dried beans and legumes.

1. HEINZ BAKED BEANS – No added salt tin (4 stars)   

HEINZ – no added salt version is the number 1 version in Australia with it’s low sodium levels.

  • 380kj of energy (92kcal)
  • 10mg of sodium
  • 4.4 g of sugar per 100g
  • 1.1.g of fat
  • 13.7g of carbohydrates
  • 5.3g of fibre
  • 1.3g of iron

2. HEINZ BAKED BEANS – Salt reduced tin (3.5 stars)   

are baked beans good for you?HEINZ – salt reduced versions tend to be 30-40% of a sodium reduction, which isn’t a large drop in sodium but better than the original version.

  • 380 kj of energy (92kcal)
  • 240mg of sodium
  • 4.4 g of sugar per 100g
  • 0.5.g of fat
  • 13.7g of carbohydrates
  • 5.4g of fibre
  • 1.3g of iron

3. HEINZ BAKED BEANS – Original classic tin (3 stars)    

Are baked beans good for you?HEINZ – original tin, is the tin that has been used as the leading baked bean tin by Heinz, the recipe hasn’t changed much over the years.

  • 380 kj of energy (92kcal)
  • 360mg of sodium
  • 4.4 g of sugar per 100g
  • 0.5 g of fat
  • 13.7g of carbohydrates
  • 5.3g of fibre
  • 1.3g of iron

4. HEINZ BAKED BEANS – ‘Ham in sauce’ tin (2 stars)   

Are baked beans good for you?HEINZ – ‘ham sauce’ tin has the highest amount of sodium and sugar of any Heinz tin with 415mg, this tin should be consumed in moderation.

  • 380 kj of energy (92kcal)
  • 385mg of sodium
  • 4.4 g of sugar per 100g
  • 0.5 g of fat
  • 13.6g of carbohydrates
  • 5.4g of fibre
  • 1.3g of iron

Baked Beans History

The slogan ‘Beans Meanz Heinz’ was initiated in 1960’s and has stuck ever since. Over the past 30 years supermarkets have introduced their own cheaper baked beans and the market is anyone’s game at the moment. Baked beans are commonly seen in the traditional English brekkie, but also on toast as a great lunch or quick and easy evening meal. The iconic tin can be purchased in every country in the world, averaging $1.80 in price in Australia.

Are Baked Beans good for a snack?

We run a lot of school nutrition workshops for kids and parents in Australia. We always get asked, “what is a healthy snack for my kids to eat?”. To be categorised as a healthy snack a snack needs to be nutritious and also fill you up without being loaded with salt and sugar and bad fat. We believe that the mini baked bean pots that Heinz now do is a great little snack for little ones to have and is a good source of fibre and protein.

Baked Beans Meal Options

The traditional baked bean can be enjoyed hot, cold, straight from the tin, on wholemeal toast or with eggs and avocado (my favourite). They are a great addition to an English brekkie, with grilled tomato, poached eggs, mushroom and grilled bacon (on a Saturday morning). They are cheap, very versatile and store for months. We called them our ‘back up meal’ when our food stores are running low.

are baked beans good for you?

Posted by Luke Daley, Registered Nutritionist, Msc, BSc (Hons)
Director and Founder of Daley Nutrition 

A little about us….

Daley Nutrition is a community nutrition team based in Melbourne Victoria, we run a range of nutrition based programs such as school nutrition workshops and cooking demonstrations in Australia to raise people’s awareness of what they are eating and empower them to change certain eating habits.