Is it OK to eat a can of beans?

Eating a can of beans can be a quick, easy, and nutritious meal or snack. Beans are packed with fiber, protein, and key vitamins and minerals. However, some people may wonder if eating beans straight from the can is safe or if it’s better to cook dried beans from scratch. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of eating canned beans.

Pros of Eating Canned Beans

  • Convenience – Canned beans are fully cooked and ready to eat. Just open the can and eat.
  • Nutritional value – Canned beans retain most of their fiber and protein even after canning.
  • Long shelf life – Canned beans can be stored for 1-5 years before opening.
  • Low cost – Canned beans are relatively inexpensive compared to other protein sources.
  • Variety – Many types of beans, like black, pinto, kidney, etc. are available canned.
  • Portion control – A can contains 1-2 servings of beans.

Cons of Canned Beans

  • Sodium content – Canned beans contain added salt, about 200-300mg per 1/2 cup serving.
  • BPA lining – Some cans have a BPA lining which may leach into food.
  • Less control – You can’t control ingredients like salt, seasonings or cooking time.
  • Digestive issues – Some complain canned beans cause more gas than cooking from dry.
  • Not organic – Most canned beans are not organic.

Are Canned Beans Safe to Eat?

Yes, canned beans are safe to eat for most healthy individuals. Here are some of the main safety considerations:

  • Food standards – Canned beans sold in the U.S. must meet FDA food safety standards.
  • Proper canning – Beans are heated to 240-250°F during the commercial canning process which kills bacteria.
  • Low risk food – Beans are a low-risk food for harboring bacteria and don’t require refrigeration.
  • Acidic environment – The liquid in canned beans has a pH below 4.6 which prevents botulism toxin growth.
  • Sturdy packaging – Enamel-lined cans prevent chemical interactions with food contents.
  • Use by dates – Best by/use by dates on cans assure optimal freshness and flavor.
  • Visual inspection – Check for dents, damage, swelling, or rust before opening can.

As long as canned beans are not past their use by date and the can is in good condition, they are perfectly safe to eat. The canning process destroys any harmful bacteria that could cause food poisoning or illness.

Nutritional Value of Canned Beans

Canned beans are nutritionally comparable to dry beans you cook yourself. The canning process may result in some loss of water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins. However, canned beans retain a significant amount of their nutritional value:

  • Protein – 7-10g per 1/2 cup serving
  • Fiber – 5-7g per 1/2 cup serving
  • Iron – 15-20% DV per serving
  • Folate – 15-20% DV per serving
  • Potassium – 10-15% DV per serving
  • Magnesium – 15-25% DV per serving
  • Phosphorus – 10-20% DV per serving

Canned beans are low in fat, naturally cholesterol free, and virtually sodium free before salt is added during canning. Rinsing canned beans removes about 40% of the sodium. Overall, canned beans deliver a powerful punch of plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Sodium Content of Canned Beans

Bean Type Sodium per 1/2 Cup Serving
Kidney beans 200mg
Garbanzo beans 140mg
Black beans 240mg
Pinto beans 300mg
White beans 250mg

*DV = Daily Value

As shown in the table, sodium content can vary between 140-300mg per serving for common canned bean varieties. This supplies 5-13% of the recommended daily sodium intake. Rinsing canned beans helps reduce the sodium content.

BPA Safety of Canned Beans

Some people worry about BPA (bisphenol A) in the epoxy resin lining of canned goods leaching into food. However, canned beans are considered low risk for BPA exposure for a few reasons:

  • Acidic pH – The acidic environment of canned beans limits BPA leaching.
  • Low fat – Beans are low fat, and fat increases chemical leaching.
  • Short storage – Beans are typically eaten soon after canning.
  • BPA alternatives – Many brands now use BPA-free linings.
  • Low consumption – Beans are not eaten daily like canned tuna or tomatoes.

The FDA and other world health agencies continue to deem current BPA exposure levels from food packaging as safe. However, individuals wanting to minimize exposure can choose Eden Foods and some other brands that use BPA-free cans or buy dry beans.

Do Canned Beans Cause Digestive Issues?

It’s a common belief that canned beans cause more gas and digestive discomfort compared to cooking dry beans from scratch. There are a few reasons this perception exists:

  • Less soak time – Canned beans are fully hydrated and need little to no soaking before canning.
  • Higher fiber – Canned beans retain all their fibrous content which can cause gas.
  • More servings – Canned beans equate to 2-3 bean servings which is more fiber at once.
  • Less discarding – Water discarded from soaking/cooking dry beans contains fermentable carbs.
  • Less digestible – Canned beans may be less fully cooked and digestible for some.

However, multiple studies have shown no significant difference in gas production between eating canned versus home cooked beans. Tips to reduce gas from beans include:

  • Rinse before use to remove excess starches/sugars.
  • Soak 4-8 hours before cooking if using dry.
  • Discard soaking water which contains fermentable carbs.
  • Increase beans gradually to allow digestive system to adjust.
  • Try gas relief supplements like Beano.
  • Spice it up with carminatives like ginger, fennel, garlic.

Overall, canned beans are not any more likely to cause gas or digestive upset compared to dry beans prepared properly.

Taste and Texture of Canned Beans

Canned beans tend to have a softer texture compared to beans cooked at home. The canning process fully hydrates and partially cooks the beans to make them shelf stable, which softens cell structures.

However, many people find canned beans have an acceptable tender texture. Canned beans also absorb flavors from surrounding ingredients well.

Taste wise, canned beans typically have more uniform flavor since cooking conditions are controlled during commercial canning. They lack the complex flavors that slowly simmered beans develop. But they offer convenience without much flavor compromise.

Here are some tips to enhance the flavor of canned beans:

  • Rinse beans to remove excess canning liquid.
  • Season generously with herbs, spices, garlic, onion, etc.
  • Sauté beans in olive oil with aromatics.
  • Add acids like lemon juice, vinegar, or tomatoes.
  • Mix beans with strongly flavored ingredients.
  • Purée/mash beans into dips, spreads, soups.

With the right seasonings and cooking methods, canned beans can be quite flavorful.

Cost Difference: Canned vs. Dry Beans

Dried beans are generally more economical than canned beans based on a pure cost per serving comparison. However, canned beans offer convenience which can be worth the premium price.

Here’s a general cost comparison:

  • Canned beans – Around $0.70-$1.50 per 15oz can, or $0.20-$0.40 per 1/2 cup serving.
  • Dry beans – Around $1-$2 per 1 lb bag, which equals $0.10-$0.20 per 1/2 cup uncooked serving.

So canned beans cost about 2-4x as much per serving compared to dry beans. However, canned beans offer big time savings by eliminating lengthy prep and cooking times. Canned beans also allow easy portion control for single servings.

Ways to save on canned beans:

  • Buy larger #10 cans and portion out.
  • Look for sales, coupons, and store brands.
  • Stock up when on promotion.

In summary, dry beans provide the best value for money based on cost per serving. But the convenience factor of canned beans makes them worthwhile for many people, especially when purchased on sale.

Environmental Impact of Canned Beans

Canned beans have a larger carbon footprint compared to home cooked dry beans or frozen beans. This is due to:

  • Canning process energy usage
  • Steel can material production
  • Transportation of canned goods
  • Higher food waste from unconsumed cans

However, canned beans are still a relatively eco-friendly choice thanks to:

  • Minimal packaging
  • Long shelf life
  • Ability to buy locally
  • Recyclable cans

Tips for reducing the eco-impact of canned beans:

  • Buy from local producers when possible.
  • Choose glass jars or pouches over cans when available.
  • Look for BPA-free linings.
  • Recycle the steel cans.
  • Compost or donate unused portions.
  • Enjoy beans according to use by date to prevent waste.

While not the most eco-friendly option, canned beans are still a reasonably sustainable choice, especially when steps are taken to minimize waste.

Healthiest Ways to Enjoy Canned Beans

Here are some healthy ways to eat canned beans:

Bean Salads

Toss canned beans with chopped veggies, greens, and a tangy vinaigrette for an easy nutrient-packed salad. Try chickpeas, kidney beans or black beans. Load up on antioxidants by adding veggies like tomatoes, carrots, peppers.

Soups and Chilis

Dump canned beans into soups and chilis for an instant protein and fiber boost. Beans pair deliciously with seasonal veggies and warm spices like cumin and chili powder.

Wraps and Sandwiches

Spread hummus, bean dip or mashed beans in sandwiches and wraps. Pair with veggies, greens, avocado and nut butters for complete protein.


Add canned beans to breakfast tacos, burritos, eggs, and hash. Beans give a protein punch to start the day right.


Serve a scoop of beans alongside grilled chicken, fish, veggies or grains. Beans provide hearty satisfaction as a simple side dish.


Drain and rinse a can of beans for a portable snack on the go. Edamame beans also make a satisfying crunchy snack straight from the can.

Baked Goods

Purée white beans and add to cookies, muffins and brownies for extra nutrients, fiber and moisture. Black beans work great in brownies.


Blend canned beans into dips like hummus, bean dip, and salsa. Partner with cut raw veggies, crackers or chips.


Overall, enjoying the occasional can of beans is perfectly healthy and safe for most people. Canned beans offer a shelf-stable source of plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. While salt, BPA linings and digestibility remain small concerns, canned beans provide nutrition, convenience and affordability. Just be sure to balance out sodium intake and cook dry beans from scratch when you have the time. With a little creativity, canned beans can be used to make many nutritious, delicious meals and snacks.

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