Beans, or legumes, are a healthy source of protein and fiber and can easily be part of a well-balanced diet, especially for those vegetarians and vegans. In some cases, however, the preparation method can drastically affect its nutritional value.
Refried beans, which are very popular in Mexican cuisine, are prepared by cooking pinto beans first and then beating them into a paste. Most people buy them in cans or eat them in restaurants without knowing they are full of additives that make them less healthy than regular beans.
Editor's Note: This article was medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD.
For people with arthritis, sodium can aggravate joint pain because high levels of salt cause your body to retain water, which can lead to edema and retained weight of "water."
High sodium content
A typical can of refried beans contains more than 1. 800 mg of sodium or salt. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) specify that sodium intake should not exceed 2. 300 mg per day. For African-Americans, people over 50, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease, the recommendation is less than 1,500 mg per day.
Although it is unlikely that you are going to consume a whole can of refried beans in a meal, the size of the portions is difficult to control, especially in restaurant settings, and you are likely to eat more than you think. For people with arthritis, sodium can aggravate joint pain because high levels of salt cause your body to retain water, which can lead to edema and retained weight of "water."
In general, refried beans are made with lard or bacon fat. A classic recipe for refried beans requires a cup of pinto beans and ½ cup of lard, which is essentially pure saturated fat. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans specify that the consumption of saturated fats should be limited to less than 10% of the total calories consumed per day. Although a large variety of low-fat or low-fat canned refried beans are available, restaurants are likely to prepare their own and be high in saturated fat.
The Arthritis Foundation emphasizes the role of fat in the development and worsening of arthritis as it causes weight gain, which puts excessive pressure on the joints. Unlike carbohydrates and proteins that contain four calories per gram of fat, fat contains nine calories per gram, so eating more fat means eating more calories. Being overweight is a huge risk factor for the development of arthritis and limiting calorie intake is key to maintaining a healthy body weight.
Review the nutrition labels when you buy refried beans. There are low-sodium and non-fat varieties available, which are much healthier than traditional refried beans. As always, keep an eye on portion sizes, especially in restaurants, because the ingredients and hidden calories can have a big impact on your health.
Fatima Khan is an MS Candidate at Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics at NYU.