Are Canned Beans as Healthy as Home Cooked?

Are Canned Beans as Healthy as Cooked Beans?

Beans are an essential part of any healthful diet. The federal government recommends about half a cup a day of beans, counting them as both a protein and a vegetable since they have the best of both worlds. Beans are excellent sources of fiber, folate, plant protein, plant iron, vitamin B1, and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and copper, all while being naturally low in sodium.

Yet Americans don’t know beans! 96% of Americans don’t even meet the measly minimum recommended intake of beans, chickpeas, split peas or lentils. The same percentage of Americans don’t eat their greens every day. Two of the healthiest foods on the planet are greens and beans, but hardly anyone even consumes the minimum recommended amount. As a team of researchers from the National Cancer Institute noted, this is just another “piece added to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation’s diet in crisis.”

But how should we get our beans? Canned beans are convenient, but are they as nutritious as home-cooked? And if we do used canned, should we drain them or not? A recent study published in Food and Nutrition Sciences spilled the beans.

In addition to their health benefits, beans are cheap. The researchers did a little bean counting, and a serving of beans costs between ten cents and, if we want to go crazy, 40 cents.

The researchers compiled a table, which you can see in my video, Canned Beans or Cooked Beans?, of the cost per serving of beans, both canned and cooked. Canned beans cost about three times more than dried beans, but dried beans can take hours to cook, so my family splurges on canned beans, paying the extra 20 cents a serving. Nutrition-wise, cooked and canned are about the same, but the sodium content of canned beans can be 100 times that of cooked. Draining and rinsing the canned beans can get rid of about half the sodium, but you’re also draining and rinsing away some of the nutrition.  I recommend, when buying canned beans, to instead get the no-salt added varieties, and to keep and use the bean juice.

The bottom line is that beans, regardless of type or form, are a nutrient rich food and should be encouraged as part of an overall healthy diet.

Concerned about gas? See my blog post Beans and Gas: Clearing the air.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Caro Wallis / Flickr

  • guest

    Researchers are concerned regarding the BPA-fee cans not being so safe after all, that BPA-free lining has its own bad, harmful properties, possibly compromising human health. The science is obviously starting to raise concerns that this could turn out real bad, that maybe we were worse off with the BPA-free cans? Time for these bean companies to start using glass.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bpa-replacement-also-alters-hormones/

    http://www.edf.org/health/four-reasons-bpa-free-wont-protect-you?s_src=ggad&s_subsrc=bpa&gclid=CPz5ws6t_MACFTAQ7AodQBkAOg

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/tritan-certichem-eastman-bpa-free-plastic-safe

    http://www.medicaldaily.com/bpa-free-plastic-worse-bpa-containing-products-similar-health-risks-identified-across-wide-270649

    • JP

      Why not just do what I do and buy beans in a carton instead of a can?
      For example, Whole Foods sells a variety of organic beans under their
      365 (inexpensive) label in 13-ounce cartons. All the convenience of
      canned without the issues.

      • Thea

        JP: I did some research on those cartons some time ago and found that they generally have the same chemicals/materials as cans. At least that’s what I remember. I don’t have the research at my fingertips, but you might want to look into it. I think the topic is under something like: septic cartons? Something like that.

        • JP

          I would sure like to see any material on this as I have never been able to find anything. But thanks for the motivation; I’ll try again.

        • guest

          Aluminum liner inside of the cartons. Checked and verified. Kind of scary.

          • Thea

            guest: Yes, there is aluminum. But according to the industry, the aluminum does not touch the food. You (assuming it was you/guest below) may be right that the aluminum leaches through in the cooking. The issue that concerns me even more is that the layer they admit is touching the food is plastic. Even if the plastic is BPA-free, there *seems* (I’m no expert or authority on the subject) to be more and more evidence that any plastic leaches into food, even when the food and plastic is cold.

            I looked and can’t find the detailed description of aseptic packs that I had read before. However, I did find one, very unreliable, page with some other concerns, including environmental ones, which is a big deal to me too.
            http://www.ehow.com/list_7439437_disadvantages-aseptic-packaging.html

            I don’t think we have a definitive answer on the topic. I just feel we have enough information that it would not be wise to think that the aseptic packages are any safer than cans – and *may* even be less so.

          • guest

            When I asked the manufacturer how much aluminum leached through, I was told that it met FDA or whatever government guidelines. They wouldn’t say whether any leached through, and if so how much, just that it was meeting government requirements.

          • Thea

            re: “meeting government requirements”
            Well, that *is* scary! I agree, since those government requirements are probably not “zero”, then I would be that the aluminum does leak through. Wow.

            But then again, is that any worse than cans? I’m not saying cans are healthy either. I’m just putting it into perspective.

      • Nicole

        That’s a great solution to the BPA issue for some people, but keep in mind millions of people don’t have access to a Whole Foods or anything like it. You can find canned beans anywhere, even a dollar store or gas station, and in many different countries. I just buy dried beans in bulk and pressure cook them, but again, not everyone has access to the kinds of stores with bulk bins. Here in Texas the local supermarket has bulk bins, but back in Maryland it was something one could only find in affluent communities. Like beans in cartons. If you’re passionate about issues like these, some good topics to read up on are food justice (access) and environmental racism (packaging waste).

        • guest

          BPA-free only removes BPA, it does not remove the alternative chemicals used in these BPA-free cans. I wonder which is worse for the consumer, BPA-free or BPA-rich cans?

          • Nicole

            I think ultimately, dried beans in bulk are the answer, especially given (which was the point I thought I was making in my comment, but I may have rambled a bit) that millions of people are too poor to be able to take things like BPA into consideration, as they may not have different options available to them. And hopefully when dried becomes the norm, people in these food-scarce communities will have that option, too.

            http://www.foodispower.org/food-deserts/

          • moomoo

            My new pressure cooker has changed my life here in the Whole Foods-free Midwest. I have to allow extra time for soaking (tho’ soaked beans do keep in the fridge if I don’t get to cooking them), but it is so easy and inexpensive for me to cook a few cups of dry beans I buy in bulk. I freeze some in Pyrex dishes and keep some in the fridge for immediate use. We eat a lot more beans now as having them on hand makes me think of ways to use them that never occurred to me when I used cans. Also makes it faster for me to cook during the week. We love bean tacos, grain/bean salads, hummus, chili, guacamole, quick from-scratch Indian dishes (just saute Indian spices, onion, garlic before adding veggies then puree part of the dish in a blender with plain unsweetened soy milk before adding back to pan, then add beans), and we even add beans to soups and stir-frys.

            Tomatoes leach even more BPA (or alternatives like BPS) so I no longer use canned. This year I bought 15 lbs from a local farmer, cleaned, and froze them. Will see how that works out. I might learn to can in glass next year. My next goal is learning to make soy milk as I like the unsweetened kind in a plastic-lined aseptic package…not sure if I need a maker (which tend to have plastic parts) or if I can make it using a pressure cooker & then straining the milk.

          • Nicole

            moomoo, you should be able to make the soymilk without a dedicated maker, I’ve seen a lot of recipes where people just use a blender. Cheesecloth works but they also sell little bags popular with folks who make almond milk, and I find that easier to wash and re-use than cheesecloth.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BodgAM9E4BU
            http://www.eatingvibrantly.com/make-no-sew-nut-milk-bag/

            Good luck! I’ve made nut milk in the past, but soymilk is something I’m interested in trying soon to save money.

          • corina zugravu

            Some month ago I started doing my own soymilk..soaking, blending, passing through the cheesecloth, boiling…it.s quick and simple. Here, in Europe, store bought soymilk is very expansive, not always fortified and sweet as hell..

          • nanette

            why are you guys crazy about soymilk. please do some research on soy. it’s not a health food as it is being presented to us. go to dr. mercola’s website (mercola.com). lots of helpful info. cheers!

          • No on Mercola

            Dr Mercola is not a good resource for information in my opinion. Pushes too much meat, dairy and oils.

          • corina zugravu

            :D i.m an MD with a phd in nutrition…so pls believe me I know what to eat. 2 portions per day of soy are a wonderful source of protein and other nutrients. Regarding Mercola, just one word : bleah!!!

          • Larry G Maloney

            The reason to not eat GMO modified soy is because it’s sprayed with even stronger doses of chemicals than the non-GMO. A family member works promoting soy. He recommends two servings a day too. But that’s his job. Four out of five doctors used to recommend Camel cigarettes.
            I’m guessing nutritional education on a PhD level coincides with government propaganda and lobbyist demands. I’ll pass on the soy.

          • Thea

            Larry: You may want to check out the videos on “soy” on this site.
            http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=soy

            The point is: There is lots of strong scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of people eating 2-3 servings of traditional soy products a day. If GMO and pesticides are a concern for you, it’s easy to find organic soy in traditional products like tofu and tempeh and soy milk. You certainly don’t have to eat soy to be healthy. But just like say flax seed and other special plant foods, it makes sense to make soy part of one’s diet – or at least not fear it. It definitely does not make sense to imply to others that there is something wrong with traditional soy.

            Non traditional, heavily processed soy products, like isolated soy protein are a different matter.

          • Larry G Maloney

            Thea, I was clear to talk about GMO soy (same applies to any GMO food). And it’s not that GMO and pesticides are a concern for ME. The problem with GMO and pesticides is they cause harm to humans. (you and me). Organic soy does not have the problems identified in GMO pesticide drenched soy. Everyone should fear GMO pesticide drenched soy. That’s mostly what is available in the USA. That’s what my friend promotes.
            The message is that the purpose for creating GMO soy is because the pesticides aren’t effective any more. the new stronger, more effective pesticides kill bugs but they also kill plants. For that reason pesticide resistant soy was created, hence the name “GMO”. To be clear, GMO soy was created so even stronger chemicals could be sprayed on them. That’s why we all should oppose any GMO plant. Adding to the problem, when farmers grow organic soy and their crop gets infested with GMO grain from the neighboring farm, the organic farmer gets sued for patent infringement. Farmers are forced to grow GMO.

          • Larry G Maloney

            Thea, I did a search and got about fifteen (more or less) videos about soy. Without a hint I don’t know what you believe I need to learn. I can’t watch them all right now. I DID see one that suggested in the title that soy can be harmful to thyroids. Organic or not, I don’t want to harm my thyroid consuming soy. Besides, I prefer almond milk on my oatmeal, anyway.

            It goes without saying, no one should fear organic soy because GMO soy is harmful. However, they might want to view the videos you suggested to see if organic soy might cause problems other than GMO related. The matter never entered my mind until you suggested the videos.

          • Thea

            here’s your hint: A whole bunch of those videos and articles you saw the titles for talk about soy’s qualities in preventing cancer as well as remission. Only a few entries talk about problems when you over-do traditional soy products.

            Yes, over-doing traditional soy products or including products like isolated soy protein in your diet causes problems. That’s why your family member’s recommendation of 2 servings of traditional soy foods a day is a good one. And as Dr. Greger shows, 2-3 servings a day is quite in line with the current scientific evidence. Just like flaxseed is very good for fighting cancer, but there is an upper recommended limit. That an upper recommendation exists does not mean that the general person should be worried about the food. Not when the recommended amounts have such positive effects on our health.

            If you looked at the answer to the question about soy and thyroid, you would have seen that soy is like broccoli and flax seed in that respect. Surely you don’t avoid broccoli and flax seed??? From Dr Greger: “The answer is not to avoid these super healthy foods but to just make sure you get enough iodine.”

            re: “I can’t watch them all right now.” You don’t have to watch them all. The point was that there is overwhelming evidence about the health benefits of eating traditional soy products. Even looking at the search page shows that. Because so many doctors get it wrong and because there is so much confusion in the public in general and even with plant-based people, Dr. Greger has taken great pains to educate us. That’s why there are so many entries on soy, including so much material showing the positive health benefits.

            Please note: This is just something to think about and was my reaction to your overall post in general, but especially the unqualified final sentence of, “I’ll pass on the soy.” It sure seems like you are not aware of the positive evidence about soy. If this topic doesn’t interest you, that’s fine. There’s no reason not to enjoy your almond milk. That wasn’t the point I was making.

          • Larry G Maloney

            Thea, you posted to me saying some might confuse organic and GMO soy (words to that effect. Rather than lecture me on what videos I should watch and what knowledge I should gleam form them, perhaps you could suggest anyone confused about the two types read what I wrote about “GMO” and maybe watch a video or two or three in the NF video library about organic soy. Personally I’m very clear on the subject and I’m not responsible for anyone you imagine might be confused. I don’t need to watch any more as I’ve watched my fill. To appease you I re-watched two and now you want to take me to task for that. If you want to tell the world about organic soy please do so. I chose GMO soy as my topic, not organic soy or organic corn, or organic anything. I can’t cover it all in one brief post any more than Dr. Greger can. What I accomplished was telling folks why GMO was created. And since I have concerns about my very own and very personal thyroid, I’ll pass on the organic too since YOU brought it up. Why would you think I need any guidance about organic soy from you? Simply because you are a fan of organic soy does not mean I am opposed. Nor do I group organic soy with GMO soy, any more than I group organic corn with GMO corn. Please pick a different battle if you want to make a federal case where none exists. .

          • Larry G Maloney

            Thea, I took the time to watch two soy videos. One told me beans are twice as effective as soy at reducing cholesterol. The other video said soy can cause goiter problems if you don’t get enough iodine. No more goose chases. If you want me to see something in a specific video please provide a link, or at least the name or topic. I already know the benefits of soy. My topic was the harm caused by GMO soy. Nothing has changed.

          • Nicole

            An interest in making homemade soymilk is not the same as being “crazy about soymilk.” This is the exactly the kind of sensational nonsense that makes Mercola untrustworthy.

          • Olivia

            Nicole, thanks for sharing that awesome video link! I just recently got a new Vitamix blender and have made really good vanilla almond milk with it. Now I will try soy milk, because it will be cheaper to make. I’ve been following a WFPB diet for about 2 months, and I am feeling so much better now that I’m off all dairy. I love it!

          • Carol J

            Love this video. Thank you!

          • Thea

            moomoo: Great post.

            FYI: If you find your freezer running out of tomatoes, you can get tomatoes from a jar/glass with the Eden brand. They sell them on-line too if your local grocery stores don’t carry them. Just an idea in case you want a plan B in the future.

      • guest

        Whole foods cartons have an aluminum liner, aluminum materials imbedded inside the carton.
        The company that makes these cartons so far has refused to provide to the consumer the
        amount of aluminum that leaches out during the cooking process. Keep in mind, the beans are cooked
        inside these little cardboard/aluminum cartons. They are not a sturdy cooking pot in themselves.
        I’m inclined to believe that some aluminum is leaching from the thin liner inside the carton. Same with the cans. All this water should be (IMHO) rinsed out, and never ingested by humans. Hopefully Dr. Greger will see into this logic and suggest to the viewers here to discard all the juices/liquids inside canned products before consuming the actual food.

  • Veganrunner

    Dr Greger after many years of eating beans and cooking them for 2 hours we finally purchased a pressure cooker. The time is down to 35 minutes!!!

    • Coacervate

      Yes, same here. Changed the way we plan and eat meals. Big improvement and convenience…and our electric one’s timer means I can’t burn up another pan letting them go dry.

      • Veganrunner

        So true! Good to know it’s a common problem.

      • Jeanette

        I thought I was the only one burning pans! Once I created pure black carbon spheres from lentils, a whole pan full. I had to throw a couple of pans out even! Pressure cooker is a great idea.

        • Coacervate

          Isn’t that just the pits? I work in my little shop so I used to think I could cook and work at the same time. NO WAY…solution: a slow cooker and a fast cooker, both are fool proof…so far. It took us about 20+ years to get past our joint family stories about exploding cookers! So far so good.

    • Karen Anderson

      Thank you for reminding me about using the pressure cooker for beans. I just bought a new electric pressure cooker I m anxious to use more and can t wait to do beans!

      • slider1

        Karen, word to the wise, the first time I cooked beans in my new pressure cooker I overfilled the pot with beans and under filled with water. The beans cooked and as they softened they plugged the pressure relief vent so the 15 PSI design pressure was exceeded and pressure increased and increased until the lid suddenly exploded off my new pressure cooker. My newly painted kitchen was coated, ceiling, walls, and cabinet doors with a thin paste of beans. Even the ceiling fan blades were bean soaked. We had to scrape the walls before repainting. Don’t over-fill a pressure cooker…but then, maybe that’s a guy thing?

        • VL

          I’m sorry to hear you had trouble with your pressure cooker. It’s counter-intuitive, but in many cases modern stovetop pressure-cookers have more safety features than comparably-priced electronic models. I have a Kuhn Rikon stovetop model that I love. It has two backup venting sources in the event that the relief valve were to get clogged. Here’s a link to lots of good info about pressure cooker safety. Including why you should *not* take chances using a pressure cooker you find in your Grandma’s attic! http://missvickie.com/workshop/safety.html

          • Thea

            VL: I have a Kuhn Rikon too. I love it. I like it so much, I ended up getting three total, different sizes. They are terribly spendy, but I think they are very well suited for beginners, like me. Very clear on what to do. And plus, then I ended up with three high-quality pots I can use for regular cooking too. These have become the three pots I use for almost all my cooking, whether I am pressure cooking or not.

          • slider1

            VL, you might not actually have all that extra protection. In my circumstance I made a mistake overfilling with beans which clogged the pressure vent. Five vents would have clogged just the same. Redundancy in safety features is generally intended as backup in the event the primary wears out or is defective or fails to do its job. It doesn’t protect against my mistake.
            I solved the problem by purchasing an electronic pressure cooker. It’s much safer. The “manual” type relies on the operator to modulate the heat source so the water does not get too hot and generate excess steam. YOU become part of the close loop system.
            My electronic pressure cooker modulated the heat based on feedback form thermocouples. It continually updates the temps…too high and the heat is lowered. It also monitors the pressure. The new technology only supplies enough heat to heat the water so make just enough steam to maintain pressure set point. I’m not of the safety system and the electroni8cs is much more reliable. If I were to accidently overfill the pressure would not build like the manual one did.

        • KWD

          slider1, Ugggh. I had a similar but not as drastic experience with my first pressure cooker, a small Futura…mistakenly tried to cook steel cut oats in it (need a bigger pressure cooker for this). The pressure valve clogged, I panicked and stupidly used the quick release valve to release pressure, in the process spewing a coat of oat paste all over my dog eating his food some four feet away as well as my African Violets and everything in between. User error. I’ve since moved on to a Kuhn Rikon which seems much safer and can handle foamy foods.

          • slider1

            LOL, you bring back memories! Luckily neither of us were burned or whacked with a flying lid. I’m now very proficient with my electronic pressure cooker…and all it’s safety features are a great backup.

        • Karen Anderson

          Lol. Thx for the advice. Yes, probably a guy thing….hahaha

    • Guest

      I’ve been making lentil and split pee “soup” in a crock pot (its more a meal than a soup actually), yes it takes longer (about 5-6 hours on the high setting), but it is very convenient way to make batches of soup that you can freeze and eat when you want (all in glass containers of course).

    • Thea

      Veganrunner: I’m happy for you. I have a pressure cooker too and I love it.

      FYI: There are several vegan pressure cookbooks on the market. I really like two of them, with Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna Sass (it says vegetarian, but really is vegan) being my favorite. I have made some really delicious dishes following that cookbook. And because of that book, I have seen that the pressure cooker is great for more than just beans and soup – it works great for grains too. Just a friendly tip.

      Enjoy your new toy!

      • KWD

        Yes, the Lorna Sass cookbook is great. I have another too, by Jill Nussinow, “The New Fast Food”, it’s vegan and has some delicious recipes.

        • Thea

          KWD: I have that one too! It is my second favorite, but it is a close second.

      • Veganrunner

        Thanks Thea for the cookbook recommendation. I am going to order it.

    • KWD

      Woohoo! The pressure cooker changed the way we eat too.

    • Dommy

      Can a pressure cooker somehow be used to reduce the time it takes to soak dried beans?

      At present we buy the cheapest canned black beans and thoroughly rinse ’em through a strainer before eating.
      But would like to go the pressure cooker route.

      • Veganrunner

        With a pressure cooker you do not need to soak at all. Put all your ingredients in the pot and that’s it. Make sure to set a timer! 35 minutes for 3 cups dried beans, onion, spices and 4 cups water. Of course the bean/water amounts will depend on the cooker size. Add salt after cooking if you desire. “They” say salt when cooking toughens the bean. So easy because as coacervate mentions I have burned plenty of beans cooked the conventional way.

        Now someone mentioned less nutrients cooked at higher temperature but I haven’t had time to check into that. Maybe Dr Greger has read something and he can remember it off the top of his head.

      • Darryl

        Yes. Lorna Sass (whose books Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen and Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure are ur-texts for the vegan pressure cooker) calls her method “quick soak”. Bring beans (with a couple inches of water to cover) to pressure, and then immediately turn off the heat, but don’t release the pressure valve. In a little over an hour (closer to 2 for chick peas) the beans will be soaked through, though you can test by cutting one in half to see if there’s any still dry spot in the middle.

    • Wegan

      I soak them overnight and put them in a crock pot in the morning. What I don’t use that night I freeze in the French style working jars, about the size of cans.

  • Bertrand Morasse

    I wonder if the lining they put into the cans would not be something to avoid. I would have concern about BPA or other products they put into it. So cooked beans would have another advantage. But still I guess it is better to eat canned beans than going for a fast-food :)

  • PlantStrong

    The fiber in canned beans is less and BPA cans are not safe! I see a guest also commented on BPA free, so the recommendation should be dried beans over canned beans! On days you need a quick meal, no added salt canned beans can be an option as it is definitely better than meat!

    • Ben

      That’s what I do, only use canned or carton beans as an emergency. Slow cooked beans are my first option, pressure cooked beans second best option, then the canned or carton as a last resort.

  • Tom Lang

    I just read your “Canned Beans as Healthy as Home Cooked” post and like the previous guest commented I found it incredible that you did not even mention the health risks of eating beans – and everything else – that comes in cans due to BPA leaching out of the lining. I would not trust BPA-free cans either as what has replaced BPA in the lining ? How safe is it? When my wife and I do buy any pre-made foods like tomato sauce, we always opt for the brands packaged in glass jars rather than cans exactly for this reason.

    • Jill N

      Agreed, and the time is now for consumers to demand that EDEN BEANS offer the consumer beans in
      glass jars. The only way this will occur is if the vegan consumer advocates, raising awareness. Lets just have them cook the beans in a big pot and then pour them into glass jars.

  • Nicole

    I used to buy canned beans for the same reason (cooking time) but as I learned more about BPA, packaging waste, etc. I decided to “splurge” on a pressure cooker. Now they cook in a fraction of the time, with no need for soaking. I just rinse, put it in the pressure cooker, and bam – they’re done. It takes anywhere from 10 minutes (split peas) to 45 (chickpeas) but you don’t have to stand over it like a normal cooking pot, so you can do other things while they cook, like prepare a salad or wash dishes. They are so delicious and cheap. I can never go back to canned. It’s also great because I can get the dried ones in bulk, so I don’t have to take home any garbage. We got an electric cooker instead of the stovetop kind so we can use it anywhere, and because it also has different settings that make it extremely versatile (rice cooker mode, steamer mode, saute mode, slow cooker mode).

    • sbccvegan

      I have been thinking about getting one of the newer electric pressure cookers that can also be used as a rice cooker and slow cooker. However, every one that I saw had either an aluminum or “non-stick” cooking insert. The convenience of the multipurpose electric models is attractive, but I would rather get a stainless steel stove top model than have a toxic cooking insert. Do you know of any that have a stainless steel (or other non-toxic) cooking insert?

      • Thea

        sbccvegan: I don’t remember the brand, but I have seen at least one electric/automated pressure cooker that had a plain steel insert. If you look on Chef AJ’s site (if she has one), I’m thinking you can find that brand since I heard about it from her at a talk she gave.

        I also wanted to comment on the concept of electric models being convenient. In my research, I found definite trade-offs, with stove top models being more convenient in some areas and less in others. The stove top models win in these areas: shorter cooking times, which goes with the ability to quick-release. Also, serves as a regular cooking pot. And is a pot you can do some sauteing in before adding the rest of the ingredients – so you don’t have to dirty two pots/pans. At the end of the process, if what you are cooking isn’t quite done, you can just put it back on the regular stove for a little more regular cooking or even put the lid back on. In general, what I read was that the stove top versions allow for more control and are more flexible, not counting the ability to slow-cook, which some of the electric models have and stove top do not.

        Just something to think about. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the electric/automatic model at all. I just think that there are trade offs that people are not always aware of. So, I thought I would point a few out in the hopes that would be helpful.

        I hope you find the electric model you are looking for.

        • Nicole

          Electric cookers also have a quick-release option; the reason stove-top models have faster cook times is because they can be rinsed under cold water in the sink. Electric models also have a sauté option (for the purpose you mentioned). One of the cons of the electric models is that they can take longer to heat up, since you can’t adjust the heating element. Also, since you have to wait for it to get up to heat, it is inconvenient to cook in stages (start cooking beans, wait, add in rice and cook again). I started with a stove-top model and ended with an electric because I liked it better, but it’s definitely slower. Also, it’s not good for camping unless you have some solar generator or something.

          • Thea

            Nicole: Thanks for your 2 cents! Since I only have experience with the stove top kind, I can only mention what I have read.

            I tend to go crazy with kitchen gadgets. And I’ve been thinking of trying the electric model myself for comparison. So, it’s really interesting that you started with stove top and like the electric one better. That gives me even more impetus to give the electric one a try.

          • Thea

            Nicole: I lost your post above in the shuffle. re: “Also, it’s not good for camping unless you have some solar generator or something.” That reminded me that another reason I liked my stove top model is that I can use it for serious emergencies on my Stove Tec Rocket stove.
            http://stovetecstore.net/

            So, even if I get an electric model pressure cooker and end up liking it better for normal use, I’ll definitely be keeping my stove top model around. I’m a big believer in preparing for long term power outages.

            Thanks for those thoughts.

      • Nicole

        Mine is called “Instant Pot” and has a stainless steel insert.

      • b00mer

        I second Nicole’s mention of the Instant Pot. It has a stainless steel pot, yet I feel like it may as well be nonstick as I never have any trouble cleaning it. The model I use is this one:
        http://www.amazon.com/Instant-Pot-IP-LUX60-Programmable-1000-Watt/dp/B0073GIN08

        It includes the ability to saute prior to the actual pressure cooking step. It also allowed me to get rid of my slow cooker and rice cooker which was convenient in terms of cupboard space.

        The big advantage with the electric in my mind is the brainlessness. Even if the cook time is a bit longer, the ability to press one or two buttons and walk away is worth it to me. I also have an electric range rather than gas which also added to the inconvenience of using a stovetop model.

        And one more thing which can be quite an enticing factor in the summertime for those without central air is the heat. I’ve used the instant pot quite often to make pasta for pasta salad, without ever having to be in the presence of a heating element. It’s saved me from many would-be sandwich dinners on hot summer nights.

        I own both an electric and a stovetop and the electric definitely gets used more. The stovetop is actually in storage now. One thing I do miss about the stovetop is that for one of my favorite recipes (Chickpeas and Onions by Lorna Sass, :) introduced to me courtesy of Thea) which includes chickpeas and tomatoes, I just cannot get the chickpeas to cook in the presence of tomatoes in the electric one, no matter the time. I have to cook the entire recipe sans tomatoes, open it up, add tomatoes, and cook for a couple more minutes. So the electric ones are a bit weaker so to speak, but the overall ease of use is still worth it to me.

        Another disadvantage as mentioned is that it can take longer to get up to temp and pressure than a stove top version, but there are some things you can do to speed the process up:

        1) If you have a few minutes of chopping to do, load the water first and turn the saute function on to high while you chop and load the ingredients. The last time I did this with a lentil stew, by the time I was done chopping and ready to close it up, the water was already at a light simmer.
        2) Use hot water from the tap instead of cold.
        3) Fill a water kettle and let it come to a boil while you chop, and pour in right before you close it up.

        • Nicole

          Yes, when I was still new at pressure cooking I made the mistake of putting some type of sugar in what I was cooking (I think it was barley malt syrup?), not realizing that was a big no-no beause sugars caramelize at the bottom. I hate a huge burnt mess at the bottom and it cleaned out fine.

          b00mer, the tomato issue you mentioned is a pH issue, so I’m not sure how your stovetop pressure cooker bypassed the laws of chemistry! That’s a new one on me. I’ll have to check that out. But as far as I’ve ever learned, no starch will become soft in the presence of an acidic substance like tomato, vinegar, or citrus. They come out cooked but overly hard, kind of like a peanut. Conversely, you can get things to soften up by adding a tiny pinch of baking soda.

          • b00mer

            Hi Nicole, I believe it’s more the logistics and architecture than the actual chemistry. The recipe in question involves putting chickpeas and broth at the bottom, with about 7 to 8 cups of onions layered on top (not stirred in), followed by 1 cup of tomatoes set atop the onions, so that the tomatoes are kept separate from the chickpeas while they cook. My guess is that there’s a difference in the extent to which the chickpeas have cooked before the onion scaffolding cooks down, exposing them to the tomatoes. Perhaps the higher temperature and rate of cooking in the stovetop model also helps overcome their resistance to soften. Either way, tomatoes only take a minute or two so I don’t consider it a huge disadvantage. I was already used to the process of adding tomato at the end whenever I’d cook beans in a regular pot on the stove. Though perhaps I could try cooking it the regular way with tomatoes on top, but with some baking soda in the broth. I might try someday but memories of peanut like chickpeas still haunt me! :)

        • Thea

          b00mer: Thank you too for jumping in! I’m definitely going to have to give it at try.

      • Emily

        The Instant Pot brand electric pressure cooker has a stainless steel pot. I have one, and I love it. I have an older model than this one – this appears to be the latest edition: http://www.amazon.com/Instant-Pot-IP-DUO60-Programmable-Generation/dp/B00FLYWNYQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412490290&sr=8-1&keywords=instant+pot+pressure+cooker

  • slider1

    Since we’re talking about “canned” beans, I’ve noticed lately that so many of the cans I open, regardless of content, have many little, sorta foamy, bubbles at the top, just under the lid. First time I noticed I threw them away…was always taught it was a sign of spoilage. Well, something different is going on now because the food isn’t spoiled. Where’d the bubbles come from?

    • Nicole
      • slider1

        Nichole, if the plants I buy canned had the foaming properties in them then it seems the foam should have always been noticeable. I just started seeing the bubbles recently. Can’t imagine why they’d start adding it to the food. Something in the canning process has changed.
        Thanks for the link.

        • Nicole

          It may be something different in their prep process – I have noticed if I don’t rinse my yellow lentils or quinoa good enough before cooking, they will foam up. Or maybe they could be procuring them from a grower whose beans have a different nutrient profile? I’d be interested to see if they respond to you if you e-mail the company. I always think that’s an interesting measure of how much different companies value their customers. Let us know if you find out what caused it!

  • Catherine J Frompovich

    For those who want to speed up cooking dried beans/lentils/legumes, may I suggest this method: Pick out ‘bad’ beans and/or stones, then rinse well under running water. Soak them covered with water and a plate on top the bowl overnight (or at least 8 hours), then transfer to a pot with a lid and cook until tender (keeping an eye on the water level), about 20 minutes or so!

    There are organically-grown beans/legumes in BPA-free cans that are designated “BPA free lining” on the can label. One such brand is Eden Organic, found in most super market chains.

    One thing I think nutrition-minded eaters ought to consider is this: agricultural sprays that remain as residue in plant material/fibers/starches.

    Here is information about toxicity from farming practices sprays, which I hope will be helpful in understanding the health benefits of eating organically.

    http://www.toxipedia.org/display/toxipedia/Effects+of+Pesticides+on+Human+Health

    • guest

      BPA free has its own host of problems. And these BPA free materials heat up to such high temperatures while the can is cooking at that manufacturing plant.

    • slider1

      Catherine, lentils cook in 20-30 minutes without soaking. Pretty much all beans need to soak overnight before cooking. Otherwise they cook up smaller.

      What beans are you coking that are edible in 20 minutes. I cook kidney, white, navy, pinto, red, black…and probably a few others I’m not thinking of. Most all take 1 /1/2 to two hours. Even my pressure cooker takes twenty minutes.

      Am I not understanding?

  • Kat

    We are huge bean-eaters as we follow Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian vegan food plan. We have found that a slow cooker is an easy solution to time management problems. We have a small inexpensive one( Royal Crock Pot) that is in use a couple of times a week. Soak 3 cups of beans in water overnight. Rinse well. Put soaked beans in cooker and add 9 cups of water. Put is on low. Cook approx 5 hrs. (Larger or other crock pots may have slightly different instructions.) You can save the bean water for soups and the like. I pour mine into ice cube trays and freeze. Then pack them in freezer bags. I do the same thing with the cooked beans. Pack them in 2-cup portions in GLAD Press’n Seal, then into freezer bags. This is an easy convenient way to have beans (and juice) on hand.

  • otto9n9otto

    I like to sprout lentils. I have found lentils to be the easiest bean to sprout. Other beans have a lower rate of sprout generation so that, after a few days the unsprouted beans get slimy and must be picked out, but not so with lentils, which have near %100 germination rate and grow quickly. They cook as fast as veggies, smell really good, and are BPA-free.

  • karena

    I use dried beans because the taste is superior to canned. I don’t use my pressure cooker anymore because I think more nutrients are lost with the higher heat. The beans are rinsed then soaked for 2-4 hours or overnight. I then add about half an onion and 2 cloves garlic and some kind of fresh or dried Chile pepper and more water and cook till tender. (Chick peas are better without onions and garlic). Cooking time varies according to soaking time and variety, but they are forgiving and are good anyway but hard. THEN add more onion garlic Chile pepper and lots of salt and cook a little longer or just let them cool. Even my meat dependent husband says they are good. Also if you have to leave when in the midst of cooking you can turn the fire off then finish cooking later. It’s really not much more work than opening a can.

    • slider1

      My recipe is similar but I add three, cut in the round, carrots. I like the color and the flavor it adds. A small potato or two will thicken the broth.

  • Larry Shaeffer

    Doc just get a pressure cooker or cook a large amount of beans at one time and freeze them in meal size portions-cannned beans are gross!

  • Lyn

    I see more expensive cans labelled ‘organic’ versus the cheaper ones ! Is buying organic a big consideration ?

  • Levon

    I really like to know what Dr. Greger thinks about soaking? Do or Don’t. Good or Bad. I heard that the beans leach Phytates into the soaking water which you don’t want to miss out. But on the other hand people talk a lot about those enzyme inhibitors you should get rid of with soaking. What are they? Are they really bad for you? I use the pressure cooker and do not soak anymore. But I am really wondering if soaking has health benefits.

    • karena

      I soak beans, but don’t throw the water away. I just add water to keep them barely covered. They seem to taste more bland if you throw the water away and then you keep whatever good things are in the water in addition to flavor!

    • KWD

      Levon, I wonder the same and have waffled back and forth on soaking and not soaking. I’ve found that I prefer unsoaked beans in the pressure cooker because they are a bit more al dente after cooking and seem to produce less gas (in me) in their digestive journey.

      Dr. Greger has four videos on phytate research indicating they may play protective roles in human health provided you are eating a diverse range of whole, plant-based foods: http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=phytates

      • Levon

        Thanks for the links. I’ve seen those videos before. But I couldn’t find anything about enzyme disrupters. What are they? Are they good, bad or meaningless? I am really confused about it. I hope Dr. Greger can clear up the soaking/nonsoaking issue. And explain enzyme disrupters.

  • guest

    boiled beans half the impact on your blood sugar that pressure cooked (canned) ones do. http://www.glycemicindex.com/index.php

  • William Dwyer

    Dr. Greger wrote, “Canned beans cost about three times more than dried beans, but dried beans can take hours to cook, so my family splurges on canned beans, paying the extra 20 cents a serving.”

    Dried beans do NOT take hours to cook. If you cook them in a pressure cooker, they take no more than about 20 minutes, if that. I’ve used a pressure cooker for the last 30 some years, and have cooked all manner of dried beans in it. Of course, with the exception of lentils and split peas, you have to soak them overnight.

    I would recommend a Kuhn Rikon Duromatic pressure cooker, which has a safety valve that prevents the pressure cooker from blowing up if the pressure gets too high. You can cook literally anything in this kind of pressure cooker — even brown rice, spaghetti and steel-cut oats. Steel-cut oats are especially easy to cook. You don’t have to stand over the stove and stir them to prevent sticking.

    I would recommend that anyone following a plant based diet buy a pressure cooker. It’s a real time saver and will cook literally anything in a dramatically reduced amount of time.

    • No on Canned

      Two servings of beans per day for a family of four… That extra 20 cents per serving adds up to $580. per year. Sure can buy a lot of bulk beans for that. Slow cooker or pressure cooker either way is easy and simple. “They” may say canned is just as healthy but somehow I can’t quite buy that.

      • No on Canned

        $580. per year is figured for 2 servings per day per person.

  • guest

    Since lentils are as nutritious as beans, I eat a lot of lentils (Masoor dhal, mung dhal, thor dhal, undue dhal, split peas) but not much beans. Bulk, dry Lentils can be cooked as a curry in 15 minutes on the stove in a regular saucepan without pre-soaking.

  • Carrie

    This is a new topic because I haven’t found it elsewhere on the site. I am interested in making vegan kefir with almond milk. Have any studies been done on vegan kefir and is it safe and effective to make it yourself? see http://blog.probacto.com/exploring-kefir-vegan-alternatives-to-fermented-dairy/

  • pat dinges

    Cooking beans: A friend gave me a Wonderbag. We use it often to cook beans (and other foods). Saves energy, doesn’t monopolize the stove top, no exploding lids, etc. Simply boil beans for 15 minutes, place the pot in the bag, set on a counter for a few hours. Available at Amazon, likely other places too. It is just a highly insulated bag that retains heat very well. Works for us!

    • Thea

      pat dinges: Very interesting idea! Thanks for sharing.

  • arthur

    Dr Gregor – About a year ago we discovered the pressure cooker. Now we cook almost all of our beans this way. It is very simple. The beans cook in a few minutes. As an example, chick peas soaked overnight cook in 14 minutes. Also the taste is way better than canned beans.

  • i

    what about the PBA in canned foods? Doesnt PBA cause cancer?

    • Cathleen

      BPA is nasty stuff. Here’s Dr. G’s video on the subject: BPA

      Several companies use BPA free cans; usually the varieties in the organic/health food section of the store. They are more expensive, but I feel better using them.

  • Tk

    Is it still healthy if I use canned beans but also rinse them thoroughly?

    • Cathleen

      Yes, canned beans make for a quick and convenient meal. Always rinse them thoroughly to get rid of as much salt as possible. While canned beans may contain less vitamins than home cooked, they are far better than other convenience foods!

  • Nancy

    While researching the Folate content of various beans, I came across data indicating that CANNED beans (of several varieties) contain much less Folate than HOME-COOKED beans (of the same variety). Any ideas on why this might be the case? If it’s accurate, then I will stick with my HOME-COOKED, and forgo the convenience of canned.

    • Cathleen

      Canned beans really are convenient when you’re doing last minute meal prep, but you’re right that they do have significantly less folate than your home cooked beans. Folate is quite sensitive to heat, so maybe the canning process does it? Presumably you lose some in your cooking, but according to several charts I found, you retain more by taking the time to cook yourself.