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Rice and Beans 101: The health benefits of our favorite dish

If you are Latino and have everattempted to diet, I can bet first thing you thought was: “I’ve got to cut down on rice and beans.”

You probably realized a week into it how nearly impossible that is. However, you don’t need to beat yourself up over your rice and beans addiction – we’re all there with you. In fact, Latinos eat so much rice and beans that we’re changing the food market in the United States.

To release you from your guilt, I am going to describe all the wonderful things rice and beans will do for your body, besides giving you the pleasure of its wonderful flavors.

Benefits of rice
Rice is a source of complex carbohydrates, which are our primary source of energy. It also has all the amino acids your body needs to maintain and produce muscle tissue, antibodies, enzymes and hormones. It contributes to healthier skin, hair, eyesight, nervous system and blood vessels. Although many of the nutrients are washed out of white rice, brown rice retains all its vitamins. In the U.S., the vitamins are added back to white rice; this is sold as Enriched Rice. (Abuela’s tip: if you are cooking enriched rice, do not wash it before cooking you will take away the vitamins again). If you want to know the benefits of different kinds of rice have different benefits for your body.

Benefits of beans
Beans are a great source of antioxidants, the darker the beans the higher the antioxidant level (go black beans!). They are also valued for their high protein content. Beans help our digestive system by keeping our colon functioning. They can reduce the risk of some cancers and heart problems. How you cook the beans makes a huge difference, given that canned beans contain preservatives and lots of salt. There’s an easy solution: get dry beans and make them in a pressure cooker (Si, la olla de presión como la de la abuela). Dry beans tend to be cheaper, and even though it takes a lot longer to make them, the over-cooking can help reduce the amount of gas beans produce in the intestines.

Benefits of combining rice and beans
Even though beans are considered an important source of protein, most vegetarian proteins are considered incomplete because they only contain some of the amino acids our body needs. Nevertheless, combining grains and legumes forms a complete protein that is also high in fiber. In that way, rice and beans can serve as a tasty meat replacement. There are other non-health benefits to eating rice and beans like cost, availability and variety.

I hope you are convinced that our ancestors left us a legacy dish that is both nutritious and delicious. Next time you plan to go on a diet, make sure you include your arroz con frijoles because, really, what is life without rice and beans but a tasteless trip through existence?

Read more about Latino’s favorite combination.

About Luna Garcia

Luna was born in Barranquilla, Colombia. She moved to Brooklyn at the age of 16 leaving her family and her homeland behind. In 2010 she obtained a BA in Psychology from Baruch College that she is probably never going to use since she decided to go to Medical School and is now pursuing her pre-medical degree in Chemistry. Her experience as a young immigrant places her in-between the American born open minded young Latinos and the old school Born-There generation, allowing her to see any conflict from many perspectives.

Luna has always been a big fan of literature in both English and Spanish. Her obsession turned later into a love for writing and for all things Latino. Currently, Luna is trying to survive her second undergrad while exploiting New York City and looking for more opportunities to write. Her dream is to write fiction but most of her stories escape as soon as they’re about to be written.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. javed says:

    well done

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