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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 Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

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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