Farming and Fitness: Black Beans


I cook with black beans a lot. I love black beans. I love them in Tex-Mex and Mexican food. I love black bean burgers (especially spicy ones). I love the black bean and raspberry queso dip at So Long Saloon in Manhattan, KS. And I LOOOOVE making black bean soup in my slow cooker. Yet, even being involved in the agriculture industry, I sometimes wonder, “Where do black beans come from?” Black beans are a huge part of my healthier lifestyle!

Well, black beans, and many other of my favorite foods, are ones whose production I haven’t really come in contact with.

Farming and Fitness black bean nutrition and where black beans come from

My friend Ashley over at Dairy Innovation jumped at the opportunity to help me with a post about how black beans are grown. Here’s her explanation:

Believe me, Mexico and Michigan don’t have much in common! Our weather isn’t anything a like, our geography is not even close and we don’t speak the same language.  But, there is one thing we have in common: it’s our love for one plant.

Dry edible bean black beans Farming and Fitness

This is what a field of beans look like. These are black beans.

This is what our field of beans looked like a few years ago and I’m not talking soybeans.  This field is completely of black beans! Any of your refried beans or beans in a Mexican bean dip are usually black beans. Although we grow a lot of quality black beans, Michigan is a huge producer of dry edible beans in general. We grow most varieties of beans, including Kidney beans, Pinto beans and Navy beans.

Black beans from Michigan Farming and Fitness

A bag of black beans grown locally in Michigan.

The majority of the black beans grown in my region of Michigan are shipped down to Mexico.  We love producing dry beans and they love to eat those beans far past our southern border!

How black beans are grown Farming and Fitness

This is what the pods on a bean plant look like.

This is the time of year where we are harvesting beans too. This is a field of beans about ready to be harvested. As you can see they are not green at all like the field in my other picture. We wait until the plants are dried down and then it’s time to harvest.

Dry edible bean black beans harvest Farming and Fitness

This is what a field of beans looks like when it is about ready for harvest.

We take a combine and do what we call thrash beans. This is where the head of the combine picks most of the plant up, including the bean pods. In the combine the pods, leaves and other plant material are separated from the beans.

Dry edible bean black beans harvest Farming and Fitness

Here a neighbor of ours is combing his field of beans.

The beans are put into a big holding bin on the combine and the unneeded plant material is then dispersed out the back of the combine back onto the field.

Now that Ashley’s discussed where black beans come from and how they’re grown, why don’t we take a look at the nutrition of these bad boys?

In my last Farming and Fitness post about the nutrition of beef, I mentioned complete and incomplete proteins. Because plant-based protein doesn’t have all of the essential amino acids needed by the human body, they are incomplete (whereas meat has all of them and is a complete protein). That’s not to say that black beans aren’t a good source of protein; for me, though, they’re more of a supplement and a source of fiber than a primary source of protein.

According to WHFoods.com, 1 serving of black beans (1 cup cooked) contains*:

  • Folate. With 64% of daily requirements, that’s a pretty dang good source of folate, which helps to synthesize iron (therefore fighting anemia) and support healthy nerves.
  • Fiber. With nearly 60% of daily fiber requirements, they tasty little guys will help keep you “regular.” Fiber is also good for making you feel fuller, which helps control appetite. (This is also why beans are the “musical fruit.” They don’t have that effect on everyone, but if they do, well…they’re worth it.)
  • Manganese. 38% of your manganese can come from a serving of black beans. What does manganese do? It helps your body make use of certain vitamins and minerals. It’s also helpful for your thyroid, blood sugar maintenance, bone building, and many other functions we take for granted in our bodies.
  • Protein. While it isn’t a complete protein, it’s still a kick-ass protein that can help you gain energy, build muscle, recovery from heavy activities, or just conquer the world. A serving of black beans have just about 30% of daily protein requirements.
  • Magnesium. Much like manganese and folate, we forget we need magnesium sometimes. Well, a serving of black beans has about 30% of daily magnesium requirements, and this mineral helps maintain healthy bones, nerves, and blood sugar. It also ensure quality energy conversion in your body.

*These percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. My caloric needs are significantly lower than that. Yours may be lower, like mine, or higher. These are just a frame of references.

These aren’t the only nutrients present, but these are the biggies that tend to be vital to keeping our body in good shape. And the trade-off for all these benefits? Roughly 277 calories per serving. Not too bad, considering the protein/fiber combo can help keep you full for a long time. I find when I eat black bean soup for lunch (which happens often) I don’t typically crave my afternoon snack.

So, there you have it. Black beans: grown in Michigan, loved in Mexico, and they pack a nutritional punch! Big thanks to Ashley for teaching me all about where black beans come from!

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2 thoughts on “Farming and Fitness: Black Beans

  1. You forgot to mention a serving of black beans provides over half your daily intake of tryptophan – a precursor to serotonin – you know, the stuff that makes you really sleepy after a big meal and improves your overall feeling of well-being!

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