Beans for Breakfast: For Health & Deliciousness

It’s no doubt that breakfast is an important meal. In addition to the simple act of breaking the overnight fast (i.e., “break” – “fast”), and fueling your body and brain with energy, there is ample research to support that eating breakfast is important for overall health. Research studies have shown that eating breakfast can:

  • Protect Your Heart: A 2013 study of male US health professionals found that men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of coronary heart disease than those who ate a morning meal.[1]
  • Lower Risk for Type 2 Diabetes: A 2015 meta-analysis found that skipping breakfast was significantly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.[2]
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: A 2013 study found that individuals who ate their main meal later in the day had 20% less weight loss and higher insulin resistance than those who ate their calories earlier in the day. [3]

Breakfast is undoubtedly an important meal, but not all breakfasts are created equal. Finding breakfast foods that are convenient and delicious, as well as nutritious, is essential to reap the benefits of breakfast.


Beans are an awesome food to add to your breakfast routine.  They offer an array of important nutrients as well as health benefits. Here are a few reasons to add beans to your morning meal:

  • Beans Provide Key Nutrients: Consuming lots of nutrients at breakfast is a great way to ensure your body gets all the nutrition it needs. For those who are looking to pack a nutrition punch at breakfast, beans are not to be missed. All types of beans are good sources of protein, excellent sources of fiber (both soluble and insoluble), and are naturally fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free. Beans are also excellent sources of copper, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium—nutrients that many Americans don’t get enough of—and most beans are good sources of potassium and a rich source of iron.
  • Beans are a Low Glycemic Index Food: Many health professionals encourage patients, particularly those with diabetes or insulin sensitivity, to look for low glycemic index (GI) foods to control blood sugars and insulin levels. This may be especially important in the morning when some have a tendency to be insulin resistant. The glycemic index (GI) of a food is a ranking on a scale of 0-100, according to the extent to which a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugars (glucose) levels after eating. Low GI foods produce smaller fluctuations in glucose and insulin levels, which may produce long-term health benefits. Beans have a low glycemic index, and therefore produce less fluctuation in blood sugars. In addition, research has also shown that the GI of breakfast may impact cognitive performance. A 2007 study showed that test scores of attention and memory decreased more substantially following a high GI versus low GI breakfast.[4] The researchers concluded that breakfast composition may play a role in cognitive function.
  • Beans Add Plant-Based Protein to Breakfast: Optimal protein intake is a hot topic in the nutrition community. However, total protein intake is not the issue of concern – most Americans get more than enough protein. The goal is ensuring that people eat enough protein at each meal to promote muscle health, as well as a healthy mix of different protein sources. Experts recommend that adults consume approximately 25-30 grams of protein at each meal. Beans provide approximately 8 grams of protein per half-cup serving and this is in the form of plant-based protein, a key recommendation to promote health and sustainability in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Eat a half-cup of beans and 2 eggs – you’re at 20 grams of protein!


Looking to add more beans to your morning? Here are some tips for adding them to breakfast, brunch or a mid-morning snack.

“Make Ahead” Idea: A Breakfast Bean Burrito

Fill a plain or whole grain 10” flour tortilla with ¾ cup canned, drained, and rinsed reduced-sodium black or pinto beans. Add ¼ cup shredded cheese. Roll tightly to form a burrito. Wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove from plastic wrap and simply microwave the burrito for 45-60 seconds on a microwave safe plate. Unfold tortilla, add 2 tablespoons salsa and re-roll tightly. Wrap in foil to keep it warmer longer, and then grab and go!

Calories: 500, Fiber: 15 g, Protein: 25 g

“5-Minute or Less Breakfast” Idea: Berry Bean Smoothie

Combine 1 cup non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt, 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen), 1 medium banana, ½ cup canned, drained and rinsed reduced-sodium black beans and 2 tablespoons honey in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into two glasses, add straws and then grab and go!

Calories: 315, Fiber: 7g, Protein: 4g

“Morning Bean Snack” Idea: Pinto Bean Hummus with Pita Chips

Combine 1, 15 oz. can of pinto beans (drained and rinsed), 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons water, 1 small garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning in a mini food processor. Process until smooth. Transfer ½ cup servings to four small plastic, covered containers. Keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy.

Calories per serving: 170; Fiber: 7 g; Protein: 7 g

“Leisurely Morning Breakfast/Brunch” Idea: Breakfast Torta

Tortas, traditional Mexican sandwiches, are made with large, oblong, crusty white rolls. The rolls are cut in half and the top half is covered with pureed black beans. The fillings are diverse and can include meats, vegetables, and cheeses. They can be eaten cold or warm as pressed sandwiches (think of Italian Panini). You can make a breakfast torta by cutting your roll in half, spreading the top half with pureed black beans and loading the bottom with scrambled eggs and chorizo, a Mexican sausage. You can also spread the bottom with avocado or guacamole, a fried egg, and a few slices of ripe tomato. The creative interpretations are endless for this craveable Mexican sandwich.

For more breakfast bean recipe ideas, visit and check out our interview with registered dietitian Sanna Delmonico to find her favorite recipe for Chilaquiles with Black Beans.

Also, if you’re looking for resources to encourage patients to enjoy more beans at breakfast, check out our downloadable Beans for Breakfast handout.

[1] Cahill, LE, Chiuve, SE, Mekary, RA, Jensen, MK, Flint, AJ, Hu, FB, Rimm, EB. Prospective study of breakfast eating and incident coronary heart disease in a cohort of male US health professionals. Circulation. 2013; 128(4): 337-43.

[2] Bi, H, Gan, Y, Yang, C, Chen, Y, Tong, X, Lu, Z. Breakfast skipping and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Public Health Nutr. 2015; 18(16): 3013-9.

[3] Garaulet, M, Gomez-Abellan, P, Alburquerque-Bejar, JJ, Lee, YC, Ordovas, JM, Scheer, FA. Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. Int J Obes (Lond). 2013; 37(4): 604-11.

[4] Ingwersen, J et al. A low glycaemic index breakfast cereal preferentially prevents children’s cognitive performance from declining throughout the morning. Appetite. 2007; 49(1): 240-4.