Refried beans are a staple among many Tex-Mex restaurants and households in North America. In fact, just thinking of this decadent mix conjures up images of sipping a margarita and dipping tortilla chips into them while listening to the faint hums of a mariachi band in the corner. Most people don't pause to reflect on just exactly what is in the food they eat, but it's interesting to learn about the good, the bad and the ugly of one of America's favorite foods.
Good for You
There are many benefits to refried beans, which are often overlooked by staunch dieters. For instance, 1 cup of refried beans is loaded with 4.0 mg of iron, a mineral that helps your blood carry oxygen to your body. That one cup contains 22 percent of your daily recommended value. The dish is also Magnesium heavy, a mineral that helps to maintain muscle and nerve function. That same serving amount will give you 90.4 mg, 23 percent of your daily recommended value of 350 mg. In fact, refried beans are listed on many nutritional websites if you want to boost your magnesium intake. They also carry a whopping 800mg, or 23 percent of your daily allowance of Potassium, an essential electrolyte which keeps your cells balanced and moving along). The 12.1 grams fiber in the beans will keep you regulated (if not a little gassy). This is almost half of your recommended allotment of fiber for the day. Although fiber is good for you, too much can make you constipated. The beans contain a moderate level of vitamin C (about 24 percent of our daily need at 14 mg) is relatively moderate in fat (about 3 grams per 1 cup) and is absolutely packed with protein. 1 cup alone will get you 12.9 grams of protein, about one fourth what you need for the entire day. This means that refried beans are great for vegetarians looking to boost their protein intake without meat.
Not So Good for You
Refried beans are moderate in calories, containing about 200 per a one cup serving. This isn't a grotesque amount, but if you combine it with the tortilla, the chips, the cheese and the guacamole, you're heading for a heinous amount of calories, perhaps over 1,000 in one sitting. Another big disadvantage of refried beans is the amount of sodium. A 1-cup serving will provide nearly half of the recommended daily amount of the mineral at a whopping 1069 mg per serving. Too much sodium increases your risk for high blood pressure and a heart attack, so it is important to keep an eye on your sodium intake from an early age. Watching carbs? Steer clear of the refried beans--they contain 36 grams of it, which is approximately 12 percent of the recommended daily allotment. Although its been proven that carbs aren't necessarily a bad thing, an excess amount of them will turn into sugar in your body, causing you to gain weight.
Tips for Cutting Calories and Sodium
If you want to indulge in this dish, its probably expected that you're going to want to add other things with it. However, Mexican dishes often contain a large amount of calories and sodium. To maximize the good things in the refried beans and cut out the bad things, try the following tips. 1) Make a tostado at home. Purchase some flat tortilla shells that are low in sodium, heat up some refried beans and pour them on top. Add a pinch of cheese and then load it with tomatoes, salsa, lettuce and carrots to maximize the health benefits and the flavor. 2) Tortillas often contain a large number of calories, especially many of those you get at a restaurant which can be deep fried (adding 100 or more calories). While that may be tasty, its not so good for you. When making burritos at home, try to find whole wheat or corn tortillas and load them with healthy alternatives to guacamole and cheese such as carrots, onions, lettuce and tomatoes.
Things to Remember
Today's health conscious society has turned carbohydrates, calories and fat into bad words. However, it is important to remember why it is important to eat them in moderation. Cutting them out completely would result in total chaos for the body. For example, carbs help us obtain energy and helps create and benefit muscle tissue. Fat provides fatty acid to help your skin looking aglow and so that you can absorb all of those great vitamins in refried beans. It is recommended that you consume 60 to 65 grams of fat per day and 250 grams of carbs. If you stay in that range, you're sure to stay healthy.
Refried beans have too many good nutrients to pass up completely. They are a great way to get fiber, protein and other essential vitamins like iron, vitamin C and potassium. However, because they are loaded in sodium and contain quite a bit of carbohydrates, it is important that you watch the actual amount you eat. Try measuring your beans before you put them on your burrito or in your nachos so you know exactly what you're putting in your body. Like with most things in life, moderation is key.
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