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Can You Live on Just Beans and Rice? | What You Should Know

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Beans and rice are a staple in many cultures, and for good reason. They’re tasty, easy to customize with spices, and are a great source of protein. But is it possible to live on beans and rice alone?

You can live on just beans and rice, but it isn’t recommended. Although beans and rice can offer sufficient amounts of protein, the dish won’t provide you with the other essential vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. 

In this article, I’ll explore whether or not you can survive on only rice and beans. I’ll also discuss why rice and beans are a good addition to your diet, and how you can store each item. Keep reading to learn more.

Are Rice and Beans Actually Healthy?

A Hand Holding Rice and Beans in the Palm
Pinto Beans and Long Grain Brown Rice

Rice and beans are actually healthy. Rice is packed with carbohydrates that give you energy. Beans are high in protein, which helps you stay full and keeps your muscles strong. The dish also contains healthy amino acids. 

Beans and rice together contain all the essential amino acids you need to stay healthy. 

Beans alone have eight of the nine amino acids your body needs. They include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Beans are also full of fiber and help slow down the digestion process. This means that you can stave off hunger pains for longer. Beans also promote a healthy digestive system and reduce the likelihood of constipation.

At the same time, rice is a carbohydrate that gives you energy. It also provides your body with a significant amount of the one essential amino acid that beans lack: methionine. 

Your body doesn’t naturally produce the required amino acids you need to stay healthy. So, incorporating beans and rice into your diet can be a great way to ensure you’re consuming those amino acids. 

Acquiring these much-needed amino acids is usually easy when your diet includes meat and fish. However, if you have a plant-based diet or are looking to cut back on your meat consumption, it can be harder to find your required amino acids in one product. That’s why beans and rice serve as an ideal source of amino acids if you don’t consume meat or fish.

Rice and beans also have other benefits for your body. Rice is one of the only grains that does not contain gluten. This means those with Celiac, or gluten intolerance, can handle eating this grain.

The Ratio of Beans and Rice

Beans are generally more expensive than rice. According to NPR, the poorest among us tend to increase their rice portions and decrease their beans in order to help the dollar stretch further. That can lead the ratio to skew higher on the rice end. By making this choice, you’re depriving yourself of the benefits of the eight amino acids that are contained in beans.

You run the risk of eating more in the long run because beans keep you full longer. Rice also converts to glucose. This will raise your blood sugar and make you hungry faster. If you have diabetes or are at risk of becoming diabetic, increasing your rice consumption can be damaging to your health.

Are There Any Nutrients You Would Need To Supplement?

There are nutrients you would need to supplement, because beans and rice do not make up a complete diet. Beans and rice can offer enough protein, carbohydrates, and amino acids, but they don’t provide your body with healthy fats, vitamins, and other essential minerals, such as zinc.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is vital in protecting your immune system against illness. By creating collagen, it will aid in healing cuts and wounds. It also gives you a layer of protection against germs and free radicals. Vitamin C will increase your iron absorption from plant-based foods.

Vitamin C is most notably found in oranges and other citrus fruits. It’s also present in broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, and baked potatoes, among other foods.

Fats

A lot of times, people equate ‘low in fat’ as healthy. Rice and beans are indeed low in fat. However, to be truly healthy, your body requires some fat. Fat powers your brain and makes learning easier and your memory stronger. 

The Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University states that your brain is made up of 70% fat. By restricting your fat intake, which fuels the brain, you’re limiting your potential.

The best source for these fats is omega-3 fatty acids. These can be found in seaweed, flaxseed, or walnuts. You can also find high levels of omega-3 in some seafood like salmon, trout, or shrimp.

Zinc

Beans do contain some zinc, but the majority of zinc is consumed through animal products. Zinc does a lot for body tissues, including helping them grow. Leaving it out of your diet – or not getting enough, can be detrimental to your health. 

Zinc’s highest concentration is in red meat. You can also find it in shellfish, nuts, and dairy products. As mentioned before, rice and beans do contain some zinc, but they contain phytates which reduce the absorption of zinc, making it less effective.

What Is the Healthiest Bean To Eat?

There is not one bean that is healthier than the rest. However, some of the healthiest beans you can eat include garbanzo beans, black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans. 

Here’s a breakdown of the healthiest beans you can eat:

  1. Garbanzo beans: Also known as chickpeas, garbanzo beans help your heart health. They have been studied to reduce your total cholesterol and reduce blood sugar. The fiber content can also aid in maintaining regular bowel function.
  2. Black beans: Black beans can limit the rise in blood sugar after a meal, compared to some other beans. This may help limit weight gain or decrease the risk of developing diabetes.
  3. Pinto beans: The beauty of pinto beans is they can be prepared in any form. Mashed, fried, or served whole – these beans are a great addition to a meal. Pinto beans can increase the production of propionate, which helps maintain good gut health. 
  4. Lentils: Lentils are fantastic for maintaining the feeling of being full longer. This, in turn, will limit your consumption and decrease your blood sugar. They also have been shown to be good for both gut and heart health.
  5. Kidney beans: Kidney beans are one of the most popular beans served with rice. According to this study on PubMed, kidney beans can help promote weight loss and limit fat mass.

Which Beans Are Best To Store?

If you have an area in your home that can be temperature maintained, you can store beans almost indefinitely. Or at least up to 30 years! Storing your beans in an airtight, food-grade container will keep your beans fresher. Maintaining a temperature below 75°F (23.8°C) can also extend their viability.

As beans get older, their flavor can degrade along with their nutritional value. By keeping beans in storage that will maintain their moisture content, you can preserve their best lives. 

Dry beans are better to store than canned beans, if you’re looking for something you can keep for a year or more. They can be cooked, planted, or ground into flour. They also tend to be cheaper to purchase.

Canned beans are better in an emergency because they require virtually no preparation. In many cases, you can eat them straight out of the can. If you’re in a situation where water is tight, canned beans won’t require any soaking or boiling in water before eating.

Is There Any Type of Bean To Avoid?

Beans are cheap, easy to store, and can be used in various recipes – or a pinch! But are all beans the same, or are there some you should refrain from consuming?

There aren’t any types of beans to avoid, especially if you’re stocking up. By including many different varieties of beans, you can reap the benefits of all beans and provide some much-needed diversity in your diet.

What Is The Best Type of Rice To Store?

A Variety of Rice and Beans on a Countertop
The type you store depends on how long you want to store it

Rice should always be stored in a dry and cool place. The type of rice can impact the length of time you can keep it.

White rice is the best type of rice to store. Although it’s considered to be less healthy than brown rice, it is more storage-friendly. White rice can last up to 30 years when stored properly.

On the other hand, brown rice can only be stored for around six months.

Instant rice can also be stored for a couple of years in its original packaging. You want to ensure that this rice packaging stays intact, or else you run the risk of insects or the elements affecting the rice. 

Rice should not be stored in an airtight container. Airtight containers can get hot, which will cause the rice to sweat. If the rice starts to sweat, it becomes a breeding ground for mold. The beauty of rice is that even storing it is inexpensive. Just buy a standard food-grade container and make sure it secures properly, and you’re good to go! 

Do beware of containers that have faulty lids, or a container that can easily be breached. Mice or other small rodents may try to steal your rice for their own stockpiles.

By the way, my preferred long-term food vendor is mypatriotsupply.com. Among other items, they have an excellent rice and beans trio with up to a 30-year shelf life!

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to start a stockpile in your home, beans and rice are both great staple items. They taste great, are easy to prepare, and are a great source of protein. They can provide you with the sustenance you need, but you shouldn’t rely on them to give you all of your essential vitamins and minerals.

For more, check out How to Store Rice and Beans Long Term: Tried and Tested Methods.

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