Skip to Content

Rice Vs. Beans: A Health Comparison

Rice and beans are a major staple in my house, as well as many other parts of the world. In fact, China and India are the top two countries when it comes to eating the most rice! And bean consumption is highest in India, Brazil, and the United States.

Beans and rice are super cheap and filling, and easy to cook with, too!

They’re also drastically different in taste, flavor, and even nutrients. Is one healthier than the other? And which one should you eat more of?

A bowl of black beans and a bowl of white rice with text "Beans vs. rice"

So, there are MANY types of rice and beans out there. In this post, I’m only focusing on white rice and black beans because that’s what I typically eat the most. If you’re interested in brown rice, you can read the comparison I did between brown rice and oatmeal.

Both beans and rice can be a great addition to your everyday diet and make a nutritious meal. I’ll break everything down below.

Note: This post is only for informational purposes. I’m not a doctor and am not prescribing any type of diet.

A bowl filled with white rice and black beans


“Macronutrients” is a big word, but it just means the 3 main components of a food: Protein, fat, and carbs. Each macro has its use in the body, and we all need at least some of it for a healthy lifestyle.

Here’s a breakdown:

White rice, 1 cup cooked:

  • 200 calories
  • 4.3 grams of protein
  • .4 grams of total fat
  • 45 grams of carbs
  • 1 gram of fiber

Black beans, 1 cup cooked:

  • 227 calories
  • 15 grams of protein
  • .9 grams of fat
  • 41 grams of carbs
  • 15 grams of fiber

The two huge differences here are protein and dietary fiber. Fiber is a type of carb found in fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. It keeps you full and helps keep you regular in the bathroom; and it has plenty of other health benefits, too, like reducing the risk of heart disease.

Protein is important for maintaining muscle, increasing fullness, and helping maintain a healthy weight. We all need protein, not just bodybuilders! And beans are a really good source of protein.

Beans have a much higher protein and fiber content than white rice, but that doesn’t make the rice bad for you. White rice will quickly raise blood sugar, giving you quick energy. This is because white rice is mostly simple carbohydrates.

And the black beans, thanks to the high protein and fiber, will slowly and steadily raise your blood sugar. Beans are known as “complex carbohydrates” because of this. This gives you longer-lasting energy and fullness, and can be beneficial for those with medical conditions like diabetes.

In this example, the beans have just a few less carbohydrates than the rice. But the fiber will make the “net carbs” less than the total carbs. This makes more sense if you need to count carbs because of health issues.

A bowl filled with dried black beans

Vitamins and Minerals in Each

In addition to the 3 macros, rice and beans have plenty of other vitamins in them to keep your body healthy. Here’s a chart with comparisons of the daily values percentages, approximately 1 cup cooked:

NutrientWhite RiceBlack Beans
Manganese16% DV33% DV
Niacin3% DV10% DV
Thiamine2% DV35% DV
Magnesium2% DV29% DV

There are many other important nutrients, like Vitamin A, Vitamin B, and Vitamin C, but these are some of the basics. Also note that you can buy enriched white rice, which is a good source of folate and other nutrients.

It may not seem like white rice has a lot going for it, but even a small amount of essential nutrients is better than nothing!

A close-up of a bowl filled with white rice

How Beans and Rice Work Well Together

From all the numbers we looked at above, it almost seems like you should just eat beans instead of rice. But in reality, we should be eating them TOGETHER!

You see, there are 9 essential amino acids in a protein. And animal products, like meat and dairy, have all 9 in them. That makes them a “complete protein”, which means it has all that we need.

But most plant-based foods only have a few of those 9 amino acids. Beans have a few of them, and rice has the others. This means you need to eat both together, not necessarily at the same time, to get the complete protein.

Knowing this is especially important if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. You need to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need for a complete diet, and rice and beans are an excellent choice to make that happen!

A wooden spoon dipping into a pile of uncooked white rice

Preparation Methods

For the most part, both rice and beans are cooked in water. Rice tends to absorb all the water, while beans absorb only some of it.

Rice can be cooked on the stovetop, or using a rice cooker. Both take about the same amount of time, but the rice cooker is more hands-off.

Beans can also be cooked on the stovetop, but I definitely recommend using an Instant Pot to cook dried beans. It’s so much faster and there’s no soaking required. But keep in mind that soaking beans can help make them easier to digest.

Final thoughts

Beans and rice have very different nutrition profiles. Each one has a different amount of protein and fiber, as well as other vitamins. But they both work together as a healthy addition to your life and are a staple food worldwide.

White rice may spike your blood sugar, but eating beans with it can help counteract that. It’s best to see foods as a whole for a balanced diet, rather than focusing on “bad” aspects of certain foods.

A bowl filled with red beans and rice

Recipes that use rice and beans

Whether you want a side dish or a delicious main meal, you can use rice and beans in so many ways! Some of these have just beans as the main ingredient, but you can always make a side of white rice or brown rice.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.