Have You Heard of Turtle Beans?

Turtle beans, commonly known as black beans, are popular in Latin American cuisine for their dense meaty texture. Black beans are often found in stews, sauces and salads, and like other legumes are loaded with health-promoting macro and micronutrients such as protein, fibre, zinc, iron and magnesium(1).

Notably, black beans contain more dietary fibre than other legumes including chickpeas and lentils(2), with one cup of canned black beans providing a massive 17.2g of fibre(3). This is equivalent to approximately 57% of the daily fibre recommendation for Australian men and 69% of the daily fibre recommendation for women(4).

Black beans are also rich in resistant starch,(2) which when fermented has been shown to produce to produce favourable effects, including higher levels of butyrate than types of fibre(5). Butyrate is produced by beneficial bacteria which is linked to many health benefits including decreased inflammation and reduced risk of colorectal cancer(6).

Black beans additionally contain high levels of anthocyanins(2), a flavonoid with beneficial antioxidant properties which also gives them their intense colour. Whilst there is limited research in humans, studies in mice suggest that anthocyanins may protect against DNA damage and improve health(7).

Black or turtle beans are gaining popularity and becoming more widely available. They add great flavour to dishes such as salads, soups or your family’s favourite chilli recipe, offering another choice to boost your legume intake towards achieve the minimum recommendation of aiming to eat legumes at least 2 times each week.


  1. NHMRC. Australian Dietary Guidelines Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. 2013 Accessed online January 2014.
  2. Silva-Cristobal L, Osorio-Díaz P, Tovar J, Bello-Pérez LA. Chemical composition, carbohydrate digestibility, and antioxidant capacity of cooked black bean, chickpea, and lentil Mexican varieties Composición química, digestibilidad de carbohidratos, y capacidad antioxidante de variedades mexicanas cocidas de frijol negro, garbanzo, y lenteja. CyTA – Journal of Food. 2010;8(1):7-14.
  3. USDA. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28: United States Department of Agriculture 2015 [cited 2016]. Available from: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/4757?fgcd=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=35&offset=&sort=&qlookup=black+bean.
  4. NHMRC. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand – Dietary Fibre: Australian Government; 2014 [cited 2016]. Available from: https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/dietary-fibre.
  5. Hernandez-Salazar M, Osorio-Diaz P, Loarca-Pina G, Reynoso-Camacho R, Tovar J, Bello-Perez LA. In vitro fermentability and antioxidant capacity of the indigestible fraction of cooked black beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), lentils (Lens culinaris L.) and chickpeas (Cicer arietinum L.). Journal of the science of food and agriculture. 2010;90(9):1417-22.
  6. Canani RB, Costanzo MD, Leone L, Pedata M, Meli R, Calignano A. Potential beneficial effects of butyrate in intestinal and extraintestinal diseases. World J Gastroenterol. 2011;17(12):1519-28.
  7. Azevedo L, Gomes JC, Stringheta PC, Gontijo AM, Padovani CR, Ribeiro LR, et al. Black bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) as a protective agent against DNA damage in mice. Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association. 2003;41(12):1671-6.

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