Depending on how they're prepared and served, baked beans are high in protein, dietary fiber, and vitamin A. They're also low in fat and calories. However, they do contain a fair amount of sodium and sugar. Those who choose to consume them should limit the portion size and ensure that they're balanced with other whole foods.
Whether made from scratch or out of a can, homemade baked beans are a staple at cookouts and summer meals. They pair well with other picnic favorites like Grandma's Potato Salad, Hawaiian Mac Salad, Broccoli Salad, Burgers and Grilled Corn on the Cob. They can even be used as a topping for dessert.
The main ingredients in baked beans are small white navy beans (a variety of haricot beans) and tomato sauce. Tomato sauce is rich in lycopene, a carotenoid linked to reduced cancer risk. Some recipes use sweeteners such as brown sugar, molasses, and vinegar. Others may include small amounts of bacon or salt-cured pork for flavor. Baked beans are often served with barbecue or other grilled dishes, and they can be refrigerated for up to two hours before serving.
To make a healthier version, opt for low-sodium canned beans. Be sure to avoid any that are flavored with hickory smoke flavor or maple syrup as those flavors can conflict with the recipe's other flavors. Using a light brown sugar instead of regular can reduce the amount of sugar in the beans and help them stay crispier when served. Other healthy additions to the baked bean mixture include Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and chili powder.