Not exactly the most exotic meal or snack around, but there's no denying its popularity. It's easy to see why - sheer simplicity, ease of preparation and low cost. Furthermore, it's one of those meals that manages to somehow taste better than you remembered from the last time. Can you really consider beans on toast a 'meal'?
You bet you can!
The benefits aren't just that it's cheap, quick and easy. If you're trying to refuel hungry muscles and replenish energy reserves, it's got you covered.
Beans On Toast Overview
What's so good about this meal that makes it worth writing about? Well, both beans and bread are excellent sources of complex carbohydrate.
Complex carbohydrate should form the mainstay of the diet, especially in those of us who are physically active.
It's worth noting too that beans and bread also provide a good hit of protein into the bargain. Couple this with an inherently low fat content and you have the basis for a truly nutritious meal.
Baked Beans and their Macros
The humble haricot bean has a lot going for it. Not only does it provide a near perfect blend of carbohydrate and protein, but they're also virtually fat-free and rich in fibre too.
A 200g serving of baked beans typically provides around 30g of carbohydrate, 10g of protein, 4g of fibre and just 1.2g of fat.
Even better, the carbohydrate in beans has a very low glycaemic index. The calories it supplies are released slowly and gently into the bloodstream. Under normal circumstances, this is just the way the body likes it.
Bread, whether white or wholemeal is an excellent source of muscle-fueling carbohydrate.
For instance, each slice of toast contains around 13g complex carbs.
It doesn't end there though, like beans, bread also contains around 10g of protein per 100g.
The individual amino acid profiles of bean and bread protein alone are not 'complete' since they do not offer the full complement of amino acids. However, when combined they help offset each other's shortfalls to produce a combined profile with much higher biological value.
In summary, the combined proteins in beans and toast are of more value than the same amount of bean or bread protein eaten separately. Finally, while all bread is low in fat, wholemeal bread is actually a good source of essential fatty acids.
Vitamins and Minerals in Beans on Toast
When it comes to micronutrients, the humble baked bean also delivers.
There's a good touch of nutrients right across the spectrum. For example, the B vitamins are particularly well supplied. Meanwhile, in the mineral department, there are useful amounts of magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese.
Bread has been given a bit of an unfair reputation in recent years. A staple in many parts of the world, bread can (and should) be eaten as part of a well-balanced diet.
When it comes to micronutrient content, not all bread is created equal. If you look at the figures for B vitamins, iron and calcium, you'll see roughly the same values for both white and wholemeal bread.
This disguises the fact though that white bread is actually far less nutritious.
The process of making white flour from whole wheat involves discarding the nutrient-rich wheatgerm. Wholemeal flour retains many more nutrients. White bread only contains equivalent amounts of calcium, iron and B vitamins because these are added back artificially.
Manufacturer's 'fortify' their bread by adding some nutrients back after they've previously been processed out.
Looking at other nutrients, wholemeal bread is streets ahead. It contains 30% more selenium and 3-times the zinc, copper and vitamin E. There's quadruple the magnesium and over 5 times the manganese. Wholemeal bread also contains three times as much fibre as white.
The message is clear - any bread is fine, so long as it's wholemeal.
Variations on a beans on toast theme
With wholemeal bread, beans on toast gives a great balance of protein and carbohydrate.
Additionally, you'll get a good dose of other key nutrients. While it's true that most varieties of baked beans contain some added sugar and salt; low-sugar and low-salt varieties are out there. These can further add to the nutritional quality of the meal.
Are there any nutritional gaps though, and if so, how can they be remedied?
There are 3 main nutrition shortfalls
Firstly, there's very little vitamin C in this meal.
There's no way of correcting this by a simple substitution. You really have to add a vitamin C rich food in order to get around this one. You could, for example, wash it all down with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Alternatively, serve with a little side salad garnish - capsicum and tomatoes are both excellent sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin A levels are also lower than we'd like. You could drown your toast in butter or margarine, both of which are good sources of vitamin A. Doing this though kind of defeats the purpose of your healthy meal!
A better route is the side salad option. Brightly coloured red, green and orange vegetables are all good sources of A. They're also rich in health-boosting phytochemical antioxidants.
Lastly, the amount of calcium provided, while useful, is not particularly high. Increasing calcium content is a little trickier.
If you like cheesy beans, you can grate 30-50g of half-fat cheddar over your beans. Better yet, have a go at making my homemade baked beans with grilled cheese. Not only will this double the calcium content - but it also makes a more interesting taste.
If this doesn't appeal, you could also finish off your meal with your favourite fruit yoghurt. Check the sugar content though and try to find a brand with less than 350kj (85 kcal) per 100g.
Beans on Toast Ranking
Excellent - high in fibre. Just go easy on the butter or margarine to keep it low in fat.
Training and Recovery
Good - rich in slow releasing carbohydrate for muscle refuelling. Useful amounts of protein too.
Very good (if you use wholemeal bread). Needs the addition of some vitamin A, C and calcium-rich items for nutritional completeness.
Antioxidant Protective Effect
Fair - bread is a fair source of selenium and tomato sauce a good source of lycopene. There's little in the way of other phytochemical antioxidant protection though. Combine with some vegetables or fruits to increase vitamin C content.
Key takeaways to decide how healthy beans on toast is
Cheap, quick and easy - beans on toast delivers great post-workout fuel. Some recommended ajustments are:
- Wholemeal bread to deliver added micronutrients
- Serve with a brightly-coloured side salad for vitamins A & C
- Boost calcium content by adding cheese, or have a pot of yoghurt afterwards