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Can a diabetic eat refried beans?

Refried beans are a staple food in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. They are made by cooking pinto beans, mashing them, and then frying them in oil. Refried beans have a smooth, creamy texture and are often served as a side dish, used as a filling in burritos and tacos, or eaten as a dip with tortilla chips.

For people with diabetes, diet is an important part of managing blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates, including beans, can impact blood sugar, so some people with diabetes may wonder if refried beans are a healthy option. This article will look at the carb count and nutritional value of refried beans and provide tips for diabetics on how to incorporate them into a healthy diet.

Are Beans Good for Diabetics?

Beans, including refried beans, can be a nutritious choice for people with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association lists beans as one of the “Diabetes Superfoods” because they are low in fat, high in fiber, and a good source of protein and complex carbohydrates.

Here are some of the benefits of beans:

  • High in fiber – Half a cup of refried beans contains around 7-9 grams of dietary fiber. Fiber helps control blood sugar spikes after meals.
  • Low glycemic index – Beans have a low glycemic index, meaning they do not cause large or rapid increases in blood glucose levels.
  • Protein-rich – Beans provide plant-based protein to help you feel full. Half a cup contains around 7-8 grams of protein.
  • Heart healthy – Beans contain magnesium, potassium, folate and antioxidants that support heart health.
  • Low in fat – Refried beans contain minimal fat, especially if prepared without lard or other added fats.

Overall, beans are one of the best plant-based sources of fiber, protein, and nutrients for diabetics. When eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet, they can help control blood sugar and provide lasting energy.

Nutrition Information for Refried Beans

The carb and calorie count of refried beans can vary based on how they are prepared. Here is the nutrition information for a 1/2 cup serving of refried beans:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 110
Protein 7g
Carbohydrates 17g
Fiber 7g
Sugars 1g
Fat 2g or less

As you can see, half a cup of refried beans contains around 110 calories, 17 grams of carbohydrate, and 7 grams of fiber. The amount of fat varies based on preparation, but is minimal if cooked without lard or other added fats.

The fiber and protein in refried beans help slow the absorption of the carbohydrates, preventing a spike in blood sugar. The low glycemic index makes them a better choice than many other starchy foods.

Carb Count of Different Types of Refried Beans

Refried beans prepared in different ways can have slightly varied carb counts:

  • Canned refried beans – Read labels carefully as carb counts can range from 15-22g per 1/2 cup serving depending on brand. Canned varieties may contain added sugars or preservatives.
  • Restaurant-style – Often made with lard, these can contain up to 5g of fat per 1/2 cup serving and up to 20g net carbs.
  • Homemade – Makes from scratch with minimal added fat may have around 15g net carbs per serving.
  • Non-fat – Lower fat versions may have slightly fewer calories and carbs. Look for low sodium and no-added sugar varieties.

In general, homemade refried beans made with minimal added fat provide the best nutrition profile for diabetics. Read nutrition labels carefully if purchasing canned or restaurant refried beans to be aware of carb counts.

Tips for Incorporating Refried Beans Into a Diabetic Diet

Here are some tips for diabetics to enjoy refried beans in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet:

  • Measure out proper portion sizes – Stick to 1/2 cup servings and be aware of carb totals.
  • Avoid added fats – Purchase low-fat versions or prepare from scratch without lard or oil.
  • Increase fiber intake – Combine with veggies or add extra fiber from whole grains to control blood sugar response.
  • Add protein – Pair with lean protein sources like chicken breast or fish to balance out the meal.
  • Watch sodium intake – Look for low or reduced sodium options to limit effects on blood pressure.
  • Skip the chips – Enjoy refried beans on salads or stuffed in peppers rather than with high-carb tortilla chips.
  • Check blood sugar – Monitor levels 2 hours after eating to see responses and adjust portion sizes accordingly.

Moderation and balance are key for diabetics when incorporating refried beans and other higher carb foods into meals. Focus on healthy preparations, smart portion sizes, and combining with other nutrient-dense ingredients.

Sample Meal Ideas with Refried Beans

Here are some healthy, diabetes-friendly meal ideas featuring refried beans:


  • Breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, tomatoes, spinach, and 1/4 cup refried beans wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla
  • Tofu breakfast scramble with onions, peppers, and 2-3 tablespoons refried beans
  • Whole grain toast topped with smashed avocado and 2 tablespoons refried beans


  • Refried bean and veggie wrap made with spinach, carrots, peppers and 1/4 cup beans in a high-fiber wrap
  • Refried bean soup or chili with a salad on the side
  • Baked potato stuffed with 1/4 cup refried beans, salsa and shredded cheese


  • Burrito bowls with chicken, brown rice, salsa, corn, 1/4 cup beans and lime juice
  • Enchiladas with shredded chicken, peppers, onions and 2-3 tablespoons refried beans
  • Taco salad with ground turkey, lettuce, tomato, cheese and 2 tablespoons refried beans


  • Bean dip or guacamole with raw veggie sticks instead of chips
  • Quesadilla with cheese and 2 tablespoons refried beans
  • Edamame beans sprinkled with sea salt

Risks of Eating Too Many Refried Beans

While nutritious in moderation, there are some potential downsides of overdoing it on refried beans:

  • Blood sugar spikes – Too large of portions can cause jumps in blood glucose for people with diabetes.
  • Weight gain – Beans are higher in calories and carbs. Eating too much can lead to excess calorie intake.
  • Digestive issues – The fiber in beans may cause gas, bloating or diarrhea when consumed in very large amounts.
  • Sodium content – Some prepared refried beans are very high in added salt, which poses risks for high blood pressure.
  • Fat content – Higher fat versions made with lard or oils significantly increase calorie and fat intake.

Portion control

To manage these risks, diabetics should be mindful of portion sizes of refried beans, and limit intake to 1/2 cup at a time. Beans should be one component of an overall healthy plate, and not the primary focus. Be sure to watch your saturated fat and sodium intake by comparing nutrition labels. Those with digestive sensitivities may need to adjust bean portions accordingly if they cause GI upset. Moderation and balance are key.


Refried beans can be included as part of a healthy diabetic diet when eaten in moderation alongside other nutritious foods. Focus on getting the most nutritional bang for your buck by choosing lower fat preparations and experimenting with different bean varieties. Add fiber from vegetables, grains, and other sources to help regulate blood sugar response.

A 1/2 cup portion of refried beans contains around 110 calories and up to 7 grams of fiber, so beans can provide satiety and sustained energy. Just be mindful of your individual carb tolerance and combine beans with proteins, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables to minimize blood sugar spikes. Monitoring your levels and adjusting portion sizes accordingly allows you to incorporate this tasty food into diabetes meal planning.