For such a small, innocent-looking food, black beans really pack some serious nutrition. But what, exactly, makes this pantry staple such a star? For starters:

  • Black beans are a lean plant-based protein, perfect for vegetarians, vegans, and meat eaters alike. One serving (½ cup) has about 6g of protein, says Molly Morgan, R.D., C.D.N., C.S.S.D.
  • Black beans will also leave you feeling fuller longer, thanks to their protein.
  • And don’t let the dark color throw you off, either—that means the beans are high in antioxidants, making them the best of the bean bunch, says Morgan.

When picking beans out in the store, skip the bagged variety, which are extremely time-consuming, and stick to the pre-cooked type that come in a can. Just be sure to choose those with no added salt or preservatives, and give the beans a quick rinse to reduce sodium before serving. And stock up during sales: Canned beans have a long shelf life, making them a great option for a quick protein boost.

Are you ready to introduce these badass legumes into your diet? Check out our six easy ways to add them.