Beans are inexpensive, simple to prepare, and healthy.
In particular, they’re a great way to load up on fiber and plant-based protein.
While beans provide many health benefits, they may cause issues for some people.
This article tells you everything you need to know about beans.
What are beans?
In the broadest sense, beans are the pod-borne seeds of leguminous plants — excluding lentils, lupins, peanuts, and certain other types of legumes.
Beans have been cultivated for thousands of years. Today, they’re an important food source worldwide.
Black, kidney, navy, fava, and pinto beans are common in the United States (Trusted Source).
Nutritional profiles differ from one bean to the next. However, as an example, 1 cup (171 gram) of boiled pinto beans offers (Trusted Source):
- Protein: 15 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbs: 45 grams
- Fiber: 15 grams
- Iron: 20% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Calcium: 8% of the DV
- Magnesium: 21% of the DV
- Phosphorous: 25% of the DV
- Potassium: 21% of the DV
- Folate: 74% of the DV
Beans also contain decent amounts of zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, and vitamins B1, B6, E, and K.
With only 245 calories per cup (171 grams), pinto beans are one of the most nutrient-dense foods around.
Many other varieties are just as impressive.
Beans are unique among plant foods due to their high protein content. For this reason, they’re considered an important protein source for vegetarians.
SUMMARY Beans come in many varieties. They’re packed with protein and fiber while low in fat and calories. In addition, they’re exceptionally high in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
May aid weight loss
Beans may be among the most weight-loss-friendly foods you can eat.
They’re high in both protein and fiber but low in calories. Protein and fiber are two of the most significant nutrients for weight loss (Trusted Source).
One study found that people on a high-fiber diet including beans experienced less hunger. They also lost 3 pounds (1.4 kg) in 4 weeks (Trusted Source).
SUMMARY Beans may aid weight loss due to their high protein and fiber content, which can keep you feeling full for longer.
May promote heart health
Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide.
Eating beans and other legumes regularly may help reduce your risk (Trusted Source).
Eating beans may also lead to improvements in other heart disease risk factors. This food has been linked to higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels and reduced blood pressure and inflammation (Trusted Source).
SUMMARY Beans may help reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation.
May fight type 2 diabetes
Evidence suggests that beans may benefit people with diabetes.
Beans are high in fiber, averaging around 5–8 grams per serving. They also have a very low glycemic index (GI) (Trusted Source).
Low-GI foods raise blood sugar slowly, which is important for managing diabetes.
Thus, a diet rich in beans can lower blood sugar and HbA1c levels, which measure blood sugar control over time (Trusted Source).
A review of 41 studies likewise concluded that beans and other legumes can lower fasting blood sugar, insulin, and HbA1c levels (Trusted Source).
SUMMARY Studies show that beans can aid people with type 2 diabetes. This is largely due to their high fiber content and low GI.
Some may contain harmful substances
Although beans are a healthy food, some contain toxins. For example, fava beans harbor toxins that affect people who lack an enzyme called G6PD.
For such individuals, eating fava beans can trigger a condition called favism. Favism can cause anemia by destroying red blood cells (Trusted Source).
Other beans, especially red kidney beans, contain a toxic lectin called phytohemagglutinin, which is present in raw or undercooked beans. It can cause nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain (Trusted Source).
You can inactivate phytohaemagglutinin and other toxins by thoroughly cooking beans before eating (Trusted Source).
Like all seeds, beans also host phytic acid, which can reduce your absorption of minerals. However, you can neutralize this compound by soaking, sprouting, or cooking your beans.
SUMMARY Certain beans can be toxic if they’re undercooked or eaten by people who are genetically predisposed. Make sure to cook beans thoroughly to mitigate their toxins. Soaking and sprouting are also beneficial.
Can cause flatulence in some people
In some people, beans can cause flatulence, stomach pain, or bloating.
That’s because beans contain raffinose, a type of fiber that can lead to digestive problems (Trusted Source).
One study found that consumer perception of beans and flatulence may be exaggerated. Only around half of people who eat beans experience such symptoms (Trusted Source).
SUMMARY While beans may cause flatulence for some people, several techniques may help prevent this problem.
Beans are highly nutritious, boasting at least a little bit of almost every nutrient you need.
Although they may cause digestive problems for some people, most issues can be avoided with the right cooking and preparation methods.
What’s more, beans are very cheap compared to most other nutritious, whole foods.
As such, many types of beans can make a great addition to your diet.
Read more about Animal vs. Plant Protein — What’s the Difference? 2021 Research