|Black beans, USDA
|Pinto beans, USDA
|Lima beans, USDA
|Kidney beans, USDA
Health Benefits of Beans
You May Maintain a Healthy Weight
Beans’ magical duo of protein and fiber has multiple benefits, including weight control. “Getting more of these nutrients in your diet promotes satiety and helps keep you fuller for longer periods,” says Yanni Papanikolaou, M.P.H., a nutrition researcher and president of Nutritional Strategies, Inc. “Accumulating evidence suggests that people who eat higher amounts of protein and fiber also have healthier BMIs,” he says. Most recently, a 2023 Nutrients study of 15,185 people found that, over the course of a decade, bean eaters gained less weight—and belly fat—compared to people who didn’t eat beans.
You May Improve Your Gut Health
Your gut is teeming with bacteria that help protect against chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer, notes the earlier Nutrients study. But to thrive—and outnumber disease-causing bad gut bacteria—these good bugs need fiber for fuel. “The breakdown of fiber by good bacteria produces short-chain fatty acids, which have been shown to help boost immunity and reduce inflammation. Ultimately, this means the fiber in beans can help prevent the onset of disease,” says Papanikolaou. “In contrast, bad bacteria prefer to feast on sugar as an energy source, and the more sugar they get, the more they flourish and overtake the good bacteria,” he adds.
You May Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk
Beans are serious multitaskers when it comes to heart disease prevention. For example, beans are one of the best sources of soluble fiber, which naturally lowers cholesterol, says the National Lipid Association. These little dynamos are also chock-full of blood-pressure-regulating potassium, a mineral that few of us consume enough of, according to the National Institutes of Health.
You’ll Consume More Nutrients
Potassium isn’t the only nutrient we could use more of. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most people also fall short on folate, calcium, magnesium, fiber and vitamins A, C, D and E (plus iron if you’re a female of reproductive age). Beans are a great way to fill the void, says Papanikolaou. Currently, he’s working on research that shows Americans who eat beans as part of their typical diets rack up more fiber, potassium, calcium, folate, iron, magnesium and vitamin E than non-bean eaters.
They Might Make You Gassy
Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you … (You know the saying.) “In addition to fiber, beans contain oligosaccharides, a naturally occurring type of sugar that we can’t digest fully,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in plant-based nutrition and co-founder of Food Planet. So, yes, they can cause gas if your digestive system isn’t used to them. The remedy, says Palmer, is gradually adding small servings to your diet to give your gut time to adjust.
They Take a Long Time to Cook
With cooking times ranging from 45 minutes to 2 hours, per the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, beans aren’t exactly fast food. A pressure cooker can cut that time down considerably. For the utmost convenience and fast service, canned beans or frozen edamame are a quick, convenient way to get your fix, and they are just as nutritious as dried versions.
They Contain Controversial Lectins
If you’re avoiding beans because of their lectins, you can relax. “Lectins are compounds found in many plant foods, in particular beans, that can interfere with the bioavailability of nutrients in foods,” says Palmer. “They are largely inactivated when beans are soaked and cooked, so they aren’t an issue,” she says. As long as you’re eating your beans cooked (and who isn’t?), you’ll be fine.
How to Eat More Beans in Your Diet
One of the biggest barriers to bean consumption is most people have no clue what to do with them. If that sounds familiar, these tasty recipes can get you started:
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it healthy to eat beans every day?
Yes! “Eating beans, including canned beans, every day is one of the best things you can do to help increase nutrients [that you may fall short on] and substantially improve the quality of your diet,” says Papanikolaou.
What type of bean is the healthiest?
This is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. But if we had to choose the No. 1 healthiest bean, it would be soybeans. They’re one of a small handful of plant foods that offer the same high-quality complete protein as animal foods, shows 2021 research in Molecules.
Do beans make you gain weight?
Absolutely not, says Papanikolaou. “I’m currently working on a study that shows that higher intake of dry beans and canned beans is associated with improved BMIs and lower body weights.”
Are canned beans good for you?
“Canned beans are so good for you,” says Palmer. “They are minimally processed. Dried beans are placed in the can with water and maybe some salt, and then they are cooked in the can during the canning process,” she explains. If salt is a concern, look for unsalted brands or rinse regular canned beans to wash away more than 40% of their sodium, says The Bean Institute.
Why do beans make you gassy?
If you don’t usually eat beans, their difficult-to-digest fiber and carbohydrates can cause gas. But there are ways to decrease this. “In addition to adding beans to your diet slowly, be sure to rinse, drain and soak them before cooking to increase digestibility,” says Palmer.
The Bottom Line
Beans are great for your health, providing protein and fiber that can aid in weight maintenance and improve gut health. Plus, bean eaters tend to have healthier diets. If you’d like to eat more beans but don’t have time to cook them or need help figuring out where to start, pop open a can of beans or zap some edamame in the microwave to toss into salad, soup, rice or pasta. You’ll get all the benefits of beans with zero effort.