You see them in a variety of different dishes around the world, including the most popular vegan cuisines out there today. While they provide an abundant amount of protein, are beans keto or low carb friendly?
But first, what are beans, anyways?
What Are Beans (And Are They Healthy?)
Beans have been around since the beginning of time. They are actually one of the longest-cultivated plants. Beans, a member of the legume family, are one of the best sources of plant-based protein available today. Beans are also abundant in dietary fiber.
Beans can also provide many different vitamins and minerals.
For example, one cup of cooked black beans contains vitamins such as vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, as well as key minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, magnesium and selenium.
One cup of cooked black beans provides a total of 227 calories including less than one gram of fat, 40 grams of carbs, 25 grams of net carbs, 15 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein. You might be thinking, “25 grams of net carbs per serving? Yikes.”
Yikes is right.
Another popular type of bean used in a variety of different dinner dishes includes the pinto bean. One cup of pinto beans contains 670 calories. These calories include 121 grams of carbs, 91 grams of net carbs, 30 grams of fiber, 41 grams of protein and only two grams of fat.
This serving of net carbs is even higher than that of the black beans.
Not only are beans high in carbs, but they can also be inflammatory, and provide digestive issues due to some enzymes in the legume.
Unless they’re cooked properly (ie with a pressure cooker), beans may not be as healthy as you may have once thought.
How And When Do Beans Fit Into a Low Carb or Ketogenic Diet?
When it comes to carbohydrates, not all beans are created equal.
In order to fit black beans or pinto beans into your low carb or ketogenic diet, you would have to pay very close attention to your carb intake. Other beans such as Eden Black Soybeans and white kidney beans are a different story.
Eden Black Soybeans are one of the more keto-friendly substitutes for beans out there today.
One serving (about a half a cup) makes up a total of 120 calories, including six grams of fat, eight grams of carbs, one gram of net carbs, seven grams of fiber and eleven grams of protein.
With this net carb count, you can consume these beans without any concern that you might possibly go over your carb limit for the day.
White kidney beans are bit higher in carbs, but still possible to consume on a ketogenic diet.
One serving (about a half a cup) of these beans contains a total of 110 calories, half a gram of fat, twelve grams of net carbs and eight grams of protein. Twelve grams of net carbs may still be enough to stop individuals from consumption, however, as long as you limit your total carb intake for the day to your usual 20 to 50 grams of carbs, you should be in the clear.
Keep in mind, just because these are two lower carb bean options, doesn’t mean that they’re healthy.
The above only applies if we’re referring to the standard ketogenic diet (SKD) guidelines. These guidelines are the basic beginner rules for the ketogenic diet, following a high fat, moderate protein and low carb intake. However, there are different variations of the ketogenic diet out there today. Once your body has adjusted to using fat for fuel instead of pulling from your carb stores, you may come to realize that you might actually need some carbs here and there if you’re an active individual.
The targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) is the most beneficial type of diet for individuals who lead an active lifestyle or exercise regularly. If you’ve been following the SKD for a couple months and still feel like you’re lacking some serious energy during your workouts, the TKD could be right for you. The TKD allows for up to 20 to 50 grams of additional carbs up to both an hour before and after your workout window.
For individuals or athletes that perform at extremely high intensities, this amount of carbs could still be too low to fuel your required energy levels. In this case, the cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) would be the preferred diet. The CKD follows a typical SKD for most of the week (about five days) with two days of carb backloading. Carb backloading includes 24 to 48 hours of high carb, low fat intake in order to replenish your glycogen levels.
When Should Beans Be Avoided on a Low Carb or Ketogenic Diet?
When it comes to beans, the timing of when you consume them is not as significant as what type of bean you’re consuming. Black and pinto beans are so high in carb count that even a quarter cup serving could possibly kick you out of ketosis. These beans should be saved for your carb backloading days.
However, beans such as the Eden Black Soybeans can be eaten during a SKD due to their insignificant amount of net carbs per serving. White kidney beans, on the other hand, could be cutting it close. With around twelve grams of net carbs per serving, you’re better off saving them for closer to your workout window (if following the TKD) or during your carb backloading days (if you’re following the CKD).
So Are Beans Low Carb or Keto Friendly?
Long story short, if you’re on a low carb or ketogenic diet, you should be cautious of what beans you’re choosing to consume. When it comes to black beans, kidney beans or pinto beans, you should avoid them altogether.
You can, however, have some great low carb bean substitutes.
While there are some circumstances in which the ketogenic diet would allow you to have a certain number of carbohydrates, such as the TKD before and after training time or the CKD on your high carb days, your other days on the ketogenic diet should be kept well under 50 grams of carbohydrates — and often times much less.
You can figure out your daily carb limit here, and don’t go above it, beans or not.
This is important not only to keep your carb intake low, but also because the ketogenic alters your metabolism, entering you into a state of ketosis.
To be clear, most beans are not low carb or ketogenic friendly.