Beans (Legumes)

Should I eat beans?

    If you aren’t eating beans, there are no compelling arguments to deliberately add beans to the diet.

    If you are eating beans, cutting beans from your diet for 30 days may improve your digestion and overall health. You can add them back in after to see what kind of impact they have.

    Beans are not necessary for human health. Any nutrients found in beans are available with less trouble and less risk from other foods.

    Beans are not a straight substitute for animals. The primary arguments in support of beans are taste, variety and the use of beans as an alternative to eating animals. However, animals provide more nutrients than just protein.    Beans are an incomplete protein (beans lack adequate amounts of specific essential amino acids) and lack many of the vitamins and minerals found in animal products. The Mayo Clinic and USDA positions on using beans as a meat substitute are based on an outdated viewpoint (“saturated fat and cholesterol are bad”).

    The risk associated with eating beans varies widely. While eating beans will increase the probability of nutrient deficiencies, digestive trouble and hormone imbalances – the risk varies between slight and significant depending on the quantity, frequency, type of bean, preparation method and other foods in the diet. Beans are a significant part of many traditional diets, so the risk from beans appears to be much lower and much shorter duration than the risk from grains. As with grains, the ability to tolerate the risks depends on the level of other stressors (sleep, stress, physical demands) placed on the body.

    Beans store well and beans are cheap. Beans can provide some benefit in the absence of higher quality food.

    Proper preparation of beans prior to consumption is essential. There is increasing evidence that the production methods for many commercial soy based products are not as effective as the traditional preparation methods used for tofu and other soy products found in traditional diets.

    Wikipedia: beans
    Wikipedia: legumes


  • The Argument For Beans.  The Mayo Clinic website has succinct description of the argument for beans (legumes).
  • “Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also contain beneficial fats and soluble and insoluble fiber. A good source of protein, legumes can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol.”
  • The Argument Against Beans. Dr. Loren Cordain, one of the Founders of the Paleo Diet has a comprehensive post on the downside of beans.
  • The protein and minerals in beans have poor bio-availability (the protein and minerals are present in the beans, but only a fraction is absorbed during digestion).
  • Lectins, saponins, tannins and protease inhibitors may contribute to the development of “leaky gut”. (“leaky gut” is intestinal permeability, a condition where the walls of the intestine aren’t providing an adequate barrier to defend the inside of the body. There is increasing evidence that leaky gut is a significant cause of many auto-immune diseases.)
  • Phytoestrogens in soy products may be responsible for disrupting thyroid function and female hormone balances.
  • The Argument For Neutrality. Chris Kresser provides a comprehensive argument for neutrality.
  • Chris Kresser is not “Pro-Bean”. Beans are not necessary for human health. They contain no nutrients that we can’t get from other foods—often with less trouble. He argues that, although beans aren’t for everyone, the risk from typical consumption of properly prepared beans is relatively low.