Answering the Biggest Question About Beans

Beans and the 4HB Slow Carb Diet
Creative Commons License photo credit: Stuti ~

Let me ask you a question – when you started slow-carb did you imagine you’d be eating so many beans?!

A lot of people have started coming on board with the whole slow-carb revolution, thanks to Tim Ferriss and his book.

One of the first, and most vociferous, questions I get asked is something to the effect of:

Do I really have to eat that many beans?!

The short answer is “it depends”. Let’s get into this particular third of our allowed food list a little deeper, shall we?

How much beans should I eat?

As far as I can tell, Tim never mentions a specific amount in the book. In fact, after giving the food list, he says “eat as much as you like.”

Get the Essential Slow Cooker Beans recipe book now on Amazon!

Each person is going to like a different amount. In fact, some of you might say “I don’t like them at all!” That’s OK; this all plays into the whole spirit of the book anyway. You’ve got to tinker.

But this is where it gets tricky: too many carbohydrates could stall your weight loss. Most of us are probably on slow-carb because we liked the idea of doing less to achieve more. Which means that you are likely, like me, someone who has a sedentary job and doesn’t move around much unless you plan it.

For someone who is more active, a higher quantity of legume will serve better. Your body will burn the carbohydrates much more efficiently than a sedentary person.

But for someone who sometimes struggles to work out (I’m still not a fan, but I’m getting there), less legume will help you better than more. In fact, I had a long plateau last year, and what kicked me out of it was eating less legumes and sticking more to veggies, protein, and fat.

(I haven’t determined yet whether the stalled weight loss is due to calories or carbohydrates, but I’m leaning towards carbohydrates. When my wife and I tried Whole30 one month, I know I ate roughly the same calories, but I still lost weight. Most of my calories came from protein and fat and not legumes.)

Are legumes really all that important?

The reason we’re adding legumes to the diet is because if we remove the things we used to eat, like bread, pasta, and rice, we’re going to be lacking severely in the calorie department. One of the main reasons to be eating legumes is to not eat too few calories.

The reason we’re eating legumes and removing grains, at least as far as this book addresses (there are other reasons, but I’ll leave those to other posts) is because grains do a great job at elevating insulin levels. Legumes tend to be absorbed slower (hence slow-carb) and thus have a smaller impact on insulin levels (which in turn is what allows you to lose fat).

Read the second slow-carb chapter again. In it, Tim specifically states that you don’t have to eat legumes at every meal (but you do need to eat larger portions of non-legumes to make up the calories).

Getting the most bang for your buck

or: How to avoid the toots

One of the first things you worry about on the slow-carb diet is alienating your friends due to the one-man-band you’re afraid of becoming. Yes, I’m talking about farting. The good news is it doesn’t have to be an issue.

In fact, while a few of my slow-carb buddies were reporting quite a problem with flatulence, I was experiencing less gas than I had been before.

There are two ways I fought against it.

1. Eat lentils
The bottom line here is that lentils don’t make you gassy like beans do. Perhaps they do to some degree, but even Tim notes that lentils didn’t make him gassy.

Lentils are easier to cook than beans, don’t fight as hard not to be eaten, and taste better. Check out the recipes at the bottom of the post for some examples. My best lentil recipe is part of my Slow Carb recipe series you get with the newsletter, so you may consider checking that out as well.

2. Wash the beans
The other thing you really can’t neglect to do is to wash and rinse your beans well. This takes some planning ahead, but it must be done. This helps get rid of most of the stuff that makes you gassy anyway.

The night before you’ll use them, soak the beans in a pot of water. When you wake up in the morning, change the water out and let them soak again. Finally, when you’re ready to cook them, rinse them again and cook them in fresh water.

The best argument against legumes

This is where some of you are going to call me an heretic.

Those of you who have explored the Paleo world know what I’m about to say.

Beans contain proteins that don’t like to be consumed called lectins. They fight back. Your body becomes inflamed as you digest them. Think of it this way: lectins are like poison ivy to your guts. You don’t feel it necessarily, but your bodies do (incidentally, that’s why grains suck!)

That’s the primary reason I eat less legumes than I used to. However, if you take care enough to wash and soak the beans and lentils as well as you can, you will get rid of most of the inflammatory properties of them. Don’t let a Paleo purist get you down, but don’t automatically cast off what they’re telling you.

Cooking your legumes

If you’re tired of eating beans the same way every time, I’ve got a few recipes that will help you out. When you make one, I’d love to know what you think of it. Don’t forget to come back and let me know!

Chicken Korma w/ Lentils
5 Bean Salad
Southwest Chicken and Beans

Legume Recipes

Brian from 4Hour Body Zone has put out a Kindle recipe book with about 30 different bean recipes (I’ve tried some – they’re great!). If you’ve got anything that’ll read Kindle books, check out Essential Slow Cooker Beans Recipes For the 4 Hour Body Diet on Amazon.

For a few other legumey recipes, subscribe to the FMF newsletter and watch your inbox!

To end, I have two questions for you. Feel free to answer one or both:
1. What is your biggest question regarding beans on the slow-carb diet?
2. What’s your favorite legume recipe?

Related Posts:


  1. My favorite recipe for legumes….

    Can of Black Beans – rinsed clean
    Can of Rotel Tomatoes – Drained
    Kale or Spinach – Sauteed with onions or onions and garlic

    Mix all together in a skillet, til hot.

  2. i like my southwestern breakfast. 1/4 c cooked black beans, 1/4 c cooked lentils ( beans &.lentils were cooked in seperate pots both with 1tbsp hot sauce and dash of crushed red pepper) 1/2 c bell pepper ( i like to mix red green and yellow for better color &presentation) 2 egg whites &1 whole egg, 3 tbsp salsa, ground chicken or pork (amount equil to a patty). cook ground meat season to taste (season salt and chili powder) mix in eggs and push to side of pan to cook and add peppers. once peppers and meat and egg cooked add black beans and lentils stir and serve with salsa on top.

  3. Does anybody know in cannalini beans or ok on diet??

  4. is mothbeans ok? i do not see it mentioned on lots of places on slow card diet. also when i check the nutrition information it have zero fiber content which does not seem right.

    • I’d never heard of moth beans myself until just now, so I had to do some research. I checked four sites that have nutrition information, and I got four different answers in terms of carb content, fiber alone, and protein. I believe it is a legume, so it should be allowed. For the most part what I saw is that it falls in line in terms of macronutrients with the other legumes that are mentioned in the book. So I would say try it, and if you don’t experience the same results as with other legumes, cut it out again and try something else. But it seems OK.

  5. Carla Reich says

    Hey Jason,
    I’m a devoted follower of the SCD and at 5’9″, 130lb (female), I have never felt better. I just wanted to weigh in about the lectin issue related to beans. I follow the SCD principles to the letter, except for one thing — I modify my food choices according to the Blood Type Diet. For me (as blood type B), lentils are total no-nos, because they contain a type of protein that agglutinates in my blood stream (i.e. triggers an inflammatory response at the immune level, not a reaction in my digestive tract). So, I eat ONLY those legumes that are beneficial for my blood type, according to Dr. D’Adamo’s amazing research. (For type Bs, the “good” legumes include kidney beans, cannellini beans, northern beans, and lima beans.) As long as I stick to this plan, I do really well. I thought perhaps it’d be useful info for you and other blog fans. Love your blog, please keep it up!

  6. Derek Owens says

    Is there a substitute for beans in the four hour body diet? I do not like beans at all. Will this diet work for me?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hey Derek,

      Maybe lentils? Honestly, the beans aren’t a necessary part. Some people just need them to feel fuller and get extra calories, because it’s easy to go really light on calories. If you don’t like beans, just get some extra fat, which does the same thing. Avocadoes, coconut milk/oil, olive oil, even animal fat from well-sourced meats (local, grass fed/grass finished is ideal).


  7. Hi Jason!
    Just found 4HB book and your site. I think this could really be the diet for me. I LOVE beans, but boy my intestines don’t! I do think that lentils affect me less, so I’m going to try to do that. But I love getting bowls at Baja Fresh–perfect for 4HB lunch. The black beans KILL me. I take enzymes, fiber and magnesium in hopes it would help but it didn’t. Did you find that your body got more used to beans as you continued eating them?

    • Hey Lisa,

      I didn’t really have many problems with beans, I think, but I also take care to wash and rinse them well to get rid of as much of the bad stuff as possible. And honestly, eventually I just started eating fewer beans. I don’t have them daily, for example. If I need more calories, I’ll add some fat via avocado, butter, or bacon. 😛


  8. Jason – thanks so much for your wonderful site – just started 4HB, so I’m finding I have some questions. Regarding beans, what about canned beans? There are some wonderful ‘Bush’ branded beans (like southwestern pintos, a very tasty white bean and a black bean fiesta – but this has corn) and others that have various spices, flavors etc. This makes it so much easier to do a lot of beans, so are these ok? What should I look for in the ingredients to stay away from? How much sugar per serving is too much? I think this might be the big one to stay away from so wanted to ask. Thanks so much!

    • Hey Randy,

      Canned beans like Bush’s baked beans usually have lots of added sugar. I’d stay away. Canned beans that don’t have anything else added are fine.


  9. Patrick McCorkle says

    Can I only eat beans for protein? Due to kidney stones I try to avoid animal protein

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