What Kind of Beans Should I Eat? The Great Slow Carb Bean Index

If you’re following the Slow Carb Diet to a “T”, you are likely consuming a lot of beans and lentils. Perhaps too many .  Perhaps not enough.  It’s friggin’ confusing, isn’t it?  One of the most common questions I see posted on forums is people asking what type of bean they should be eating and how much of them should they eat (the other most common request is for a slow-carb meal plan).

This is a particularly important question for those who have reached a plateau on their weight loss or those who are vegetarians and trying to maximize protein intake.

Bean Quality – what gives the most bang for your buck?

I decided to do a little research on the macro-nutrient counts of various legumes to see how they stack up.  For this chart, I’ve compared 1 cup, cooked of each type of legume.

Bean  Type Calories Carbs Protein Fiber Fat
Black Beans 227 40.8g 15.2g 15g 0.4g
Red Beans 225 40.36 15.35 13.1g .88g
Pinto Beans 245 44.8g 15.4g 15.4g 1.2g
Great Northern Beans 209 37.3g 14.7g 12.4g 0.9g
Cannellini Beans 282 46g 20g 12g 2g
Lima Beans 216 39.3g 14.7g 13.2g 0.8g
Navy Beans 255 47.5g 15g 19.1g 1.1g
Fava Beans 187 33.5g 12.9g 9.2g 0.7g
Mung Beans 212 38.8g 14.2g 15.4g 0.8g
Adzuki Beans 294 57g 17.3g 16.8g 0.2g
Black-eyed Peas 220 32g 16g 8g 1g
ChickPeas (Garbanzo Beans) 269 44.9g 14.5g 12.5g 4.3g
Lentils 230 40g 18g 16g 1g
Soy Beans (edamame) 254 20g 22.2g 7.6g 11.5g

The results don’t look staggeringly different on the surface, but there’s a few interesting things to note.

  1. Lentils have 18g protein per cup.  When comparing lentils to most beans, that can amount to anywhere from 3-5 additional grams of protein depending on what kind of bean you’re comparing it to.  This can be helpful for those trying to hit their 30g first thing in the morning.
  2. Cannellini Beans have 20g of protein per cup, but they also have about 6 additional grams of carbohydrate which can slow weight loss, especially for us women.
  3. Edamame (soy beans) have a whopping 22.2g of protein per cup, but they’re definitely iffy in my book.  A few points about Soy Beans.  Soy beans contain Enzyme Inhibitors which block the action of enzymes that are needed for protein digestion. In other words, these prevent our bodies from absorbing proteins and amino acids in our foods.  In addition, soy beans contain Phytic Acids which block the uptake of essential minerals in the intestinal tract – blocking absorption of these minerals by our bodies.  In other words, the good minerals like Calcium, Magnesium, Copper, Iron, and Zinc that we would normally obtain from our foods is not able to be absorbed by our bodies when Phytic Acids are present, and instead is passed straight through in our waste.  This is not intended to be a rant on soy beans, but given that on the surface, they seem to be such a great option, it’s worth mentioning so you can make an informed decision.

Bean Quantity – How much should you eat, how often?

For those of you who are struggling with weight loss on the Slow Carb Diet, I want to make the point that quantity may be the issue that’s causing you to plateau or even gain weight.  While Tim Ferris does not advocate that people track carbs or calories, I do think there is a point where legumes can stall your weight loss.

Mark Sisson, the creator of The Primal Blueprint has put together an awesome diagram of what he calls the Carbohydrate Curve.

Carbohydrate intake is often the decisive factor in weight loss success and prevention of widespread health problems like Metabolic Syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes. These average daily intake levels assume that you are also getting sufficient protein and healthy fats, and are doing some amount of Primal exercise. The ranges in each zone account for individual metabolic differences.


0-50 grams per day: Ketosis and I.F. (Intermittent Fasting) zone. Excellent catalyst for rapid fat loss through I.F. Not recommended for prolonged periods (except in medically supervised programs for obese or Type 2 diabetics) due to unnecessary deprivation of plant foods.
50-100 grams per day: Sweet Spot for Weight Loss. Steadily drop excess body fat by minimizing insulin production. Enables 1-2 pounds per week of fat loss with satisfying, minimally restrictive meals.
100-150 grams per day: Primal Maintenance zone. Once you’ve arrived at your goal or ideal body composition, you can maintain it quite easily here while enjoying abundant vegetables, fruits and other Primal foods.
150-300 grams a day: Insidious Weight Gain zone. Most health conscious eaters and unsuccessful dieters end up here, due to frequent intake of sugar and grain products (breads, pastas, cereals, rice, potatoes – even whole grains). Despite trying to “do the right thing” (minimize fat, cut calories), people can still gain an average of 1.5 pounds of fat every year for decades.
300+ grams a day: Danger Zone of average American diet. All but the most extreme exercisers will tend to produce excessive insulin and store excessive fat over the years at this intake level. Increases risk for obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Now, back to legume consumption. If you’re eating 1 cup of beans at approximately 40g of carbs per meal, 3 meals a day, and you’re consuming a reasonable amount of veggies that also contain some carbs, unfortunately my friend, you are likely in the Maintenence Zone or the Insidious Weight Gain Zone.

My recommendation would be to cut your serving size to either ¼ cup with each meal or ½ cup but only at 2 meals and see how this impacts your weight loss.

If you’re really looking to drill down to what quantity you can eat without spiking your insulin levels too much, and you’re not keen to test your bloof glucose levels multiple times a day a la Tim Ferris,  here’s another less scientific, but still fairly accurate way to make sure you aren’t overdoing it.

This is from Jorge Cruise’s book The Belly Fat Cure.  Jorge classes one serving of carbohydrate   as any food or combo of foods with 5 to 20 grams of carbohydrates; two servings is anything with 21 to 40 grams; three is anything with 41 to 60 grams.

To control insulin levels, Jorge recommends six servings of carbs throughout the day, but NEVER more than 2 servings at any given time.  That means at any given meal, you can likely have just under a cup of beans or lentils without putting your blood glucose levels into “fat storage’ mode.  Again, I’d probably stick with no more than ½ a cup, since you’re likely taking in some additional carbs in your other foods.

I’d also encourage you to see how you feel when reducing beans.  After several months of eating beans, I’ve nearly eliminated them and I have noticed a huge spike in my energy.  Others seem to need the extra calories and carbs from the beans in order to feel satiated and not cheat.  For some, this changes over time.

For further reading on the pros and cons of legumes, check out the Legume Manifesto over at the WholeNine website.  I learned quite a bit.

I hope this is helpful.  I took a break from posting my normal recipes this week because I think this is an area that confuses a lot of people (I know it took awhile for me to figure out what works for me.)  I’d love to hear from some readers how beans have impacted either your energy or weight-loss progress.  Are you eating beans?  What kind?  How often?

Related Posts:


  1. Are you still losing weight by eliminating the beans?

  2. This is helpful, thank you for such a detailed post.

  3. This is really helpful. I’ve often questioned the unlimited beans but couldn’t find anything to back it up either way.

  4. Savannah says

    What about split peas? They’re legumes, right?
    ( After 10 days on the diet , I already look like a bean!

  5. The table above shows total carbs. For the purpose of tracking daily carb intake, it would be more useful to display NET carbs instead.

Speak Your Mind


Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.