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Are Beans a Good Diet Food?

by
author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
Are Beans a Good Diet Food?
A bowl of baked red beans with herbs. Photo Credit spafra/iStock/Getty Images

When you go on a diet, your primary concern may be calories, but you also need to think about the foods you decide to include in your diet as well. You want to eat foods that not only help you meet your nutrient needs, but also satisfy hunger. Beans are good for both, and make a good choice as a diet food.

Rich In Nutrients

When you reduce your calorie intake to lose weight you have fewer calories to work with to meet your daily vitamin and mineral needs, so you need to fill your diet with nutrient-dense foods such as beans. Beans are a good source of protein, and have similar amounts of iron and zinc as meat, poultry and seafood. Beans are also a good source of fiber, potassium and folate. A 2012 study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" found that people who consume more beans generally have better intakes of protein, fiber, iron, zinc and B vitamins than those who don't eat beans.

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Full of Fiber

Hunger might be a problem you face when cutting back on calories, but getting more fiber in your diet can help. Fiber in food increases satiety and decreases hunger, according to a 2001 review study published in "Nutrition Reviews," which ultimately helps you eat less, and also makes it easier for you to stick with your reduced-calorie diet. Beans are a good source of fiber, ranging from 4 grams in a 1/2-cup serving of cooked lima beans to 8 grams in the same serving of cooked kidney beans. Overall, aim for 25 to 35 grams of fiber a day.

Low-Fat Source of Protein

Fat is a concentrated source of calories, so watch your intake when dieting. Although beef and pork are a good source of protein, certain cuts are also high in fat. Substituting beans for high-fat meats can help save calories from fat while still meeting your protein needs. A 1/2-cup of cooked beans provides 7 to 8 grams of protein and less than 0.5 grams of total fat, and meets about 10 percent of the recommended dietary allowances for protein as set by the Institute of Medicine.

Low Glycemic Food

The glycemic index ranks carbohydrate-containing foods on how it affects blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index have a minimal affect on blood sugar, while foods with a high glycemic index cause blood sugars to rise rapidly. In addition to having less of an impact on blood sugar, foods with a low glycemic index may also help with appetite control by delaying hunger cues, according to the University of Sydney. Beans are a low glycemic index food. If you're following a calorie-controlled diet, beans might keep you feeling full for up to four hours after eating them, according to a 2012 review article published in the "British Journal of Nutrition."

Good Source of Phytochemicals

In addition to helping you meet your daily vitamin and mineral needs, beans also contain phytochemicals that have other health benefits. Some of the phytochemicals found in beans include resistant starch, phytosterols and isoflavones. Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that your body cannot digest, and is considered a probiotic that helps keep your gut healthy. The phytosterols in beans promote heart health by lowering blood cholesterol levels. Primarily found in soy beans, isoflavones might protect you from heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer, according to a 2007 review article published in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry."

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