However, with the exception of green beans — which are not a legume like other varieties — many beans are not necessarily low in calories. Eating them in moderation as part of a reduced-calorie meal plan could help you shed pounds.
Beans make a nutritious addition to any diet plan, including one for weight loss. But like any food, beans can't magically help you lose weight and should be part of a reduced-calorie diet.
Weight-Loss Benefits of Beans
Legumes, such as kidney, garbanzo, pinto, navy and black beans, are high in protein and fiber, all beneficial nutrients when you're trying to shed pounds. Protein helps boost satiety and calorie expenditure, and fiber helps you feel full without the extra calories.
A 2016 review of studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that including pulses — a group that beans are a part of — can be beneficial to weight loss, even when not attempting a calorically restricted diet. However, it also notes that more research needs to be done.
Keep in mind that green beans are not a pulse, but rather a vegetable. However, these beans are still packed with fiber and contain just 44 calories per cup, notes the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database.
Downside of Beans
Although legumes are protein- and fiber-rich, most are not low-calorie foods. The USDA National Nutrient Database reports that 1 cup of cooked pinto beans contains 245 calories, or more than 10 percent of your daily calorie needs on a 2000-calorie diet.
The majority of these calories are from carbohydrates, which is an essential nutrient but can lead to weight gain when they contribute to an excess in calorie intake. One cup of cooked pinto beans contain 44 grams of carbs.
However, a certain type of carbohydrate, fiber, helps you feel full and keeps your blood sugar from spiking. One cup of cooked pinto beans contains 15 grams of fiber, more than half of the recommended 25 grams a day.
Caloric Needs and Sustainable Weight Loss
Regardless of what you eat, your overall caloric intake determines how much weight, if any, you'll lose. Aim to shed 1 to 2 pounds weekly by lowering your current energy intake by 500 to 1,000 calories daily, suggests the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many adults need about 1,200 to 1,600 calories daily for effective weight loss, depending on their size and activity level, notes the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Your weight-loss calorie needs determine the amount of beans you should eat for effective weight loss. Due to the high fiber and protein content of beans, you can count beans as part of the vegetable or protein foods groups.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests eating 1.5 cups of vegetables and 3 ounces of protein foods when eating 1,200 calories daily, and 2 cups of veggies and 5 ounces of protein foods when following a 1,600-calorie meal plan. If you put legumes in the protein group instead of the veggie group, 1/4 cup of legumes equals 1 ounce from the protein foods group.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Beans, Snap, Green, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Beans, Pinto, Mature Seeds, Cooked, Boiled, Without Salt
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Overweight and Obesity
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: All About Protein
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of dietary pulse consumption on body weight: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials