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Are Beans Good for Weight Loss?

author image Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.
Are Beans Good for Weight Loss?
A close-up of red kidney beans. Photo Credit: schita/iStock/Getty Images

Beans are a welcome addition to weight-loss meal plans because they are packed with essential nutrients and help keep you feeling full for long periods of time. However, with the exception of green beans, which are not a legume like other beans, many beans are not necessarily low in calories. Eating them in moderation as part of a reduced-calorie meal plan will help you shed pounds.

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Benefits of Beans

Legumes, such as kidney, garbanzo, black, pinto and navy beans, are high in protein and fiber -- 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. Even though green beans are considered a vegetable and not a legume, they are still packed with fiber and contain just 44 calories per cup, notes the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

Cons 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 in just 1 cup. The majority of these calories are from carbohydrates, which are essential nutrients but can lead to weight gain when consumed in excess. However, beans -- even starchy beans -- can help you lose weight when eaten in recommended portions.

Calorie Needs

Regardless of what you eat, your overall calorie 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.

Recommended Portions

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 2010 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.

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