Can You Eat Beans on the Keto Diet?

Most types of beans such as red kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans should be avoided on a standard ketogenic diet due to their high carbohydrate content. However, low-carb bean alternatives such as lima beans and black soybeans can be enjoyed in moderation.

Additionally, those following a cyclical (CKD) or targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) may be able to incorporate higher carb beans into their diet during carb-up days.

One of the biggest problems people face when going on the ketogenic diet is knowing what to eat.

Everyone knows that being on the low carb, high-fat lifestyle means you must restrict sugars and processed carbs to fully benefit from keto.

But what about beans? They’re a great source of protein and fiber, but can they fit into your keto lifestyle?

In this article, we’ll talk about:

  • What are beans
  • Beans to avoid on keto
  • Keto-friendly, low carb beans
  • Low-carb bean alternatives
  • When are beans acceptable on keto
  • When to avoid beans on keto

Beans on Keto Diet

What Are Beans? Are They Actually Healthy?

Beans are considered one of the longest cultivates plants since the history of time. They contain soluble fiber, carbohydrates, protein, folate, and iron.

Due to their macronutrient content, many people believe that beans should have a place in anyone’s diet.

Many studies show that people who eat beans have a decreased risk of heart disease, cancer, and mortality[*][*].

But what you’re about to find out is - beans aren’t necessarily as healthy as we thought - especially if you’re on a ketogenic diet.

Here are a few potentially harmful ingredients beans contain:

  • Phytates. Beans store phosphorus as phytic acid. Phytates can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb essential minerals such as iron, zinc, manganese, and calcium.
  • Lectins. Found in high levels in beans, lectins function as a natural pesticide to protect plants from harmful organisms. Lectins can bind to your intestinal wall and exacerbate symptoms of leaky gut syndrome.
  • Protease inhibitors. These are compounds that block your body’s protein-digesting enzyme, protease. Over time, this can also increase the chances of leaky gut.

Note: The way you prepare your beans can decrease the number of toxins your beans contain. Cooking them correctly will help prevent you from consuming any of these harmful ingredients listed above.

List of Beans to Avoid on Keto

Like most foods, there are several variations and while certain beans may be considered ketogenic friendly, others should be avoided at all costs.

To successfully follow a ketogenic diet, it’s important to keep carbohydrates under a certain threshold so that your body can continuously burn fats for energy.

Most of the beans that are “keto-friendly” are much lower in overall carbohydrates.

Avoid these beans at all costs if you’re on keto:

  • Red kidney beans. While these beans may contain a lot of protein, they are packed with a lot of carbohydrates. Just 100g of red kidney beans contain a little over 30g of carbohydrates.
  • Adzuki beans. About 1 cup of adzuki beans comes out to around 50g of total carbohydrates so they are best avoided on the ketogenic diet.
  • Black beans. You should avoid consuming black beans at all costs on the ketogenic diet. They contain a large number of carbohydrates and just one cup can ruin your ketosis efforts. In fact, there are around 31g of carbs in a 50g serving of black beans.
  • Pinto beans. Just like black beans, these should also be completely stripped from your diet as a ketogenic dieter. 100g of pinto beans contains about 47g of total carbs, which can kick you out of ketosis.

Stick to These Low-Carb Bean Sources

There are several food sources that taste similar to beans and have a very low carbohydrate content which makes them a perfect substitute for beans when a meal calls for them.

Here are the two best low-carb bean alternatives:

  • Lima beans. Lima beans are one of the best keto-friendly beans available because a single serving is only 10g of carbs (per 50g) and most of those carbs are fiber.
  • Black soybeans. Ketoers love black soybeans because they have only 12g of carbs per 100g. The majority of these carbs are also fiber which makes it great for people on the low carb, high-fat lifestyle.

Low-Carb Bean Alternatives

Many people like beans because of their texture and how complementary they can be for certain dishes. If you’re someone who wants to substitute beans for a similar food source alternative, consider eating the following:

  • Beanless refried beans. This dish requires zucchini, onion, chili powder, garlic, cumin powder, salt, black pepper, chia seeds, almond butter, oregano, apple cider vinegar, and beef tallow. It’s a bean alternative and comes out to only 8g of carbs per serving!
  • Enoki mushrooms. These mushrooms can be purchased fresh or canned and it’s a perfect side for salad or soup. One cup of enoki mushrooms contains only 3g of net carbs which makes it perfect for the ketogenic diet. They’re also highly nutrient-dense and contains vitamin B, magnesium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus.

When Are Beans Acceptable on the Ketogenic Diet?

People love to eat beans because of their unique texture, it’s complementary to various meals, and it’s also a great source of fiber.

Unfortunately, most beans are too high in carbohydrates to be acceptable on a standard ketogenic diet.

The only time high-carb beans are acceptable on keto is if you are following a cyclical (CKD) or targeted ketogenic diet (TKD).

With these approaches, you’re allowed to have some carbs during specific time periods to allow your body to restore it’s glycogen stores for optimized athletic performance and increased muscle building.

When to Avoid Beans on the Ketogenic Diet

Not all beans have the same carbohydrate content. For example, black beans and pinto beans are very high in carbs which means even less than half a cup can make you slip out of ketosis.

Consume beans on keto only if:

  • You are following a cyclical ketogenic diet. This is when you have higher carb days one or two times out of the week. Athletes and people who want to build muscle can benefit from high-carb beans like black and pinto beans during their carb-ups.
  • You choose the low-carb beans listed above. Low-carb beans can be consumed in small amounts during your standard ketogenic diet. If you are adamant about eating beans, try to time them around your workout so your body can burn through the extra carbs for energy.

Low-Carb Beans for Your Ketogenic Diet

Beans have been a staple in our society’s diet for hundreds of years. But since many types of beans are high in carbohydrates, they may not be considered the best option for ketoers.

Fortunately, there are several low-carb beans you can incorporate into your keto diet if you don’t want to give them up.

Stick to the low-carb beans mentioned in this article (unless you’re following TKD or CKD) and you should have no problem incorporating them into your ketogenic lifestyle!

About the author
Lorenz Macasadia
Lorenz Mac is full-time freelance health & wellness copywriter and content marketer devoted to spreading the knowledge of the ketogenic diet and proper nutrition protocols to the masses. He writes articles and marketing pieces like email copy for several companies who advocate similar values in the industry.

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