Benefits Of Beans For Weight Loss

Beans are an excellent food for those looking to lose weight and/or improve their overall health. Not only are they low in calories and fat, cheap, versatile and widely available, but they are rich in protein, fibre, iron, vitamins and minerals. As good as they are, beans are notorious for turning their consumers into fart ticking-time bombs, causing many people including vegetarians and vegans alike to avoid them like the plague. 

Should we put up with the endless, smelly farts and dig into our baked beans on toast (for the British amongst us! Hello, me!) and falafel wrap with relish, or should we take shelter (pun intended) and leave the tins secured? This article will help you decide exactly that by providing an overview of the benefits of beans for both weight loss and overall health, their nutritional facts and some of the side effects they may cause. Grab a tin opener and dive right in! 

What are beans?

Defined as the edible seeds from the Phaseolus vulgaris L family of legumes,1 beans act as a great source of protein for vegetarians, vegans and non-meat lovers, and are even considered vegetables (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture).2 There are many types of beans, the most popular being black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, green beans, white beans, garbanzo beans (better known as chickpeas - hummus and falafel, anyone?), lima beans, fava beans, butter beans and cannellini beans (to name a few). 

Benefits of beans for weight loss

There is some interesting scientific evidence, both new and old, to suggest that regular bean consumption could promote weight loss. In 2020, a cross-sectional study conducted on 246 women showed that a moderate to high consumption of beans is associated with lower body fat percentage and a narrower waist circumference.1 These results are further supported by those of a previous study which analysed data of 8,229 adults from the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2002 and found that the participants who consumed beans regularly had lower body weight and narrower waistlines.3 Not only that, but the bean-consuming participants also had a 23% and 22% lower risk of increased waist size and obesity, respectively. Furthermore, a meta-analysis of 21 randomised controlled trials with 941 overweight or obese middle-aged men and women demonstrated an overall reduction of 0.34 kilograms (kgs) in those who consumed beans over a 6 week period.4 

There are many reasons as to why beans could possibly facilitate weight loss and aid weight management, the main being their ability to increase satiety.4 Several properties are suggested to give rise to their satiating effects including both their high protein and high fibre content as well as their low glycemic index (GI). GI acts as a measurement scale that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods based on how they influence and raise blood sugar levels.

Protein, in particular, is well known for its role in increasing satiety and thus facilitating weight loss by decreasing overall energy intake.6 Indeed, multiple studies have shown that diets high in non-animal plant protein are associated with decreased body fat and body mass index (BMI). 7-9 Dietary fibre, especially the soluble kind, has the ability to bind to and thus decrease the absorption of both glucose (sugar)10 and lipids (fats)11 by the small intestine, an effect which helps stabilise blood sugar, promote satiety and decrease overall calorie intake. Fibre is also thought to promote satiety by delaying gastric emptying and the rate of nutrient absorption.12 Additionally, fibre requires extensive chewing time12 and remains undigested by the small intestine with only 40% of it being broken down13, resulting in decreased overall calorie intake.The daily recommendation of fibre for adults is around 30g per day (NHS)14, a number that most of us are not even getting half of, which, as will be discussed briefly, puts us at risks worse than the occasional fart or two! 

The low GI of beans decreases the rate at which they are digested and absorbed by the small intestine, leading to stable blood sugars, reduced hunger, and the consumption of fewer calories from food.5 In fact, a 2016 meta-analysis from 9 crossover, randomised, controlled trials reported a 31% increase in the satiety of participants following bean consumption.15 In support of these findings, a more recent 2017 crossover randomised controlled trial showed that black beans, in particular, enhanced satiety by increasing the levels of GI-related hormones including cholecystokinin (CCK) and peptide tyrosine tyrosine (PYY).16

Beans are also suggested to promote weight loss due to their low fat content.1 Both protein and carbohydrates provide 4 kilocalories (kcal) per gram whilst fat, the most energy dense macronutrient, provides 9 kcal per gram, thus making beans a ‘’weight loss-friendly’’, low calorie food option.  

Other health benefits of beans

The benefits that beans offer are not limited to weight loss. In fact, regular consumption of beans is suggested to lower the risk of many chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and potentially even cancer. Multiple research studies have shown that diets with a low GI, a property that beans possess, as mentioned above, improve glycaemic control in type 2 diabetics by decreasing postprandial glucose levels post-meal.5, 17-21 A meta-analysis of 41 trials demonstrated that beans, either when consumed alone or as part of a low-GI or high fibre diet, can improve important biomarkers for type 2 diabetes including glycated haemoglobin A(1c) (HbA(1c), fructosamine, insulin and fasting blood glucose (FBG).22 Consuming only three or more servings of beans per day is suggested to improve these markers and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 20-30%!23

Studies also suggest an inverse relationship between bean consumption and cardiovascular disease development. In fact, large-scale epidemiological studies including the First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Follow-up Study (NHEFS), found that, out of the 9,632 men and women they followed,  those who consumed beans four or more times per week as opposed to less than once a week had a 22% and 11% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease, respectively.24  Beans may achieve this by decreasing and increasing the levels of both low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, respectively.25 LDL refers to the ‘’bad’’ form of cholesterol as it clogs up the arteries. HDL, on the other hand ‘cleans up’ the arteries and is therefore considered the ‘’good’’ form of cholesterol. Interestingly, after consuming one tin of baked beans every day for only two weeks (14 days), 13 participants with hypercholesterolemia (a disorder characterised by high cholesterol levels, particularly the ‘’bad’’ LDL form) reported a 12% and 15% decrease in their total cholesterol and LDL levels, respectively.26

In contrast to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the research studies available on the protective roles of beans against human cancer are scant and outdated, with the majority of these studies conducted on rats. Regardless, the results are interesting and prove promising, urging further human studies to be conducted in this area. Rat studies have shown that regular bean consumption can lower the risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 67%.27 In humans, a high intake of beans has also been reported to lower the risk of breast cancer28 but also prostate cancer (by as much as 22%!)29 and pancreatic cancer30. More recently, a study conducted in 2016 showed that Northeast China black beans could decrease the growth of colorectal cancer cells by inducing apoptosis (also known as ‘’programmed cell death’’), a phenomenon whereby cells ‘commit suicide’ in an regulated and organised manner.31  Additionally, people who consume beans regularly may experience a decreased risk of mortality (death), as reported by a large-scale epidemiological study conducted in 41 countries.32

Nutritional facts

The nutrition content of beans and thus, the health benefits they offer vary depending on their type. However, generally speaking, just 100g or ½ a cup of dry beans contains between 5.2-7.8g of fibre33 and approximately 25g of protein34, the latter of which provides 20% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of protein for adults. Beans are rich in vitamins including vitamin C and the B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, and folate as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, selenium, iron, zinc, and potassium.35 Impressively, just one serving (½ cup) of dry beans contains the same amount of potassium in a single serving of cow’s milk (between 300-400 mg)!36 Additionally, beans provide 70% of the RDI of folate.35

Side effects and other concerns

Apart from the bloating, abdominal pain, flatulence and gassiness that beans can cause36, a side effect too embarrassing and off-putting for most, bean consumption poses additional side effects and concerns. For example, if consumed even in minute amounts, legumes particularly peanuts, can induce anaphylaxis in those with allergies, a severe allergic reaction which can result in death.37 

Additionally, despite being nutrient dense, beans contain compounds referred to as ‘’antinutrients’’ which hinder absorption and digestion of nutrients36, thus increasing the risk of nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition especially if eaten in excessive amounts. Examples include protein (protease) inhibitors, lectins, phytates, and oxalates. Phytates and oxalates, in particular, block the absorption of both iron and zinc as well as calcium, respectively. This poses a problem for vegetarians and vegans especially, both of whom refrain from meat and/or dairy consumption. 

Furthermore, beans alone do not provide a complete protein source as they lack all 9 essential amino acids.35 Luckily, this issue can be easily combated by adding whole grains and/or dairy to beans and consuming an overall varied, balanced diet with adequate calories. Beans also lack vitamin B12,35 thus putting vegans at risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency if eaten excessively and supplementation is not considered. Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell and nerve cell formation (to name a few) and is found exclusively in meat and animal foods. Having low levels of vitamin B12 is a serious issue as it can result in anaemia, neural tube defects and even permanent nerve damage, if severe and left untreated (NHS).38 To avoid this, vegans are strongly advised to take a vitamin B12 supplement and consume B12-fortified foods regularly. Cooking and boiling beans is also recommended to inactivate protease inhibitors and lectins, in particular.36 To decrease flatulence, it can be helpful to thoroughly soak and wash beans prior to their consumption. 


As members of the Phaseolus vulgaris L family of legumes, beans are a unique food, acting both as a vegetable and high plant protein source. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that beans could provide some promising benefits for weight loss in part due to their satiating effects. Multiple factors are thought to contribute to the high satiety of beans including their high protein, high fibre and low GI content. As a result of these properties, regular bean consumption has not only been shown to aid weight loss but reduce the risk of several chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. It is worthy of noting, however, that most of the studies in this area are small-scale, outdated and have been conducted mainly on rats, thus decreasing reliability of the results. 

Furthermore, despite the promising weight loss and health benefits they offer, beans can give rise to uncomfortable and even serious side effects including gassiness and flatulence, digestive issues, nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition as well as anaphylaxis in those with peanut allergies. Most of these side effects are off-putting and can even be embarrassing, causing many people to cut beans out of their diets. Fortunately, however, many of these issues can be prevented by thoroughly soaking, boiling and cooking beans prior to their consumption. Since the health benefits of beans outweigh their health risks, as is evident from the large number of scientific studies provided in this article, most of us would benefit from adding beans into our diets. If one’s goal is to lose weight and/or improve general health, beans should be used to supplement rather than replace a healthy diet. 


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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Haajar Dafiri

Bachelor of Science with Honours – BSc (Hons), Biochemistry, University of
Wolverhampton, UK

Haajar Dafiri is a recent First Class BSc (Hons) Biochemistry graduate from the University of Wolverhampton with over 4 years of academic writing experience.
She has professional experience working in both labs and hospitals such as LabMedExpert and the NHS, respectively. Due to her ‘’outstanding undergraduate’’ academic achievements, she was awarded both the Biosciences Project Prize and the Biochemical Society Undergraduate Recognition Award.

From a young age, whenever words and science were involved, Haajar eagerly followed. Haajar particularly enjoys diving deep into intricate research articles and interpreting, analysing and communicating the scientificfindings to the general public in an easy, fun and organised manner – hence, why she joined Klarity. She hopes her unique, creative and quirky writing style will ignite the love of science in many whilst putting a smile on their faces.

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