Are Beans Keto-Friendly? Carbs in Beans

by Eric Gordon on January 20, 2020

What You'll Learn...

  1. What's in a Bean?
  2. Can Beans Be Part of the Keto Diet?
  3. When to Stay Away From Beans on the Keto Diet
  4. Different Types of Beans and Nutritional Facts
  5. Green Beans on Keto
  6. Black Beans on Keto
  7. Pinto Beans on Keto
  8. Keto-Friendly Bean Substitutes
  9. Conclusion
When you are on the keto diet, you will need to avoid many types of beans. Although beans are high in protein and fiber and are known to have health benefits, they tend to be high in carbs. The keto diet is all about reducing your carbohydrate intake to less than 30 grams a day and increasing your intake of high-quality fats and proteins.
As a result, your body will transition from using glucose for energy to using the ketones in stored fats. One cup of beans can max out your carb count for the day so you need to rely on other sources of protein and nutrition. However, there are a few types of beans that you can eat in moderation.

What’s in a Bean?

Beans are the pod seeds of legume plants. They have been cultivated since ancient times and they are known to be inexpensive and full of nutrients. In fact, they provide protein that is plant-based as well as a number of other health benefits. In addition, they contain vitamins and minerals including thiamin, riboflavin, folate, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, and zinc.
The problem with beans is that most of them contain enough carbs in one cup to use up your total carb count for the day. They do contain fiber and protein but it isn’t enough to get the net carbs down to levels that are conducive to ketosis.
Finally, beans contain “anti-nutrients,” which is a fancy word meaning that they have compounds in them that actually prevent your body from absorbing many of the vitamins and minerals. These potentially harmful ingredients are:
  • Phytates: Phosphorus is stored in beans as phytic acid and it can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iron, zinc, manganese, and calcium.
  • Lectins: Lectins act as a natural pesticide in their plants to protect them from dangerous organisms. When you eat beans, they can attach to your intestines and bring out symptoms of the leaky gut syndrome.
  • Protease Inhibitors: These compounds can block the body’s enzyme that digests protein, protease.
Beans can be cooked and prepared in such a way that the harmful impact of these anti-nutrients is reduced but it is important to be aware of these aspects of beans.

Can Beans Be Part of the Keto Diet?

If you absolutely must have some beans from time to time, you do have a few choices. The key is to keep your portions small enough that the beans won’t kick you out of ketosis. We will review different kinds of beans and their carb count below so that you can see exactly what the possibilities are.
In addition, there are modified versions of the keto diet that allow for you to have higher-carb foods from time to time. If you exercise a lot, you may actually need to increase your carbs once in a while. These variations of the keto diet will allow you to have beans.
  • Targeted Keto Diet: This variation of the keto diet is designed for people who are athletes or who have regular exercise as a part of their lives. This diet allows you to increase your carb intake by an additional twenty to fifty grams of carbs in the hour before and after you exercise.
  • Cyclical Keto Diet: If the intensity of your physical activities is extremely high, you may need extra carbs added back in. This variation involves carb backloading two days a week, where you take in high amounts of carbs and low fat so that you can replenish the depleted glycogen in your body.

When to Stay Away From Beans on the Keto Diet

To stay true to your keto diet, you should stay away from beans as much as possible. This is especially important when you are starting out. When you begin the keto diet, the first stage is getting your body into ketosis. You achieve ketosis by reducing your carb intake as much as possible and increasing your quality of fats and protein. Your body will transition from using glucose from carbs to get its energy to using the ketones in stored fats. To successfully make this transition, you must let your body run out of its glucose reserves.
Once you have achieved ketosis, you may be able to have a half a cup of beans here and there. You need to remember that because everyone processes carbs slightly differently, whether or not you can have beans from time to time will depend on your body. You can give it a try and make sure that you check your ketone levels after you eat beans to learn how your body reacts.

Different Types of Beans and Nutritional Facts

Different types of beans do have different nutritional profiles but they are similar in that they do have complex carbohydrates, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. To see how many there are carbs in beans take a look at the following nutritional facts for half a cup of the following types of beans, cooked and drained:
1. Black Beans
Calories: 114
Protein: 8 grams
Fat: 0.5 grams
Total Carbs: 20 grams
Fiber: 8 grams
Sodium: 1 milligram
Potassium: 305 milligrams
2. Great Northern Beans
Calories: 104
Protein: 7 grams
Fat: 0.4 grams
Total Carbs: 19 grams
Fiber: 6 grams
Sodium: 2 milligrams
Potassium: 346 milligrams
3. Navy Beans
Calories: 127
Protein: 8 grams
Fat: 0.6 grams
Total Carbs: 24 grams
Fiber: 10 grams
Sodium: 0 grams
Potassium: 354 grams
4. Pinto Beans
Calories: 122
Protein: 8 grams
Fat: 0.6 grams
Total Carbs: 22 grams
Fiber: 8 grams
Sodium: 1 milligram
Potassium: 373 milligrams
5. Light Red Kidney Beans
Calories: 112
Protein: 8 grams
Fat: 0.4 grams
Total Carbs: 20 grams
Fiber: 7 grams
Sodium: 2 milligrams
Potassium: 357 milligrams
6. Dark Red Kidney Beans
Calories: 109
Protein: 8 grams
Fat: 0.2 grams
Total Carbs: 19 grams
Fiber: 8 grams
Sodium: 4 milligrams
Potassium: 335 milligrams
7. White Kidney Beans
Calories: 124
Protein: 9 grams
Fat: 0.3 grams
Total Carbs: 22 grams
Fiber: 6 grams
Sodium: 5 milligrams
Potassium: 502 milligrams
8. Small Red Beans
Calories: 110
Protein: 6 grams
Fat: 0.5 grams
Total Carbs: 19 grams
Fiber: 6 grams
Sodium: 5 milligrams
Potassium: 371 milligrams
By examining the nutritional content of different kinds of beans, you can see that just half a cup of beans includes a lot of carbs. If you are following the keto diet and you really want to get into ketosis, you should try to stay away from beans.

Green Beans on Keto

Green beans are also called snap beans or string beans. They are popular and can be prepared in many different ways. People often ask, “Are green beans keto-friendly?” because they are a member of the legume family, which is on the “no” list for keto. People want to include them in their diets because they are delicious and known to be healthy.
One cup of green beans contains 31 calories and 10 grams of carbs, with four grams being fiber. This leaves a net carb count of six grams. This low-carb count allows beans to be included on the keto diet.
In addition, green beans contain higher levels of chlorophyll, and some animal studies suggest that this aids in protection against carcinogens that can lead to cancer. They include many vitamins and minerals, including the following:
  • Calories: 31
  • Carbs: 10 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Vitamins A, B, C, E, and K
  • Thiamin
  • Niacin
  • Calcium 37 mg
  • Iron 1.03 mg
  • Magnesium 25 mg
  • Phosphorous 38 mg
  • Potassium 211 mg
  • Zinc 0.24 mg
Green beans are loaded with nutrients, and they have only six net carbs in a one-cup serving. You can eat them raw, sautéed, and many other styles, and they offer a plethora of nutrients.

Black Beans on Keto

Are black beans keto-friendly? Sadly, the answer is no. They are so tasty.
One-half cup of black beans has 20 grams of carbs. They also have eight grams of fiber, which makes their net carb count to 12 grams for one half of a cup.
While black beans offer many health benefits, they are too high in carbs to be a part of the keto diet. In place of sugar, they have slowly digested carbohydrates and resistant starch. The carbs in them are slowly converted to glucose, which is a problem if you are trying to maintain ketosis.
Black beans contain very little fats, and what they do have is polyunsaturated. They do have seven grams of protein in one-half cup, which helps to fulfill your daily intake of protein. The problem is that adding black beans to your diet will make it very easy to go over your 30-gram carb limit for the day, and this can kick you out of ketosis.
Even though black beans are a great source of protein and are full of nutrients, it is best to avoid them on keto because they are high in carbs.

Pinto Beans on Keto

People often ask, “Are pinto beans keto?” Although pinto beans are nutritious, these are not keto-friendly either. They contain 22 carbs in one-half cup, which means that they can easily kick you out of ketosis. They are made up of complex carbohydrates, with around 30 grams of starch in one cup of pinto beans.
Pinto beans are inexpensive and nutritious, and they are popular in Mexican dishes. They have only one gram of fat, but they have eight grams of protein. They are also packed with important vitamins and minerals. This might lead you to think you can eat them and stay keto.
The problem is that pinto beans can easily kick you out of ketosis. One-half cup may have 22 grams of carbs, but the recommended serving size is actually one cup, so you would have a hard time consuming under 44 grams of carbs. In addition, when you are getting started on keto, it is often recommended that you begin by reducing your carb intake to less than 30 carbs per day. One cup of pinto beans would be enough to ruin ketosis. Unfortunately, pinto beans are a member of the legume family and contain too many carbs for you to consume them on keto.

Keto-Friendly Bean Substitutes

The important thing to remember about the keto diet is that there are many delicious foods that you can eat and they are actually good for you. It is important to shift your mindset away from foods that are on the “no” list and focus on the foods that you can eat. Cravings are really a way that our bodies tell us that we need a nutrient. If you find that you are craving beans, the following bean substitutes may reduce your cravings.
Peas are a great bean substitute
  • Peas: They have a similar texture and feel but they have almost half the carbs.
  • Enoki Mushrooms: Mushrooms have a similar texture and they work well as a low-carb substitute.

The Bottom Line

If you are new to the keto diet, your primary goal is to transition your body into ketosis. Even though you may be able to add beans in small quantities, you really shouldn’t. The thing is that you need to transition your thinking as well as your body. If you find yourself staying focused on the foods that you need to give up, it will be harder to stick to the diet.
In some respects, it makes sense to research what foods you are allowed (and encouraged) to eat. You may be pleasantly surprised by all of the delicious foods on the list. The next step is to take a look at low-carb substitutes for foods that you need to leave out. Beans are one of the foods that you should try to replace.
If you love chili, you can leave the beans out or add mushrooms in their place. Meat and cheese are both keto-friendly and the mushrooms will add some texture and flavor. If you are making soup, you can throw in peas. They will have a similar texture and feel. It may not be beans but you will find that they are delicious.
After you have achieved ketosis, there are certain times that you may be able to add beans back in. For example, if you are an athlete or do a lot of exercises, you may need to increase your carb intake. In addition, you might be able to add half a cup of beans to your diet from time to time. If you really miss the beans, you can start out slowly and check your ketone levels to make sure that you aren’t being kicked out of ketosis.
Beans do offer a lot of health benefits but there are many keto-friendly foods that also offer health benefits. If you focus on the foods that you can eat, you will find plenty of choices.