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Author Mirela Niculae
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Updated on Jun 16th, 2024
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How to Eat More Beans: Creative Ways to Add Beans to Your Diet

Beans are versatile, delicious, and an excellent source of plant-based protein that can successfully replace meat in your diet. They’re also kinder to your grocery budget and much easier to prepare and store long-term. Not to mention that bean production is much friendlier to the environment. 

Yet, despite all these amazing benefits (and more), I don’t know many adults who go crazy about beans. In fact, only about 8% of Americans eat beans every day¹. Sure, they can make you feel bloated and gassy, but this is easy to solve with a few tips and tricks, which I’ll share in this article.

In a nutshell, if you’re on a journey to eating healthy without breaking the bank, understanding how to eat more beans can be a game-changer. In this article, you can learn everything there is to know about beans, health benefits, and delicious recipes, so stay tuned until the end!

What Are Beans?

If you’re looking for the scientific definition², beans are the edible seeds (also called pulses) produced by plants in the legume family Fabaceae. This is why beans were listed under legumes in older food group classifications.

In the newer classifications, you’ll find them under the more accurate Beans, Peas, and Lentils subgroup³. Beans, as a species of edible plant, have been part of humankind’s diet for thousands of years. They’re so versatile that you’ll find bean-based dishes anywhere you go in the world.

Nowadays, hundreds of different types of edible beans are grown worldwide, with estimates ranging from 400 to over 1,000 varieties. In the U.S., the most common types are Black Beans, Red Kidney Beans, Navy Beans, Pinto Beans, and Great Northern Beans, but you can also find less common types like Gigante Beans (mostly used in Greek cuisine) or Adzuki Beans (famously used in Japanese confectionery).

The best part? Each type of bean has a unique taste, texture, and nutritional profile.

For instance, black beans have a mild, earthy flavor with a hint of sweetness, while kidney beans are slightly sweeter and more robust. In terms of texture, black beans are firmer and chewier than kidney beans, which is why they’re preferred for dishes like salads or vegetarian patties. Kidney beans have a creamier texture, which makes them excellent for soups and stews.

Lastly, these versatile little seeds are filled with nutrients, fiber, and vitamins and are a significant source of plant-based protein. Nutritional profiles differ for each type, but as a continuation of the black beans vs. red kidney beans saga, here are the main differences*:

  • Nutritional profile for black beans: 114 calories, 8 g of protein, 0.5 g of fat, 20 g of carbs, and 8 g of fiber.

  • Nutritional profile for red kidney beans: 109 calories, 8 g of protein, 0.2 g of fat, 19 g of carbs, and 8 g of fiber.

*The values are for a 100 g serving of dry beans that have been cooked without salt.

Besides being low in calories and high in protein and fiber, beans (in general) come packed with potassium, manganese, copper, zinc, selenium, iron, folate, thiamine, and vitamins K, B1, B6, and E (among others).

In a nutshell, beans are far from boring! 

Beans are available in a wide range of types, tastes, and textures, as well as in different forms, such as canned, dried, or frozen, and can be consumed either fresh or shelled. Plus, if you’re looking to improve your diet and nutrient intake, you should learn how to eat more beans.

Why You Should Add More Beans to Your Diet

Due to their exquisite nutritional content, beans pack a series of health benefits. And it’s not just your mom saying this (trying to make you eat your vegetables); it’s a fact backed by scientific evidence .

May Help with Weight Loss

Beans are naturally low in fat, especially saturated fat, and have a relatively low calorie density. They’re also high in soluble and insoluble fiber, slowing digestion and making you feel full after a few bites.

Additionally, due to the high protein content, you’ll feel full for longer, which helps keep cravings and hunger in check. 

Due to all these features (and more), beans are a big part of plans focused on healthy eating, such as DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) or the Mediterranean diet.

May Help Lower LDL (Bad) Cholesterol¹⁰

The high soluble fiber content also plays a crucial role in lowering LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the intestines that binds with cholesterol and bile acids, preventing their reabsorption into the bloodstream.

May Help Prevent Heart¹¹ Disease and Type 2 Diabetes¹²

Beans are a low-GI food (low glycemic index), which helps keep blood sugar levels in check. They also come packed with antioxidants, minerals, and essential nutrients that support overall health and reduce the risk of ischemic heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Other Benefits

If you’re suffering from constipation¹³ (which is a common pregnancy symptom), beans may offer a natural solution. The soluble fibers in their composition dissolve, which helps soften stools and makes them easier to pass. It also promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, which can further aid in digestion and regularity, as well as many other benefits such as brain function and mental health.

Do note that if you increase your bean and fiber intake by a lot, you also risk constipation and bloating if you’re not used to consuming so much fiber. The best approach is to increase gradually.

Another positive aspect is that beans are among the few plant foods that contain lysine¹⁴. This is an amino acid, also known as L-lysine, that plays several critical roles in the human body. Since the body can’t synthesize lysine, it must be obtained through diet or supplements.

Beans are great when coupled with grains because they complement each other in terms of essential amino acids. Beans are high in lysine but low in methionine. The opposite is true for grains. By combining the 2, you get the full spectrum of essential amino acids.

How Much Beans Is Enough?

Now that you know about the amazing benefits of a diet rich in beans, should you start eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

It all depends on the amount you ingest. Just like with anything in this world, too much of a good thing can be bad.

According to the 2020 - 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans¹⁵, the minimum recommended amount is 1.5 cups of beans/peas/lentils each week. Based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, about 3 cups of legumes, including beans, per week should be enough. This translates to approximately half a cup of cooked beans (about 125 grams) per day.

Dry vs. Canned – Which Ones Fit Your Lifestyle?

As I already mentioned, beans are available in a variety of forms. However, the most common ones are dry or canned. 

So, which one’s best and why?

Both forms are rich in nutrients and can provide the health benefits mentioned above. Still, depending on your unique situation, 1 form may be better than the other. 

Let’s compare them using a series of factors that usually come up when shopping for food:

  • Cost

  • Convenience

  • Sodium content

Dry beans are more affordable than canned ones. A 1-pound bag of dry black beans costs $1.76, while a 15-oz can of black beans costs $1.42. The bag of dry beans will produce around 12 one-half-cup servings, while the can of beans only provides around 3 servings. 

When you draw the line, 1 serving of cooked dry beans amounts to $0.14, which is around one-third the cost per serving when the beans come from a can ($0.47). For a family of 4 that eats beans once a week, choosing dry over canned can bring some savings.

However, before you get yourself a bag of dry beans, it’s important to know that it takes between 3 and 24 hours to cook dry beans (more tips on how to cook dry beans below). If your time in the kitchen is limited or if you prefer doing more interesting things than supervising beans, you may be better off with the canned version.

Extra tip: Cook dry beans in large batches and freeze them for later use. They’ll stay fresh in the freezer for a few months, and you’ll save money.

Lastly, there’s the sodium content. On average, 1 can of beans can contain up to 25% of the recommended daily intake of sodium, which is approximately 570 mg per can. This means you’ll ingest around 190 mg of sodium per half-a-cup serving of beans.

Dry beans, on the other hand, have no sodium content. If you cook them without adding salt, they’ll be sodium-free.

Extra tip: Draining and rinsing canned beans removes around 40% of the sodium content. Also, you can buy low-sodium versions.

How to Cook Dry Beans

Turning dry beans into hot, steaming, delicious, cooked beans takes patience and determination. In total, there are 6 steps to complete, and the entire process can take you almost an entire day. 

But if you’re willing to try, here are the standard steps:

1. Sorting and Rinsing

Spread the beans on a flat surface (a tray or directly on the table) and pick through them to remove any debris, small stones, or shriveled beans. Next, rinse the beans thoroughly under cool water to remove any dust or dirt

2. Soaking (Optional but Recommended)

Soaking reduces cooking time, improves flavor and texture, and reduces the chance of digestive issues such as gas. 

To soak, place the beans in a large bowl and cover them with 3-4 cups of water. Add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Let the beans soak overnight or for at least 8 hours. If you don’t have 8 hours, you can use the quick soaking method: place the beans in a large pot, cover them with water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat, cover, and let soak for 1 hour.

3. Draining and Rinsing

After soaking, drain the beans and rinse them with fresh water to remove any remaining soaking liquid.

4. Cooking

Transfer the soaked and rinsed beans to a large pot. Add enough fresh water to cover the beans by about 2 inches. Optionally, add aromatics such as onion wedges, garlic cloves, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, and olive oil to enhance the flavor of the beans.

Bring the pot to a boil over high heat and boil for 15 minutes to ensure any potential toxins are neutralized. After boiling, reduce the heat to low and let the beans simmer gently. The liquid should be just below a simmer to cook the beans evenly and keep them intact.

The cooking time can vary depending on the type and age of the beans. Generally, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Check the beans periodically and add more water if necessary to keep them submerged.

5. Seasoning

Add salt to the beans after they have been simmering for about 30 minutes. This helps to season the beans without toughening their skins. Taste the beans towards the end of the cooking time and adjust the seasoning as needed. The beans’ texture should be tender but not mushy.

6. Cooling and Storing

Once the beans are cooked to your desired tenderness, remove them from the heat and let them cool in their cooking liquid for about 20 minutes. If you added aromatics, remove them before storing the beans.

Transfer the beans to an airtight container along with some of the cooking liquid. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for several months.

Bonus Tip: Shorten the Cooking Time with a Pressure Cooker

A pressure cooker can shave hours off your beans' cooking time. Depending on variety, your beans could be ready in 20 to 30 minutes. If you skip the soaking (at your own risk), this means you can have freshly cooked beans in less than 1 hour.

Delicious and Quick Beans Recipes

Did you know you can have beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? All it takes is a little creativity and the willingness to try something new. Plus, since beans are rich in protein, they can easily replace the meat in traditional recipes like burgers or chili.

So, if you’re ready to add more veggies to your diet and cut out the meat, here are some recipes to help you get started:


Easy Baked Beans On Toast is a flavorful, plant-based, British-inspired dish that can successfully replace the classic bacon and eggs. It takes around 30 minutes to prepare, and you only need to use 1 pot. 

The recipe is traditionally prepared with cannellini or Great Northern beans, but you can use whatever you have in the pantry. You’ll also need a shallot or onion, tomato paste (fresh tomatoes also work), seasonings, and toast.

If you’re in a hurry, you can put together a Breakfast Bean Burrito in less than 15 minutes. You can make the mixture with whatever you have in the fridge and pantry, but make sure to add in a few staples, like onion, garlic, black beans, and corn. 

Lastly, for those of you who don’t enjoy solid breakfasts, you can have a Berry Bean Smoothie. Yes, you read that right – you can add beans (preferably cooked) to your morning smoothie. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and you can use any smoothie recipe you want, but for full creaminess, it’s best to go with white or black beans.


For lunch, you have a wide range of options, mainly in the form of salads (Three Bean Salad, Mediterranean Bean Salad, or Tex-Mex Black Bean Salad). Whenever you want something rich, hearty, and flavorful, add a bowl of Black Bean soup, and you’re good to go.

Overall, even if you don’t bring your own lunch, chances are you’ll find a good variety of bean-based dishes in supermarkets, at convenience stores, or in restaurants. Also, you’ll find delicious bean dishes on many vegetarian meal delivery services’s menus.


For dinner, you can always whip together a delicious vegetarian Chili. This recipe is not just flavorful and hearty; it’s also a fantastic way to use up any veggies you have lying around your pantry or fridge. Plus, you can combine several types of beans (black, pinto, and kidney beans work best).

If you’re in the mood for something Mediterranean, you should try the Garlic Parmesan White Beans recipe. The dish combines cannellini beans with cherry tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin oil, lemon juice, and fresh parsley in a symphony of tastes that reminds you of the beauty of Italian cuisine. 

Additionally, its rich, creamy, and garlicky flavor profile goes extremely well with the nutty and salty notes of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheeses. The dish is hearty, comforting, and perfect for pairing with crusty bread.

Lastly, if you want something simple and easy to put together, Baked Beans are always a good choice. This versatile recipe can be made using various methods and ingredients, and the result is always satisfactory. The must-haves are beans (any type you have around), bacon, onions, garlic, and sauce (prepared according to your preferences).


Did you know you can have beans as a healthy snack?

For instance, chickpeas tossed with a bit of olive oil and roasted in the oven are a fantastic replacement for potato chips. With the right seasoning, they’re just as delicious, and roasting them in the oven provides that satisfying crunch.

You can also make savory snacks like white bean patties or protein-rich crackers. They often include ingredients like garlic, rosemary, and Parmesan cheese, providing a nutritious and satisfying option

Lastly, you can replace mayo and other heavy dips with something lighter, like a white bean dip or homemade hummus. Add some crunchy veggies, like carrots and celery sticks, to the mix, and you’ll have a delicious and healthy combination.

What to Keep in Mind

As I researched how to eat more beans, I learned that, despite their many health benefits, not many adults are happy to consume beans every day. The number 1 deterrent is the intestinal discomfort some people experience after a hearty bean dish (in plain terms, they make you fart).

Additionally, if undercooked or consumed raw, beans can have negative effects. 

For instance, many types of beans (red kidney beans in particular) contain lectins, which is a natural toxin produced by the plant’s defense mechanism¹⁶. Also, all beans contain some amount of phytic acid, which can hinder your absorption17 of minerals.

Lastly, people who can’t produce a specific enzyme (G6PD) should avoid consuming fava beans. Their content can trigger a condition that destroys red blood cells, leading to anemia¹⁸.

So, is it safe to eat beans? Yes! You just have to cook them properly! 

All the problems listed above (except the genetic predisposition) can be solved with a good preparation method that includes soaking¹⁹ and cooking (whether it’s boiling or baking the beans). Of course, if you always eat canned beans, you don’t have to worry about any of these as they have already been through the cooking process.

How to Eat More Beans without Farting

First of all, why do beans make you fart?

According to specialists20, there are 3 main reasons why you may feel bloated and a bit gassy after eating beans and other foods:

  • Complex carbs – beans are rich in oligosaccharides, a type of carb that doesn’t break down completely in the small intestine. So, when the unprocessed bits reach the large intestine, they are fermented by bacteria, which makes you feel bloated and gassy.

  • Fibers – even though fibers are great for your health, consuming too much too soon can lead to intestinal discomfort. That’s because fibers are not digested by the body, so they’ll sit in your digestive tract until it’s time to get them out. If you consume more than usual, the bacteria in your large intestine will have a party, which may lead to bloating. 

  • Lectins – some people are more sensitive to lectins, even after the beans have been thoroughly soaked and cooked.

  • Eating too quickly – if you don’t chew properly and eat too fast, the gut bacteria have to do more work, which leads to the formation of gases and can make you feel bloated.

Now that you know the causes, let’s see what you can do to enjoy your beans without feeling like a balloon after every meal.

Soak Properly

The complex carbs guilty of producing your discomfort are sugars, which are soluble in water. So, a proper soaking should get rid of most of them (not all, though).

Use Digestive Aids

Some herbs and spices, such as cumin, ginger, or fennel seeds, are known for stimulating the production of digestive enzymes. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help settle things down if you add them to your bean dishes. 

The Baking Soda Trick

If nothing else works, you may want to try baking soda. While there is no scientific evidence to support its effectiveness, some people swear by it.

The trick adds an extra step to the cooking process. Right after soaking and rinsing, when you put the beans in the pot for boiling, add 2 teaspoons of baking soda to the water. Bring the pot to a boil (the water will foam!) and, after about 1 minute, kill the heat. Drain and rinse the beans, place them back in the pot with regular water this time, and continue the cooking process.

What if I Don’t Like Beans?

Hey, it happens. Everyone’s sense of taste is unique, and you can’t do much about it if yours is saying no to beans.

Still, if you don’t want to miss out on the bomb of healthy nutrients that are beans, there are a few ways to overcome your dislike.

Disclaimer: If you have a bean allergy (even if it’s a mild one), you should not try to include beans in your diet without talking with your healthcare provider.

Start Small and Try Different Types

As I already mentioned in the beginning, there are over 1,000 varieties of beans in the world. So, chances are, you’ll find at least several types that suit your taste. For instance, many people who don’t like beans find dark red kidney beans acceptable.

Start with small portions and see if you can consume them hidden in foods like salads or soups.

Change the Texture

If you don’t like biting into a cooked bean, how about blending them? You can make a wide range of bean-based dips (including hummus) and soups that can be enjoyed with other delicious foods such as veggies, tortilla chips, or toast.

You can also add beans to your morning smoothie (as I pointed out in the Breakfast recipes section). If you add some orange juice or mango cubes to it, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Replace the Meat

Due to their high protein content, beans are a great meat replacement in traditional recipes, especially if you want to switch to a plant-based diet. If you’re not ready to replace the meat completely, try substituting half of the meat with beans. This still brings the health benefits of beans, and it’s environmentally friendly.

Also, let’s not forget – beans are a lot more affordable than meat!

You can use beans in burgers, chilies, stews, tacos, pasta dishes, burritos, meatloaves, stir-fries, and baked dishes. They tend to be infused with the aromatics used in the dish, so you won’t feel much of their original taste. 

The Case of Soybeans

Soybeans are also a member of the legume family and are included in the Beans, Peas, and Lentils subgroup. They are mostly present in Asian cuisine and are usually consumed fresh, which sets them apart from the other members of the group.

In the Western world (the US and most of Europe), soybeans are usually consumed as a meat substitute or processed into milk. However, because they contain a substance that can mimic estrogen (phytoestrogens), there have been some health concerns.

The main worry is that consuming soybean dishes and products could lead to hormonal imbalances, including effects on menstrual cycles, fertility, and breast cancer risk. 

The same substance is believed to inhibit thyroid peroxidase, affecting thyroid hormone production. This could be particularly concerning for individuals with hypothyroidism or iodine deficiency.

However, after thorough studies and years of research, there is no conclusive evidence of a connection between soybean consumption and hormonal imbalances or thyroid dysregulations. This is because the estrogen found in soy differs from the one produced by our bodies, and the 2 substances don’t interact. Phytoestrogen produced by the body  can either mimic estrogen or inhibit estrogen because they compete for the same receptors. This depends on many factors²¹.

In fact, soybeans’ high protein and fiber content may help lower blood sugar, improve muscle health, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (among other benefits). Also, the much-feared phytoestrogens may help prevent insulin resistance and enhance insulin sensitivity²².

Some studies show phytoestrogens can help alleviate menopausal symptoms²³ such as hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep difficulties. They may also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis by promoting bone health, especially after menopause, when lowered estrogen levels stop being protective against osteoporosis²⁴.

So, even though more research is needed, the evidence we do have shows that soybeans and products made from whole soy, like tempeh, tofu, edamame, and soy milk, are beneficial for our health. However, if you still have doubts, it’s best to talk with your healthcare provider, to make sure.


How much beans is safe to consume per day?

U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that around 3 cups of legumes, including beans, be consumed per week. This works out to be around half a cup of cooked beans or 125 g per day.

Are dried beans better than canned?

They both have the same nutrient content, so it comes down to your time and needs. In terms of cost, dried beans are definitely better for your budget, and they contain less sodium. You’ll get a far higher quantity of dried beans than canned beans for the same price. Canned beans are very convenient, though, and don’t require any type of preparation like dry beans, which take 3 to 24 hours to prepare.

Can I eat beans for breakfast?

It might seem strange to eat beans for breakfast but there are lots of delicious ways to incorporate beans into your morning meal. Beans on toast is quick, nutritious, and vegan-friendly. Usually, this would be prepared using cannellini beans or Great Northern beans. A breakfast burrito is another option. Black beans or white beans even go well in a smoothie.


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      2. https://beaninstitute.com/beans-101-2/

        3. https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/Why-are-cooked-dried-beans-and-dried-peas-in-both-the-Protein-Foods-Group-and-the-Vegetable-Group

          4. https://beaninstitute.com/what-type-of-bean-should-i-use/

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                                    17. https://nutritionsource.hsph.harvard.edu/anti-nutrients/

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