The word "keto" is everywhere nowadays—your IG feed, the grocery store aisles, food labels, cookbooks galore, the list goes on. It’s a super popular diet, and if you’re trying to do it yourself, you might be Googling very specific types of foods to clarify whether you can eat them on the keto diet or not. And since they’re so delicious and protein-rich, you might find yourself asking: Are beans keto? Here’s the answer: It’s complicated.
First things first, let’s get a little bit more specific about what the keto diet even is. “A keto diet is a very low carbohydrate diet,” explains Keri Gans, RDN. “The goal is to put your body into ketosis, and that is achieved by reducing your carb consumption to around 20 to 50 grams per day, depending on your size.” Overall, your diet is supposed to consist mainly of calories from fat, says Gans, which is ultimately quite restrictive compared to other eating methods. (a.k.a., be sure to consult your doctor before diving in.)
That said, because they’re so yummy, where do beans fit in when it comes to the keto diet? Are beans keto at all? What are some ways you can (or can’t) incorporate them? All of these inquiries are totally understandable, especially considering there is a plethora of conflicting nutrition information out there on the Internet. For answers to all of these questions and more—all according to RDs—keep reading.
Tell me: Can you eat beans on a low-carb diet like keto?
To start, you should know that beans are actually *super* good for you. “Beans are a powerhouse in terms of nutrition,” says Vandana Sheth, RDN, author of My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes. “They’re rich in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, and they’re also a source of carbs.” (Basically, beans are a great item to include in your regular, balanced diet.)
So, even though they’re pretty darn good for you in general, can you eat beans on a daily basis when you’re doing a low-carb diet? Well, technically yes, but it’s hard. “Incorporating beans into a low-carb, high-fat keto diet could be challenging,” Sheth explains. Why? Well, while you can have them, technically, they will take up a significant portion of your allowed carb intake on the diet.
“For example, one cup of cooked chickpeas provides 35 grams of carbs,” Sheth says. If you’re only allowing yourself 50 grams of carbs per day, max, adding beans can mean that will add up fast. The good news? One cup of cooked chickpeas also has 10.7 grams of protein, and 9.6 grams of fiber, all of which are great contributions to your nutritional intake. The bottom line: If you want to incorporate beans into your keto routine, you just need to practice pretty careful portion control.
Which beans are the most keto-friendly?
Honestly, you can technically eat *any* bean when you’re taking part in the keto diet. But if you want to spread out your carbs throughout several meals instead of eating them all in one cup of black beans (which would also be fine!), here’s the deal. (Though just know you should never be too restrictive when it comes to your meals.)
“The only beans that are super keto-friendly are green beans and black soybeans,” explains Gans. What makes them so special? Well, while they have roughly the same nutritional value as any other type of beans, green beans and black soybeans are particularly low in carbs: “A 1/2 cup of black soybeans provides only eight grams of carbs, 11 grams of protein, seven grams of fiber, and six grams total of fat,” Gans notes. *This* is what makes them "keto-friendly," per se.
The carb counts of various bean types
If you’re looking for a little bit more info on bean types and their various carb counts according to the USDA database, see below. Each of these nutritional values are determined based on half cup measurements.
Black beans: 20 grams of carbs
Greens beans: 4 grams of carbs
Black soybeans: 8 grams of carbs
Lentils: 18 grams of carbs
Chickpeas: 25 grams of carbs
Kidney beans: 20 grams of carbs
Lima beans: 19 grams of carbs
What are some good bean substitutes?
Now that you have all the information you need on beans and their relationship to the keto diet, you might be wondering how you can work other low-carb, similarly-textured foods into your everyday eats and meal prep. (Or, if you just don’t like beans in general, you might be looking for some substitutes.) Here are some great go-to options, according to Sheth.
Mushrooms. Because of their textured and earth-y taste, chopped mushrooms are a great substitute for any bean-centered meals if you’re looking for a swappable option.
Eggplant. “Consider other low-carb vegetables as a swap for beans,” says Sheth. She recommends changing out carb-heavy options like hummus for eggplant-based dips like babaganoush.
Peanuts. Yep, boiled peanuts are legumes, and they can totally be a go-to if you’re looking for a bean substitute. Why? “They are low in carbs and can provide a similar texture to dishes,” says Sheth.
Avocado. Looking for a high-fat, low-carb substitute for your favorite beans? Avocados or dips like guacamole are a flavorful and easy-to-incorporate option, Sheth says.
Ground meat. High-protein, lean ground meats are also a flavorful and filling substitute for beans, if you’re not on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
The bottom line: Beans can totally be part of a keto diet if you consume low-carb beans, like green beans and black soy beans, and keep track of your portions.
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