Healthiest Beans For Weight Loss


What are the healthiest beans for weight loss? No, I don’t mean beans that help you lose weight and keep it off either – those exercises won’t do much good if the rest of your diet is full of junk food! Beans and legumes have a special place in the diet for anyone who wants to lose some weight and get healthy.

Why are beans healthy?

Beans are one of the world’s oldest food categories and were a staple of the first people that converted from a nomadic “hunter-gatherer” lifestyle to a more permanent farming existence. 

Beans are easy to store and transport and contain various critical nutrients. They are particularly high in soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as vitamins, minerals, and the majority of amino acids. Additionally, they’re high in protein, yet most varieties still lack at least one necessary amino acid, making their protein content incomplete.

How much beans can you consume?

Because major components in beans have been associated with a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends consuming at least three cups of beans each week.

 Healthy Beans and Legumes You Should Try

Beans and legumes are the fruits or seeds of a family of plants called Fabaceae. Commonly eaten around the world, they are rich sources of fiber and important vitamins and minerals.

They’re also great sources of vegetarian protein. I love to incorporate beans into soups, tacos, salads, and other recipes.

Beans and legumes have a number of health benefits. Eating more of them may help reduce cholesterol, decrease blood sugar levels, and increase healthy gut bacteria (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).

Here are nine of the healthiest beans and legumes you can eat — and why they’re good for you.

1. Chickpeas

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a great source of fiber and protein.

One cup (164 grams) of cooked chickpeas contains (4Trusted Source):

  • Calories: 269
  • Protein: 14.5 grams
  • Fat: 4.25 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 45 grams
  • Fiber: 12.5 grams
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 71% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Copper: 64% of the DV
  • Manganese: 73% of the DV
  • Iron: 26% of the DV

Many scientific studies show that beans and legumes, such as chickpeas, and hummus — which is primarily made from chickpeas — may provide a variety of health benefit

Chickpeas are particularly beneficial for reducing post-meal blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity when compared with other high carb foods

A small study found that eating a low sugar snack with hummus led to a 5% decrease in afternoon blood sugar levels compared with eating granola bars that had a higher sugar content

Eating hummus was also linked to reduced appetite and decreased snacking on desserts later in the day

Since chickpeas and other legumes are high in fiber and beneficial plant compounds, eating them may also help improve the composition of gut bacteria.

Research in mice found that eating a chickpea-supplemented diet altered the structure of gut microbiota in a way that favored their health-promoting properties and helped strengthen the gut barrier

These results suggest that chickpeas may help protect against gut-related diseases. However, research is limited, and we need studies in humans before we can be sure how chickpeas may affect our gut health.


Chickpeas are a great source of fiber, and they’re also low in calories. Eating them may help reduce blood sugar and improve gut health.

2. Lentils

Lentils are a great source of vegetarian protein and can be a good addition to soups and stews.

One cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils contains

  • Calories: 230
  • Protein: 17.9 grams
  • Fat: 0.752 gram
  • Carbs: 39.8 grams
  • Fiber: 15.6 grams
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 30% of the DV
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 90% of the DV
  • Copper: 55% of the DV
  • Iron: 37% of the DV
  • Zinc: 23% of the DV

Lentils are one of the most iron-rich legumes. Iron is a trace mineral that your body needs to make hemoglobin, a protein in the blood that transfers oxygen

Adding lentils to meals to boost iron intake may be especially helpful for vegans and vegetarians, since they may be at an increased risk of iron deficiency anemia 

Similarly to chickpeas, lentils can also help reduce blood sugar.

In a study that included 48 healthy adults, replacing half of the carbs from rice or potatoes with carbs from cooked lentils at a meal led to significant decreases in post-meal blood sugars compared with eating rice or potatoes alone

Another study in more than 3,000 people found that those with the highest intake of lentils and other legumes had the lowest rates of diabetes

Finally, lentil sprouts may also help heart health by reducing low density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and increasing high density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol


Lentils are a great source of vegetarian protein and iron. Eating them may reduce blood sugar levels compared with some other foods that are high in carbs.

3. Peas

Peas are also a type of legume. One cup (160 grams) of cooked green peas contains (15Trusted Source):

  • Calories: 134
  • Protein: 8.58 grams
  • Fat: 0.35 gram
  • Carbs: 25 grams
  • Fiber: 8.8 grams
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 35% of the DV
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 25% of the DV
  • Manganese: 37% of the DV
  • Vitamin K: 35% of the DV

The high quality protein, fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidant compounds in peas contribute to health benefits like nourishing good gut bacteria and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels

Peas are a particularly good source of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin necessary for proper blood clotting and bone health

They are also fairly high in protein. A lot of research has shown that pea protein, which is often added to foods or used as a supplement, may have benefits.

A study including 120 men who engaged in weight training for 12 weeks found that taking 50 grams of pea protein per day led to increases in muscle thickness compared with a placebo

Muscle gains associated with pea protein were comparable to those from whey protein 

In animals, pea protein has been shown to lower blood pressure

However, keep in mind that it’s not necessary to eat pea protein supplements to reap these benefits. Peas on their own provide plenty of important nutrients.


Peas contain protein, fiber, and micronutrients that provide benefits like promoting a healthy gut and blood pressure. Isolated pea protein may help with muscle-building.

4. Kidney beans

Kidney beans are one of the most commonly consumed beans and are often eaten with rice. They have a number of health benefits.

One cup (177 grams) of cooked kidney beans contains

  • Calories: 225
  • Protein: 15.3 grams
  • Fat: 0.885 gram
  • Carbs: 40.4 grams
  • Fiber: 13.1 grams
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 24% of the DV
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 58% of the DV
  • Copper: 48% of the DV
  • Manganese: 37% of the DV
  • Iron: 29% of the DV

Foods that are high in fiber, such as kidney beans, can help slow the absorption of sugar into the blood and therefore reduce blood sugar levels

Eating kidney beans may also help reduce risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure.

One study in healthy adults found that eating 3/4 cup (133 grams) of red kidney beans led to significantly lower blood pressure 2 hours after consumption compared with the same amount of rice

Finally, kidney beans are an excellent source of folate. Eating folate-rich foods is especially important for pregnant people, since this water-soluble vitamin is vital for fetal neurological development


Kidney beans contain high amounts of fiber and may help reduce the rise in blood sugar that happens after a meal. They’re also high in folate, which is an especially important nutrient during pregnancy.

5. Black beans

Like many other beans, black beans are a great source of fiber, protein, and folate. They are a staple food in Central and South America.

One cup (172 grams) of cooked black beans contains

  • Calories:227
  • Protein: 15.2 grams
  • Fat: 0.929 gram
  • Carbs: 40.8 grams
  • Fiber: 15 grams
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 35% of the DV
  • Folate (vitamin B9): 64% of the DV
  • Iron: 20% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 29% of the DV
  • Manganese: 33% of the DV

In addition to being packed with nutrients, black beans have been found to positively affect gut bacteria.

One study in rats found that eating black beans increased a cluster of bacteria in the gut that may result in improved insulin sensitivity. We need more human research into whether those effects are the same for us, though

Black beans may also help with blood sugar management due to their lower glycemic index compared to many other high-carbohydrate foods. This means they cause a smaller rise in blood sugar after a meal.

Research suggests that if people eat black beans with rice, the beans can reduce this rise in blood sugar compared with rice alone


Black beans may help with blood sugar management by modifying gut bacteria. They may also help reduce the rise in blood sugar after a meal compared with other high carb foods, such as rice.

Healthiest Beans for Legume Lovers

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Love legumes? Bookmark this list of the healthiest beans! Beans and their legume cousins are largely unsung nutritional heroes.

Beans have so many nutritional benefits,” says Krista Maguire, R.D., C.S.S.D., nutrition manager at Beachbody.

“They contain fiber and plant-based protein, which can help keep you feeling full and satisfied,” she explains. “In addition, they are rich in iron, magnesium, and folate,” all essential micronutrients.

They’re also affordable and versatile. You can use beans in stews, casseroles, and stir-fry. You can also blend them into creamy soups or dips.

Get to know all of your legume options.

Fun Fact: All beans are legumes, but not all legumes are beans. Legumes are plants that produce seeds or fruit inside a pod. This class of vegetables includes beans, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, and peas, among many others.

“They all have their own star power,” says Maguire.

Here’s what you need to know about each of the healthiest beans.

1. Chickpeas

Per half-cup of these cooked legumes, you’ll get:

  • 135 calories
  • 7 grams of protein
  • 2 grams of fat
  • 22 grams of carbohydrates
  • 6 grams of fiber

Chickpeas can do so much more than make delicious hummus.

These legumes are “very malleable in terms of their flavorings,” says Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., a senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

They’re also hardy enough to add to salad or bake in the oven for a crispy little treat, she adds.

For a new way to enjoy them, try our chickpea curry or maple-chai roasted chickpeas.

2. White Beans

White beans are impressively versatile. Sure, you can add them to soup and chili, but try something outside of the box.

Mushroom and white bean meatballs are a surprisingly meaty vegetarian option, and this white bean and roasted red pepper hummus will change how you look at the dip.

Enjoy a half-cup serving of white beans in either of these recipes for:

  • 125 calories
  • 9 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 22 grams of carbohydrates
  • 6 grams of fiber

As tempting as it is to dish up more, stick with a half-cup serving of beans when you’re adding legumes to your diet.

Eating too many too quickly “can cause some discomfort to those who aren’t used to eating a lot of fiber or beans in particular,” warns Maguire.

3. Black Beans

Don’t be scared to buy in bulk. Bags of dried black beans are cheap, and prepping them isn’t as hard as you think.

“If you have the time to soak them overnight, that is the traditional way to prepare dried beans,” explains Hunnes.

Once you’ve soaked them for 24 hours and drained the water, boil or simmer them until they become soft.

It’s not a deal-breaker if you don’t have time to soak them, though. Just rinse them and get them boiling.

A half-cup serving of black beans provides:

  • 113 calories
  • 8 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 20 grams of carbohydrates
  • 8 grams of fiber

Try black beans in our fiber-packed corn and black bean salad, or throw some in your chicken burrito bowl to stay full for hours on your busiest days.

Black beans are also an excellent way to bulk up a salad.

4. Red Kidney Beans

“All beans are incredibly healthy,” says Hunnes, but kidney beans may be at the top of the list if you were to try to rank them.

That’s because “the darker the bean, the more naturally occurring healthy plant-nutrients (phytonutrients) are in it,” she explains.

These beans hold up well in turkey or vegetarian chili recipes and are even sturdy enough to set and forget in the slow cooker.

(Only use canned or pre-cooked kidney beans in slow cooker meals; these beans must be boiled before consuming.)

Dish yourself up a half-cup of kidney beans for:

  • 113 calories
  • 8 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 20 grams of carbohydrates
  • 7 grams of fiber

5. Lentils

If you’re prioritizing protein, look no further than this legume.

Lentils “pack a huge nutritional punch in such a small package,” says Maguire, “and often have slightly more protein than beans.”

Dish up a half-cup serving for:

  • 115 calories
  • 9 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 20 grams of carbohydrates
  • 9 grams of protein

Try them in a rainbow lentil bowl or lentil lime salad for a filling meal year-round.

Once the temperature plunges, cuddle up with a bowl of our lentil soup for healthy comfort.

Whipping up these recipes is easy since lentils don’t take as long to cook and often don’t need to be soaked before cooking like beans, adds Maguire.

6. Soybeans

You may have heard that plant protein isn’t “complete” protein, which just means it doesn’t contain all nine essential amino acids.

Soybeans, though, are a complete protein.

We like packing edamame with cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese as a midday snack that’s easy to meal prep.

Toss shelled edamame into salads or use as toppers for grain bowls. That’s not all though.

“They can be roasted into a peanut-like crunchy texture” for an addictive snack, says Hunnes.

You can also blend them with a bit of oil and salt for a spin on traditional hummus. One half-cup shelled edamame will deliver:

  • 94 calories
  • 9 grams of protein
  • 4 grams of fat
  • 7 grams of carbohydrates
  • 4 grams of fiber


Beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and iron. Studies have shown that many of the nutrients in beans have potential health benefits, which range from decreasing cholesterol to maintaining low blood sugar.

People can add beans to their favorite recipes, replace meat with beans, and try new bean-based spreads.

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