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Are Beans Keto Friendly? Here are 11 ranked by net carbs

Beans are healthy, nutritious, and one of the most common foods on the planet.

They are a cooking staple in dozens of countries and are one of the most popular foods found in vegetarian keto dishes.

In many diets, bean consumption would be encouraged for their protein and fiber density…

But are they really all that keto-friendly?

Let’s find out!

To help you determine which beans fit your diet, we’re going to cover:

  1. Which beans are most keto-friendly.
  2. The exact nutrition facts of macronutrients in each type.
  3. The serving-size that provides us a keto-friendly low carb count.
Spoiler alert: most all beans and legumes will require a small serving size. However using our list below you’ll know what that keto-safe serving size actually is!

An Introduction to Beans

Beans (technically classified as legumes) are one of the oldest and most common ingredients in history.

As reviewed by the University of North Dakota, adding beans to your diet may reduce the risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and cancer; while being relatively ‘special-diet’ safe with a gluten free status (3).

Beans also contain several vitamins and minerals (1) such as:

  • Vitamin A
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Folate
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorous
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Selenium

Granted, that doesn’t mean beans will agree with everyone or any diet strategy.

White kidney beans and pinto beans have been found to be the largest offenders, with insanely high-calorie counts for even just a cup of beans.

Beans can also be a source of digestive problems due to inflammation caused by enzymes. Though subject-ability occurs on a rare case-by-case basis and can dissipate over time (4).


Are Beans Keto Friendly?

Well, it’s not that simple.

Beans that are high in carbs would be very difficult to work into a ketogenic diet, and it would require a great deal of planning as well as the careful recording of your carbohydrate intake.

However, not all beans have the same amount of calories and carbs. There are options out there for people that want to work beans into a ketogenic diet.

But they are few and far between…

Beans that are high in carbs and calories are decidedly not keto-friendly.

But that doesn’t mean you cannot add smaller-than-standard-diet portions of other beans to your keto diet. Let’s cover some basic bean macronutrient breakdowns and what a keto-friendly portion would look like.


11 Beans (in keto friendly portions)

Below we have laid out the most popular beans along with their macros and ideal keto serving size. For most of these, consider using the small serving to make a flavorful spread to add a new consistency or flavor kick to your keto dishes. While collecting macro data and considerations, we used the bean institute and my food data extensively.

Tip: Total net carbs will decrease as we approach #1, the most keto-friendly bean. Don’t know how many carbs you’re allowed to eat a day? Use our easy keto calculator here for your personalized macros!

#11 Chick Peas

Chick Peas likely weren’t your original thought for keto friendly beans, however we couldn’t resist touching on this similar food item along the way. Afterall, haven’t you wondered if hummus is keto friendly?

Well, the short answer is no for typically prepared hummus products, as initial chickpeas are quite carb dense.

Macros per ½ cup cooked Chick Peas:

  • Calories: 135
  • Net Carbs: 16 grams
  • Fiber: 6 grams
  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Fat: 2 grams

In order to enjoy chick peas, you will need to target a serving size of about 1/5th a cup which is still about 6 grams of carbs. Hummus, on the other hand will need to be in even smaller quantities unless prepared using keto-friendly chickpea alternatives.


#10 White Kidney Beans

Of all the standard bean varieties, white kidney beans are extremely tough to swing on the keto diet. We would not recommend attempting them, as there are better options for you to consider. Just take a look at the macros…

Macros per ½ cup cooked White Kidney Beans:

  • Calories: 124
  • Net Carbs: 16 grams
  • Fiber: 8 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Fat: 0.3 grams

We recommend choosing to completely avoid this high-carb bean variety unless you are taking a strategic break from the keto diet.


#9 Pinto Beans

Commonly eaten whole, smashed or refried – pinto beans are widely eaten in Central America and the southern United States. Unfortunately for those of us optimizing our diet through ketosis – these speckled beans are a bit high on the carb side.

Macros per ½ cup cooked Pinto Beans:

  • Calories: 122
  • Net Carbs: 14 grams
  • Fiber: 8 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 0.6 grams

To enjoy Pinto Beans, you will need to once again aim for a 1/5th cup serving size. This will target a little under 6 grams net carbs per serving. Note that the fat content is extremely low, which significantly skews our goal keto ratios.


#8 Navy Beans

Navy Beans are nearly as poor a choice as pinto, containing 14 grams net carbs per ½ cup serving size. The only thing that makes Navy slightly better, is the extra 2 grams fiber per ½ cup. Should you be eating Navy Bean soup on keto? Probably not.

Macros per ½ cup cooked Navy Beans:

  • Calories: 127
  • Net Carbs: 14 grams
  • Fiber: 10 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 0.6 grams

Navy beans must be restricted to under 1/5th cup serving size like pinto beans to target under 6 grams net carbs.


#7 Cranberry Beans

Often compared to pinto beans, cranberry beans are slightly more creamy and contain a whopping 1 gram less net carbs per ½ cup. Unfortunately, that still leaves us at a high carb count of 13 grams per ½ cup – so cranberry (or borlotti) beans will need to be restricted.

Macros per ½ cup cooked Cranberry Beans:

  • Calories: 120
  • Net Carbs: 13 grams
  • Fiber: 9 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 0.4 grams

Restricting cranberry bean serving sizes to 1/5 a cup will total a hair under 5 grams net carbs per serving.


#6 Light Red Kidney Beans

With kidney beans, a little pigmentation goes a long way. Light red kidney beans contain 3 grams less net carbs per ½ cup than their white counterpart. This still isn’t good, but every carb counts!

Macros per ½ cup cooked Light Red Kidney Beans:

  • Calories: 112
  • Net Carbs: 13 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 0.4 grams

Similar to Cranberry Beans, a serving size of 1/5th cup red kidney beans will provide a hair under 5 grams net carbs.


#5 Great Northern Bean

Distinguished by their ‘nutty’ taste, great northern beans contain similar macronutrient profiles to both cranberry and light red kidney beans. That means moderation will be required if you’re faced with eating these at a family event.

Macros per ½ cup cooked Great Northern Beans:

  • Calories: 104
  • Net Carbs: 13 grams
  • Fiber: 6 grams
  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Fat: 0.4 grams

When boiled from dry beans, great northern beans will deliver just under 5 grams net carbs at 1/5th cup serving size. Small, yes – but keto responsible.


#4 Black Beans

Black beans often get a bad rap in the keto community, however compared to other legumes they really aren’t that bad. Personally, in very small quantities a smashed black bean spread is the perfect way to spice up Mexican style keto dishes!

Macros per ½ cup cooked Black Beans:

  • Calories: 114
  • Net Carbs: 12 grams
  • Fiber: 8 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 0.5 grams

That’s 24 grams of net carbs per cup, so you would need to cut your serving down to 1/5th a cup for a reasonable 4.8 gram net carbs per serving. Remember that this would be zilch fat – you’ll need to get it else ware.


#3 Mung Beans

To the untrained eye, mung beans highly resemble peas with their round green appearance. Though unfortunately, mung beans are about 4.5 grams net carbs higher per ½ serving than peas!

Macros per ½ cup cooked Mung Beans:

  • Calories: 105
  • Net Carbs: 12 grams
  • Fiber: 8 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 0.4 grams

Like black beans, exotic mung beans should be restricted to 1/5th a cup for 4.8 grams net carbs per serving.

Our advice? Opt for peas instead which are about 7.6 grams net carbs per ½ cup. That means under 4 grams per 1/4th cup!


#2 Dark Red Kidney Beans

Again, pigmentation goes a long way with kidney beans! The dark red variety contains just 11 grams net carbs per ½ cup, which we can work with much easier than white kidney beans.

Macros per ½ cup cooked Dark Red Kidney Beans:

  • Calories: 109
  • Net Carbs: 11 grams
  • Fiber: 8 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 0.2 grams

For a more hardy meal, you can eat 1/4th a cup of dark red kidney beans which will provide just 5.5 grams net carbs. Be sure to use lots of butter or olive oil to get your fat macros up!


# 1 Eden Canned Black Soybeans

Ranking #1 is the most keto-friendly bean on our list – black soy beans. This isn’t a surprise to you if you are already enjoying tofu on the keto det. As you know, firm tofu is very low in carbohydrates.

Macros per ½ cup cooked canned Eden Black Soybeans:

  • Calories: 120
  • Net Carbs: 1 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams
  • Protein: 11 grams
  • Fat: 6 grams

As long as you’re able to add in extra fat to your diet, you can eat plenty of black soybeans. Just be mindful of soy’s estrogenic effects (which can be good for women but bad for men).


Less strict and athlete specific keto diets allow more wiggle room for beans

Another factor that will contribute to whether or not you can consume beans regularly on a ketogenic diet is what your level of activity is.

If you are adhering to the standard ketogenic diet guidelines, chances are that you won’t have room for any beans in your everyday keto diet.

However, if you are using the targeted ketogenic diet guidelines, you may have some more flexibility to allow for beans in your diet.

The targeted ketogenic diet is designed for individuals that exercise far more often. These people will have a higher threshold for carbohydrate intake, up to 100 total additional carbs per day.

If you are extremely active and use the cyclical ketogenic diet plan, you will need more carbs still.

This version of the ketogenic diet is centered around carbohydrate consumption, and these carbs are necessary to keep you energized.

This diet uses the standard ketogenic diet for five days of the week and then allows for two days of carbohydrate backloading. These two days of carbohydrate consumption is where you would presumably be able to consume all the beans you’d like.


Summary

While beans have always been and continue to be valuable food in worldwide cuisine, their relationship with the ketogenic diet is unfortunately strained.

For most people, it would be unreasonable to expect to be able to consume a significant amount of beans daily. The carbohydrates in beans are just too high to be able to include it in a standard ketogenic diet.

If you are active and follow either the targeted ketogenic diet or the cyclical ketogenic diet, you may have room for beans in your diet, but will still need to plan out your carb intake and be sure you don’t consume too many.

We have found that a majority of keto dieters will not be able to enjoy beans and therefore we must declare it not “keto-friendly”.

Our hack for consuming beans on keto: Don’t bother with trying to makes beans a staple point.  Rather add small keto-friendly portions of well-cooked, smashed, or refried style beans to dishes to add a new layer of complexity.

Do you have a favorite bean or bean dish that we didn't cover above? Please share it below for your fellow keto warriors!

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