Beans: Not Just For Vegetarians

The humble bean! Kidney beans, black beans, navy beans (baked beans) to name a few- they are a type of legume and valuable in every person’s diet. Nutrient dense, low in kilojoules, offering fibre, protein, carbohydrate and B vitamins. No wonder they’re a staple ingredient in dishes all around the world!

What makes beans so nutritious?

Fibre- beans contain all 3 types

  1. Soluble fibre lowers bad cholesterol to keep your heart healthy, slows digestion to keep your blood glucose levels low after eating1
  2. Insoluble fibre keeps your bowels regular1
  3. Resistant starch keeps the good bugs in your colon happy1

Plus, fibre is linked to weight control, reduced inflammation, and enhanced immune function2.

To gain the benefits of fibre you should aim for 30g per day for men and 25g per day for women2.

1 cup of baked beans = 14g fibre


 Protein – Beans are an incomplete protein source (as with most plant-based protein) which means they lack some of the essential amino acids needed for growth and repair3. Fortunately, by pairing 2 complementary proteins together in one meal we can create a complete protein3. Think baked beans on wholemeal toast or Mexican black beans with rice. Methionine is the amino acid found in grains such as bread and rice3. Grains have low amounts of the amino acid lysine which is found in beans, therefore eating these complementary proteins together ensures a complete protein source in one meal3.

 Folate (Vitamin B9) – needed for DNA synthesis and cell growth, which is why during pregnancy the recommendations are much higher. This is important to reduce the risk of neural tube defects and other birth defects3.

B Vitamins – these guys are responsible for ensuring every cell in your metabolic pathway works properly. They help to break down, digest and absorb protein, fat and carbohydrates3.

 But beans give me gas?

If you haven’t been eating beans often, your body may need to adapt to an increase in fibre. Gradually increasing fibre intake and drinking plenty of water will help. Rinsing canned beans can also help.

 So how much should you be eating?

Due to their nutrient profile beans are categorised into two of the five core food groups:

  1. Vegetables and legumes (We should be aiming for 5 serves each).
  2. Meat and or/alternatives (We should be aiming for 1-3 serves each day).

2 -3 times per week is a good amount to aim for.

 How much is a serve?

  • ½ cup of beans when classified as a vegetable OR
  • 1 cup when classified as meat &/or alternatives

Try home made bean and rice burrito bowls. I like this one.

Works Cited

[1] Nutrition Australia, “Fibre,” 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 17 November 2016].

[2] National Health and Medical Research Council , “Dietary Fibre,” 09 April 2014. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 2016 November 2016].

[3] E. Whitney, S. R. Rolfes, T. Crowe, D. Cameron-Smith and A. Walsh, Understanding Nutrition: Australian and New Zealand Edition, Melbourne , Victoria : Cengage Learning, 2011.

[4] National Health and Medical Research Council, “Australian Dietary Guidelines,” 2013. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 17 November 2016].


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