Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein, but if you've assumed you can't have them on a low-carb diet, think again. While it's true that beans are high in carbohydrates, "along with that comes fiber — mostly soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol — and important vitamins and minerals like folate, potassium, iron, and zinc," Kris Sollid, RD, senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation, told POPSUGAR.
If you're familiar with a low-carb diet, you know that fiber reduces your net carbs and can help you stay within your desired range. "Just because beans contain carbohydrates, that doesn't mean they can't be eaten as part of a lower carbohydrate diet," Kris said. "For example, a half cup serving of canned low-sodium black beans contains about 20 grams of carbohydrate, almost 9 of which are fiber, reducing the net carbs to only 11 grams." This number should fit well within any low-carb plan.
You'll also do your body good by adding some fiber to your plate, Kris explained. A low-carb diet can shortchange your body on fiber if you cut back on portions of fruits, whole grains, and starchy vegetables in order to stay on track — and fiber is good for digestion, helps you feel full after meals, and may help ward off certain types of cancer. "If you follow a low-carb eating plan, beans are a good choice to help you reach your daily fiber needs," she said.
Still, "portion size is key to ensuring you get a good mix of macronutrients in your diet. This goes for protein sources like meats, but it also applies to fruits, vegetables, and beans, too," Kris added. "Whether they be black, red, navy, or northern, adding even a small amount of beans — one-quarter to one-third of a cup — to omelets, salads, or a low-carb quesadilla is a great way to 'beef' up these classics with some plant-based nutrition." Bottom line: there's no need to fear beans when going low-carb diet, but keep an eye on your portions, and remember that variety is important for any diet.