Spill the Beans: Are They Healthy Or Not?

Beans, Beans, good for your heart…

To quote a favorite saying among male classmates when I was in second grade. This quote claims that beans are good for your heart, among other things.

Not that we can put any stock in a childhood saying, of course, but the general consensus in the health community is that beans are, in general, a “health” food and that when combined with rice, form a perfect protein for vegetarians.

Beans show up in some form in many different cultures and countries, though preparation methods vary vastly. Americans, for our part, get most of our bean consumption from soy and soy products.

Peanuts, technically also a legume and not a nut, also make up a substantial part of our bean consumption, and are also a rapidly rising allergy, especially among children.

What’s In A Bean?

Beans contain a lot of soluble fiber, protein, carbohydrates, folate and iron. They also contain Lectins, which are also present in high amounts in grains. Because of their protein content, beans (legumes) often get a primary role in the diet of vegetarians, though not without cost.

The lectins in legumes are an important protective measure for the bean plant, and a potentially harmful one for humans. Before the dawn of genetically modified disease resistant soybeans (gee, thanks Monsanto) and their corresponding toxic pesticides and herbicides, legume plants were actually quite able to defend themselves.

What do Lectins Do?

Lectins are specific proteins that bind to carbohydrates, and exist in plants in varying levels as a protective mechanism. When animals who are not adapted to consuming particular types of lectins eat them, they will experience pain or death.

This reaction is not absent in humans, as I mentioned when I explained why grains can be so harmful. As Wikipedia explains, one example of lectin reaction in humans:

Some kinds of raw beans and especially red and kidney beans, contain a harmful toxin (the lectin Phytohaemagglutinin) that must be destroyed by cooking. A recommended method is to boil the beans for at least ten minutes; undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans.[8] Cooking beans in a slow cooker, because of the lower temperatures often used, may not destroy toxins even though the beans do not smell or taste ‘bad’[8] (though this should not be a problem if the food reaches boiling and stays there for some time).

At the extreme, lectins are potent enough to be a biological warfare agent as in the case of ricin. Ricin is a lectin isolated in the castor oil bean and it acts on certain protein cells, allowing the ricin to enter the cell and prevent protein synthesis, eventually leading to cell death.

Obviously, some lectins have more toxic effects than others, as evidenced by the example above, but all lectins have some effect on the body. This is the reason that grains, beans, and other lectin containing foods cannot be eaten raw.

Lectins are capable of harming the lining of the intestines, especially the microvilli. This happens when the lectins bind to the protein receptors in the intestinal lining, causing damage.

When the intestines are damaged, lectins, and the foods that they bind to, can pass through the intestinal wall and into the blood stream. These sticky molecules can then wreak havoc in the bloodstream.

Once lectins are floating around in the bloodstream, they can bind to any carbohydrate containing protein cells, including insulin and leptin receptors, desensitizing them. Without proper insulin and leptin function, problems like diabetes and metabolic syndrome can emerge. It is speculated that lectins may cause insulin and leptin resistance, two major factors in obesity and diabetes. As Whole Health Source explains:

What is not so speculative is that once you’re leptin-resistant, you become obese and insulin resistant, and at that point you are intolerant to any type of carbohydrate. This may explain the efficacy of carbohydrate restriction in weight loss and improving general health.

Wikipedia adds:

Lectin may cause leptin resistance, affecting its functions (signal have high levels of leptin and several effects gathering to protect from lipid overload), as indicated by studies on effects of single nucleotide polymorphisms on the function of leptin and the leptin receptor.[9]

Such leptin resistance may translate into diseases, notably it could be responsible for obesity in humans who have high levels of leptin.

Lectins also have the potential to bind to any carbohydrate containing tissue in the body, from the thyroid to the heart. (Maybe beans aren’t so good for the heart after all!). My personal theory is that sticky particles and pre-digested food floating around in the bloodstream does much more to clog arteries than slippery saturated fats, which get the bad rap!

So, lectins can contribute to disease and obesity when they pass through the intestinal wall and float through our bloodstream with other parts of pre-digested food. Personally,I’m not a big fan of the idea of partially digested food floating around in my blood, so is there a solution?

Reducing Lectin in Beans and Grains

I certainly don’t want to let beans take all the heat here! Grains contain just as high of levels of lectins and can wreak just as much havok, if not more.

All plants, in fact, contain lectins in varying amounts. Grains and beans (especially soybeans and peanuts) have especially high concentrations, along with nuts, pasteurized dairy, and genetically modified foods.

The harmful effects of lectins (and phytic acid) can be mitigated some by using traditional methods of perpetration, like sprouting, fermenting, and soaking, though even these do not remove the lectins completely. Unfortunately, these methods are rarely practiced anymore, and grains in the processed forms we typically consume are little lectin powerhouses.

Over time, these lectins can cause serious damage to the intestinal lining and eventually cellular damage within the body.

What Level of Lectin Consumption is Safe?

This is a difficult question with no single answer. Certainly, if foods containing high levels of lectins are going to be consumed, traditional methods like soaking, fermenting, and sprouting should be used to minimize the lectin content.

My personal recommendation is the get rid of the highest sources of lectins and reduce the other sources if possible. From Wikipedia:

Foods with high concentrations of lectins, such as beans, cereal grains, seeds, and nuts, may be harmful if consumed in excess in uncooked or improperly cooked form. Adverse effects may include nutritional deficiencies, and immune (allergic) reactions[7]. Possibly, most effects of lectins are due to gastrointestinal distress through interaction of the lectins with the gut epithelial cells. A recent in vitro study has suggested that the mechanism of lectin damage may occur by interfering with the repair of already-damaged epithelial cells.[8]

Personally, I avoid the grains (and legumes except rare occasions), soak nuts overnight, and trust that the much lower levels in other plants won’t harm my intestines too much. Removing all processed and commercially prepared foods will remove the worst offenders: grains and soy.

If you are overweight or attempting to lose weight, a more stringent avoidance of lectins might be helpful. Since lectins can bind to leptin and insulin receptors, they can increase resistance to carbohydrates and cause weight gain or inability to lose weight.

For many, avoiding lectins, especially for a year or so, can help heal the intestinal lining, and facilitate weight loss, reduction of allergy symptoms, and other health improvements.

So, I guess second grade logic isn’t so solid after all…. beans aren’t necessarily good for the heart, though other parts of the saying still ring true!

Shared on Fight Back Friday.

Reader Comments

  1. says

    What about buying canned organic black beans, rinsing them well and eating them heated? We avoid most grains and eat sprouted wheat bread, but we love black beans and include them in our meal rotation. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Thank you!

  2. Dee says

    wow – this is really interesting – I have been eating a lot of nuts thinking they were good fat and low carb, but have been going a bit overboard and noticed I have begun to gain weight. What about hemp seeds? I find that I can limit myself to 3 T which is the recommended serving size – should these be soaked?

  3. Mary says

    Love this blog (although I am a fan of occasional grains – they are so tasty! – and eat a lot of lentils), but wikipedia as your main source? Really? Not to go all teacher-y on you here, but you’d be much more convincing if you cited studies directly.

    • sheesh says

      Did you really not read anything above? Wik was not her main source….and she explains why she didn’t use studies…..

      Wellness Mama MOD • a month ago • parent

      I
      was not using wikipedia as a source for the claims I was making, just
      merely to illustrate that beans do indeed contain lectins (which is
      common information and is found in textbooks as well… they are just
      much harder to link to online). I don’t use Wikipedia to back any
      conclusions, just to illustrate points. For instance, wikipedia also
      says that there is folate in green leafy veggies (there is) and I don’t
      doubt that claim simply because it is on wikipedia. For instance, here’s
      evidence from sources that beans do, indeed, contain lectins: From
      cornell: http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/p… Here’s one from Oxford Journal: http://glycob.oxfordjournals.o… University of Leuven: http://www.sciencedirect.com/s… PLOS: http://www.plosone.org/article… Lund University: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1

      • Lucie says

        I find this amazing that you would bring out one point about beans they contain Lectins. but disregard the tons of information that is out there supporting the benefits of beans, black beans and lentils and Diabetes which are helpful to people with type 2 diabetes and weight loss of course your information is not proof of anything truthful if you don’t have a degree and a study to back up what you are telling your readers ……………………………..http://beaninstitute.com/health-benefits/beans-and-diabetes/………………………………… if your going to say stuff about beans then you had better have some kind of Doctors degree on Nutrition otherwise your not doing any favors to your readers. Spreading the wrong information out weights the benefits of the right information. Here are links that do work Thanks :D …………………………………http://nutritionfacts.org/video/beans-and-the-second-meal-effect/

        • says

          Hi Lucie… thanks for reading. I actually do have a degree in nutrition and while beans can have some healthy components, especially if soaked and properly prepared, they do in fact have lectins which can be very problematic for some people. For instance, I have an autoimmune disease and eating beans can cause me to have gastro and skin symptoms for days. Incidentally, an autoimmune diet can also be extremely helpful for someone with diabetes (no beans needed). Do you find it a conflict of interest at all that one of your sources is the Beans Institute, which would seem to have a slight vested interest in proclaiming the benefits of beans?

    • Hey says

      This comment is old but I have something to say about wikipedia-
      You know that just because anyone can post something on wikipedia doesn’t mean it’s incorrect. Have you ever tried posting something that is totally false on wikipedia? They will remove it so fast. People monitor the additions to wikipedia all the time and remove things that aren’t true. It’s actually a reliable source of info. Not once have I found info on wikipedia that was not verifiable through other sources. Just saying.
      I just had some delicious beans. I hope they aren’t killing me slowly from the inside right now.

  4. says

    I even make my own almond flour for this reason.  I follow the directions in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. I Soak them for at least 8 hours with a tbsp of Celtic sea salt, then I rinse them and blot them dry and dry them in the oven at 150 degrees for 24 hours. (I dry my pecans for 12, but the almonds take longer). Then I grind them in my food processor.

  5. Rgb707 says

    This is such BS! I have been eating beans almost every day for years, chic-peas, kidneys, navy,etc. with no ill health effects. You  can’t take a common substance in a food and analize it “out of context” without the other substances it was a part of and then jump to the conclusion that its bad for you. Kind of like vitamin A which we all need and is in a lot of foods but we have also heard that too much can be harmful. Beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein with no fat and I am NOT going to stop eating them just because of a bunch of crack-pot scare articles. Remember all those studies years ago about how bad coffee was? 

      • guest says

        And what’s wrong with being an registered dietitian? (note the spelling). What career do you have that you consider superior?

      • Nemo says

        Im late but I dint think this person is being nasty. I can see how annoyed they are by the miseducation these people are getting. I feel sorry for people who are believing every little thing on this blog. It may have some points but goodness

    • Proud2bfromtheUSA says

      Do what you like, but this article explains why for years eating a low fat high grain diet has made me a fat diabetic. Especially since obesity and diabetes doesn’t run in my family. Eating more beans and less meat have not helped me. If it has not hurt you then Hurrah but to call another’s work BS from no other research than your own antidotal evidence is not very nice. Perhaps all those beans has effected your ability to converse in civil discourse.

    • Haley says

      Ummmm, coffee is very bad for you. Try drinking 4 cups a day for a month and then going cold turkey. Coffee makes me sick to the point of severe migraines and, in one instance, vomiting.
      No one is making you stop eating beans. And the only person coming off as a crack pot is you and your extreme reaction to an article that in no way offends or threatens your bean-loving way of life.
      Do what you want.

    • Divinity says

      Everyone is an health expert now. Beans is one, if not the greatest food around. Beans is one of the few food that you can eat everyday without side effects. The gas issue is not that bad. To remove the gas, boil the beans and change the water to a fresh one. This takes care of gas issues.

      Beans does not make you fat. No science can convince me otherwise even if they do ‘their experiment’. A lot of college student in some parts of africa who are poor resort to eating beans everyday cause it make them full longer. No side effects. I have seen more people eating beans almost everyday. For the record, I have never cook them ‘the right way’. I boil and cook it without changing the water. Gas? yes. It is manageable.

  6. MSU Nutritionist says

    Does anyone else have a problem with that fact that this article was researched using Wikipedia? Any halfway serious academic knows that many of the sources used for Wiki articles are biased, not fully researched, and/or full of dated material. Wellness Mama, if you care about your credibility, you should probably use ACTUAL research studies/academic sources, not Google.

    • says

      I agree that Wikipedia is no scientific journal, but the components of beans are very well documented and wikipedia provided an easy overview that was more readable than a scientific article in this instance. If you disagree that beans contain lectins (as wikiepdia stated) i’d like to see your cite…

      • says

        Countless researches have shown that beans are healthy! Filled with protein, iron, fiber and vitamins. Plus, both grains and legumes are heart healthy since they have shown to lower cholesterol.

        If you prepare your beans the right way, how is it still bad? Honestly, I feel like the good outweighs the bad when it comes to beans.

          • Tenuod888 says

            The studies done to prove beans are high in protein, fiber and vitamins is a fact.  It’s real. But about the other studies…

            http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15145789/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/benefits-beans-include-lower-cancer-risk/

            shows that studies have proven beans lower the risk of colon cancer (a major problem in America right now)

            “New analysis of almost 35,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study shows that women who ate four or more servings of legumes a week were 33 percent less likely to develop colorectal adenomas than those consuming one serving a week or less.”

            “These health benefits of legumes may come from this food’s unique phytochemicals. Saponins, lignans and phytosterols are under study for potential benefits in fighting cancer and heart disease. ”

            http://heart-healthy-recipes.fitsugar.com/Health-Benefits-Common-Beans-1090505
            “Many legumes, especially soybeans, are demonstrating impressive health benefits. Diets rich in legumes are being used to lower cholesterol levels, improve blood glucose control in diabetics, and reduce the risk of many cancers. Legumes contain many important nutrients and phytochemicals, and when combined with grains, they form a complete protein. According to studies conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture, richly colored dried beans offer a high degree of antioxidant protection (see below). In fact, small red kidney beans rated the highest just ahead of blueberries.”

            From personal experience, beans have helped me a lot.  Beans have helped me lose weight and give me energy throughout the whole day.  I don’t feel sick or have digestive problems and I have been eating them for years now.  

            People in Asian countries eat legumes and soy, and aren’t they mostly healthy when compared to other countries who eat less legumes and grains?

          • says

            Again, I believe the high fiber in beans is actually a bad thing, not a good thing, and compared to meat, liver, vegetables, or healthy fats like avocado or coconut beans are not nutrient dense at all! 4 ounces of liver will blow beans out of the water on protein and nutrients, as will some sardines. The studies you link to compare bean consumption to non-bean consumption, but there are a couple flaws: (a) since beans are considered a “healthy” food, people who are trying to be healthier tend to eat them. This usually also means they are doing other things to be healthier (and that would reduce cancer risk) like exercising, eating more vegetables, avoiding sugars, etc. Also, these studies don’t study the rates of autoimmune problems in people who eat beans, which I believe is where the major part of the risk is.
            Soybeans are one food I will absolutely not eat in any form. Not only are virtually all of them genetically modified and sprayed with a lot of pesticides (I live near fields where they are grown… they are sprayed a LOT) but they contain estrogen mimicking substances which are especially harmful to women of child bearing age and males of any age.
            As far as a complete protein… animal fats don’t have to be combined with anything to form a complete protein and they are higher in nutrients, especially ones like B-12 which aren’t in beans in any significant amount.
            Have you considered perhaps that the department of AGRICULTURE would have a slight bias in supporting studies that would shed beneficial light on products created through modern agriculture (wheat, corn and soybeans?). As far as antioxidants, even dark chocolate has many times more antioxidants than beans.
            People in asian countries consume beans in a mostly fermented state, and eat mostly rice, which is the least harmful of the grains, so to compare this to countries who eat less legumes but more processed foods is not an apples to apples comparison. Also, having studied this extensively (I actually was majoring in International Studies emphasis in Mandarin for part of college) the asian people also eat mineral rich bone broths and seaweeds with almost every meal, and these both negate some of the harmful effects of the grains. They also have slightly different genetics and eat less processed foods. To give this as a justification for consuming grains and legumes is a stretch to say the least.
            I’m glad you feel that beans have helped you, and certainly, if you don’t agree with me, you won’t stop eating them. I stand firmly behind my stance that they aren’t healthy though, and your n=1 experience bears little scientific weight.

          • says

            “I stand firmly behind my stance that they aren’t healthy though, and your n=1 experience bears little scientific weight”
            I am not the only person who has benefited from beans.  If I have benefited from eating beans, then others have the chance to benefit from beans too.  It’s okay that you don’t agree with me but you also got most of your information from Wikipedia.  Which is basically a horrible place to get sources.  

          • says

            I had one link to wikipedia above, so I’d hardly call that all of my information and even Wikipedia does seem to have a basic grasp of the biology of a bean… didn’t feel the need to bring out scientific studies to prove that a bean is, in fact, a bean. Like I said, I’m glad they worked for you, and certainly they are a better option that some highly processed foods, I just disagree that they are actually a health food.

          • says

            okay, lets agree to disagree since I will always regard beans as power foods:) Good luck on your high cholesterol foods though.

          • says

            I’m also wary of this article as it seems to be implying that eating foods high in saturated fats is better than eating beans. That is just crazy. Are we going through another Atkins Diet era here?

          • says

            If you’re actually interested in looking at the science, I suggest you re-evaluate saturated fat as science has never proven (and never will) that healthy saturated fats (coconut oil, grassed butter, grassed meats, tallow, etc) cause heart disease or obesity…

          • greenthumb says

            And how many people can actually afford grassed butter and meats (or organic and cruelty free) You should watch a movie called Vegutation and then lets see how you feel about eating veal…

          • Brandon says

            Furthermore… how can you possibly claim that science will NEVER prove something… You’re a fortune teller too?

          • Gross Bro says

            High saturated fat diets HAVE been shown to increase CVD and hardening of the arteries, with numerous studies backing it.

            Paleo cheerleaders love to ignore this.

          • Ray Rivera says

            I love your blog, and the information you put on here but as everyone says you are highly questionable..I agree on the grains and everything but the fact that you still eat and advocate meat is beyond me..meat is not a HEALTH food..all meat has parasties and that’s enough for me to start on the topic.

          • Proud2bfromtheUSA says

            You are grouping modern meat from factory farms with healthy organic or grass-fed/Pastured animals you are lumping apples and oranges together and calling them the same. Meat from animals that have spent time in the sun and fed on grass is going to be a lot healthier than meat from an animal that lives in its own manure in a stall that never sees the light of day. I would not eat that either.

            You are mistaken in your assumption that foods that contain cholesterol also cause high cholesterol. Saturated fat is not necessarily unhealthy and is consumed in foods high in protein such as animal fats and a carrier for fat soluble vitamins A, D and E.

            Meanwhile studies have shown that excess consumption of polyunsaturated fats contribute to a large number of disease conditions including increased cancer and heart disease; immune system dysfunction; damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs; digestive disorders; depressed learning ability; impaired growth; and weight gain. These are the fats in vegetable oil, corn oil, canola oil and Soy bean oils.

          • Brandon says

            Every time someone says your only source is wikipedia you point out that you only cited wikipedia to show that lectins are in beans. This argument is completely irrelevant however as the point you are trying to make is that the remaining lectins in beans that have been properly prepared are harmful. I personally can’t find a single study claiming this. I assume that after all the heat you are taking on here that the reason you don’t provide a source is because you yourself can’t find one. I’m not going to say they are good or bad because I’m no expert. You on the otherhand claim to be a credible source that beans are unhealthy without being able to provide a single study substantiating your claim. This is irresponsible for you to claim that something is unhealthy without being able to provide evidence of it. Do yourself and the easily influenced people a favor and either provide evidence or take this claim down.

          • killergrain says

            I used to eat black beans and rice 2x times a day, everyday, since my childhood, this thing is full of carbohydrates and only 1% protein with a grain-fed meat fried on wheat flour using soy oil.
            Almost every brazilian eat that shit.
            Now I have severe insulin resistance.
            Since I’ve cut a lot of grains I’ve dropped 50 lbs! And I feel my insulin resistance is improving a lot!

          • Scott Purser says

            Wait, you think that high fiber is a bad thing? If that doesn’t throw a red flag for anyone…

          • Chels says

            Unfortunately, wellness mama, soy is not just found in soybeans and tofu. It is now used, in a modified form (which is even worse) as a filler in most packaged and processed foods. So if you want to avoid soy, maybe you might want to give beans another chance :)

      • Brandon says

        Nobody here has doubted that beans contain lectins. Every time someone points out that your only source is wikipedia you respond that the point was the show lectics are present in beans. This argument, however, is completely irrelevant. The fact that beans contain lectins is not the point of everyone’s argument here. The point of the argument is whether or not the remaining lectins in the beans, after properly prepared, are harmful to you. I’m not going to claim beans are good or bad because I am not a scientist, doctor, or any other type of person qualified to make that argument. You, on the other hand, boast these claims that beans are bad even after properly prepared. I don’t care about sources proving lectins are in beans as I believe this is true. I would like to see sources claiming that remaining lectins in properly prepared beans are harmful. I haven’t found a single study proving this. Furthermore, I consider it irresponsible for you to make such claims and suggest that people limit bean intake or cut them out altogether without providing a single study for your case. I imagine after all the heat you have taken with this article that you haven’t cited one because after doing some research you probably couldn’t find one yourself. Do yourself and easily influenced people a favor and remove this article unless you can provide evidence backing your claim.

  7. Djbethell says

    Really??? This is just another of those scare articles. The facts are all out of context and  just plain humpty-dumpty. Beans, pulses and grains are really great for you, especially for us vegans.
    Got to ask when did ever see a fat vegan??? We eat beans all the time!

  8. jonathan says

    Traditionally beans are to be soaked overnight to reduce digestive distress!  Perhaps the source of this is the knowledge or understanding that it removes such toxins from the bean?

  9. says

    WIKIPEDIA is not a credible source. Many credible sources (peer-reviewed studies and centenarian studies) disprove your conjecture. Do you have any information provided by a legitimate source?

  10. kstuff says

    Wow. This is getting a lot of heat. This actually makes perfect sense to me. My husband is a huge consumer of grains and beans. He has had GERD for seven years and takes proton pump inhibitors to manage it. He has crazy problems with his intestinal tract. Occasionally food will come out not having been digested at all, other times he’ll get horrid gas. His body has been destroyed by lectin overdose. I can’t say that it’s from the beans, but if beans are high in lectins, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be from the beans as well as the grains.

    • Abby says

      It could well be the grains, more than the beans. Since its the lectins that are the issue, and since even the material
      cited by Wellness Mama states that the lectins are destroyed by
      sufficient cooking, what’s the problem with eating properly soaked and cooked beans? Beans are a very healthy food, when properly soaked
      and cooked!

    • says

      They are on the lower end of the scale on lectins, except for regular green peas, which I typically recommend for those trying to increase fertility as there is a compound in them that can suppress it…

  11. Hallie says

    I’m a vegetarian and my main source of protein is nuts and beans. I eat a lot of lentil and bean soups and bean patties but not much grain. This article has scared me to death; I’ve been a vegetarian and have been eating nut butters and beans all my life! I want to do what is healthiest for me but I also have a strong ethical opposition to eating meat; I just can’t do it. Even looking at pictures of meat, poultry or fish makes me gag. What should I do?! I’m an avid 16 year old female runner, yogi, skiier, and soon to be Crossfitter and I really need the best fuel to keep up with my very active lifestyle.

    • Alex-p says

      I wouldn’t worry to much if i were you. Vegetarians/vegans have been around for a very long time and numerous studies were conducted on their diets, with no proof that it might be a health risk in any way. Vegetarian/vegan diet tend to be rich in those foods that contain lectins. I assume some people may be genetically predisposed (have a genetic defect) to lectin damage, however this number would be insignificant as there would be plenty of studies to show that. I think variety in the diet is the key, so consuming soya beans everyday might not be the best thing. But there are so many plants around that i’m still discovering every week ( and i have been mostly vegan for 9 years now). By the way i also have acive lifestyle doing cycling, running, tennis, gym workouts and snowboarding. Regarding people being omnivourous, well until we had tools to hunt we ate very little meat as it was simply not accessible to us, and those teeth that we have aren’t proof either, look at vegetarian gorilla, their canine teeth are bigger than ours.

    • Iggy Dalrymple says

      The healthiest and longest lived group of people in the US are the 7th Day Adventists in Loma Linda, CA and I bet they eat 3 times as much beans as the general population. This lectin bogeyman was invented by Peter D’Adamo who wrote “Eat Right for Your Blood Type”, and he’s turned his followers into a very profitable cult.

  12. says

    Wellness Mama, your attempt at academics is laughable. You cite Wikipedia not just to say beans have pectin, but that Lectin causes diseases and obesity. Wile you can get away with Wikipedia to say beans have Lectin, going over to diseases and obesity is a whole different ball game that requires far more convincing research than Wikipedia.

    Soy and beans are widely consumed in Asia and many parts of the world. If you want to prove their propensity for intestinal damage, disease and obesity, why not look for studies in scientific journals linking higher rates of obesity and intestinal damage et al to these populations that consume high quantities of beans?

    That would be far more convincing than this pseudo science you are doing here.

  13. Aizhan Mynbaeva says

    Thank you so much. I agree 100%. I have been treated in an ayurvedic clinic run by a Siddha from Sri Lanka. He has thousands of clients healed from terrible diseases including cancer. He tells every patient to stop eating any sorts of beans. I have become a vegan thanks to him, but in all the vegan/vegetarian sites beans are often the main ingredients in the recipes. The Veda (doctor) simply explained that I don’t digest beans very well, but this article explained everything for me.

    Those skeptical about the reasoning may just go on consuming the beans. However those who just would give it a try and reduce grain and beans in their diet, will feel an incredible effect, that’s a fact.

  14. RD Intern says

    Hello Wellness Mama,

    I actually came across this article because my friend was curious as to how correct the information was. As an student in training (Masters in Dietetics currently working on my RD hours at various hospitals) I want to simply put out that I think you’ve approach the situation in a way that might not be completely true. I understand that you might not like to eat fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, etc. that are highly concentrated in lectin (as you’ve stated above) however everyones different.

    What you have recommended above is similar to how a lot of people have turned gluten free because they think it’s better. In fact, gluten free diets should really ONLY be used for those with diseases that deal strictly with gluten intolerance (i.e.: celiac disease). As I tell my patients all the time, if there’s nothing holding you back why not eat it? Unless it has shown in multiple ways that eating beans have caused major negative changes to your health there is no reason NOT to eat them.

    I have a variety of patients would unfortunately can not have beans, why? Because they suffer from digestive cancers. Of course, there will be issues when you suffer from digestive cancers, which is why many cancer patients are ask to eat items with a variety of nutrients. Fish (high in selenium) is a good staple for some patients with cancer. But fish can also be high in mercury. Do I tell my patients not to eat fish then? No, but choose wisely. So I understand your last paragraph about choosing to eat legumes with low concentrations of lectin. But I really don’t see a reason behind you not eating legumes other than personal reasons.

    I hope I didn’t come off strong. I see that you’ve labeled yourself a nutritionist, which is fine. But in my own professional defense, I really would advice that in the future if you should post information like this that you should advice people to seek medical professional help in the article.

    • valerie laing says

      I’ve just been reading ‘The Perfect Health Diet’ which also goes into great lengths about the toxicity of beans. Before reading this I would never have believed it either. Thanks for information.

    • Ron Littles says

      Einstien said: “The true test of knowledge is experimentation.” Is he on the credible reference list? not meaning to be insidious, but sarcastic with a tad of light humor. Don’t go getting your grain eating panties in a bunch.

      • Orchid78 says

        Why is looking for credible references a bad thing? When deciding if something is healthy, it’s a good idea to be a critical thinker. While I can appreciate your sense of humor, Albert Einstein can most certainly be found in credible sources. Many of his contributions are largely considered valid and worthy in the scientific community.

  15. cam says

    About halfway through I had a thought so I went to your recipe section and say all the meat recipes. I don’t care if people eat meat but to try to discredit other healthy options is bullocks. Do you get money from the meat industry for this blog, seriously. There is nothing wrong with beans they will not hurt your body unless you eat them raw. Beans alone will not make you fat. It’s the oil, sour cream, cheese and other stuff. If beans made you fat then the people in third world countries would not be starving to death. Beans and rice are a staple the world over. It is a cheap food with high nutritional value. I started a diet 8 weeks ago eating rice, beans, corn tortillas and fresh fruits and veggies no processed food. I have lost 15lbs which has brought me to my goal weight. My food bill went from $500 to $100 a month. I eat meat occasionally now. My doctor checked all my levels and they are perfect. There is no good or bad food , real food that is. Meat is no worse or better than beans. It’s the fake food like cereals, processed snacks, soda, candy etc. Take those out of your diet and you are home free.

  16. Stefanie says

    Odd that there is absolutely no mention of the fact that your body naturally produces lectins, and that lectins can bind to other lectins to inhibit their effects. Also, apples, lemons, grapefruit, asparagus, beets, garlic, and numerous other vegetables all contain appreciable amounts of lectins. Your exmphasis should really be on the specific toxic lectins in question, like that of ricin in castor beans or the agglutinins in kidney beans, and not broadly lumping them all into the toxic category. Also, in the studies cited, animals were fed strictly a bean diet. Literally, nothing but beans. Human diets are in no way so restricted. How can you logically conclude that beans are bad, after so many reputable scientific studies should that eating these in a diet promote heart health?? More research from reputable sources and talk to a real scientist who understands lectin biology before you decide to scare people into dietary changes.

    • TexBelle says

      This is a great point… I had a friend of mine freak out when I told her that I love black beans. All because of ill-informed people who use scare tactics and unreasonable data to support their idiocy.

  17. Leah says

    Goodness, you sure are taking some heat here, Wellness Mama! I guess by commenting I am sure to get some too?:) This is my first visit to your site and you have a lot of great information. I have also studied health and herbal medicine for a while, but I have had very different results when switching to meats, fats, and no grains or beans.

    I end up feeling very sick when I have done this, and even little amounts of animals fats and oils can make me feel very ill.

    On top of it, I cannot digest gluten or dairy. Whenever I deviate even a little bit from a low-fat, gluten free vegan diet, I start to get sick again. (Think flu-like symptoms without the flu:(

    I only wish it weren’t true, but I have self-tested many times! Even digestive enzymes and probiotics don’t help. I can have small quantities of lean chicken and some fish once in a while, but not much else.

    I have also observed that other people feel better when switching to a vegan diet like mine. They are healthier and the results of there lives prove that out.

    On the other hand, there are people who do horribly going vegan and do much better with meats, and little to no grains, much like that gentleman in your comments who ended up with diabetes.

    My family is split in the middle between being vegan and being more of carnivores with very little grains. We have all self-tested over a period of time. My oldest daughter does lousy with too many grains and not enough meat, and so does my hubby. My youngest daughter is like me, and my son seems to be able to eat everything-and boy does he ever! :D

    I am sharing this because I have seen far too many blogs that push a one-way-only-type of eating plan for everyone, (whether vegan and grain-based or the opposite) and simply put, it doesn’t work for everyone.

    My advice to all is to test and see which foods work for you body and pay attention over time to how you feel. A healthy balance of all whole foods is best, in moderation, unless your body tells you otherwise!

  18. TexBelle says

    This article would make sense if a person was eating raw beans, but given that most people follow the directions and wash/soak their beans, prior to consumption, this article is useless. Study after study, (which is why I am guessing you don’t cite any), clearly state that beans must be cooked, heated, and/or washed, in order for the lectin to be removed…

    Iyiyi… I really hate it when people have just enough information to hurt themselves, and others! I really hope people do their own research, because this article is utterly ridiculous.

    • Ron Littles says

      I really hope people listen to there body and note how they feel, think, and behave. If all the answers were in these so called credible studies, there would be a lot more health and less disease.

  19. Scott Purser says

    Your internet research is wrong. Legumes are part of any healthy diet- indeed, the cultures which exhibit the highest life expectancy all have diets based around legumes. When you cook food, you destroy toxins like lectin. What I’m trying to say is that you’ve wasted both your time and ours.

  20. Phil Wells says

    How about just eating a balanced diet, exercising, and getting proper rest? Things my great-grandma new worked pretty well. Some of your stuff is correct. Some……well, – debatable. I think it’s hilarious that, my entire life, people going into “health food” stores and decrying the evil of such-and-such foods or praising the glory of other foods, are usually the most unfit people I’ve ever seen.

  21. Chels says

    While lectins in beans may lead to health problems, you state that it is only suspected that it may lead to insulin and leptin resistance, which again may contribute to diabetes, obesity and heart disease. What I adamantly disagree with is your theory that lectins are more dangerous than saturated fat. Look at the obesity and health crisis plaguing the USA – this is a result of high fat, highly processed diets, not eating beans. Many Americans have probably never even tried eating beans.

    As well, lectins are destroyed when beans are cooked. Anyone who has ever eaten raw beans or undercooked beans can tell you that they spent hours in the washroom – it’s a lesson quickly learned to cook your beans completely before eating them.

    Traditional cultures have lived for thousands of years with vegetables, grains and beans (legumes) as their primary diet, with meat reserved for special occasions or affluent members of that society. They survived and thrived – why is it once they switched to a traditional SAD diet (Standard American Diet) did they develop comparable rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease similar to that found in North America?

    • Orchid78 says

      I am not sure what happened to my previous comment. You make some good points. It is interesting to read all the differing views. I have struggled with my weight and pcos for many years. I am considered obese. Recently, I was diagnosed with diabetes.

      I switched my diet to plant strong and vegan foods. In a little over 2 weeks my blood glucose range went down from the 300′s to normal ranges. I have also lost 25 pounds in 2 months. I eat vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. I eat some kind of beans every day. My energy levels are higher than ever before. I am looking forward to improving my health and reaching my goal weight.

      With that being said, I think any information regarding nutrition should be weighed out carefully. If people are persuaded to eat or not eat certain foods, they could be missing out on very important benefits such as disease prevention.

  22. Dracs says

    So now nuts,pulses , wholegrains , pasta and rice is bad food, as I lift weights I consume a fair amount of meat and protein and need fibre . What are the healthy options left? Working 11 hour days and then hitting the gym leaves little time to prepare huge bowls of vegetables to eat all day to get the calories I need. So when I go to the supermarket for a lunch , I am completely stumped!

  23. John Lee says

    I think the implication (about beans being good for the heart) has built in the assumption, that beans are replacing a proportion of one’s diet that would been filled by meat products (i.e. commercial meat). I also think it relevant to point out the relative health of a country like Japan, who’s cuisine is built upon soy products (much of which is fermented, I grant you). In any case, I think our greatest guide (when it comes to diet), should be human history. Beans are an economical, practical, and more humane source of protein.

    I have no dog in the fight; I eat both meat and beans. But I do consider eschewing something like beans, as a sign that people being too spoiled when it comes to what they eat. Historically, beans are a poor man’s food… We ate them because it was just cheaper. But nowadays, people don’t eat beans. I go to Chipotle, which features burritos, bowls with rice/beans/meat as staples. So it annoys me when I see people eschew beans–for double meat. Or just refuse rice. These people don’t realize the role these things have in human history (if nothing else, it was to fill one’s belly). Imagine your grandparents (maybe in 1910 New York City, or from their country of origin) turning down a nice bed of rice and beans… It wouldn’t happen. Because people appreciated food.

  24. Christy says

    I know this is an older article, but I couldnt agree more. I love your website it has so much useful information. I recently cut beans out of my already all natural and organic diet and I feel so much better. Whenever I ate any type of beans my stomach would just feel horrible, like the food would immeadiately start to ferment. So cutting beans out of my diet has been a great decision for my overall health and well-being. To me your article makes perfect sense! :)

  25. Donna Gates says

    I found that my family lost weight only after giving up beans, grains, dairy and nightshade vegetables. After years of eating how our Dr said to eat we discovered that because of the inflammation our bodies were under because of the reactions we had to the foods above we were nutrient deficient. This article is right on the mark. No it’s not for everyone but it’s no beans for us. Why torture your body over a bean? If you can’t eat it raw don’t eat it.

  26. Chase Johnson says

    what is science? a study conducted by humans. what is psychology? the study on human patterns and behavior conducted by humans and machines. what is a belief? a feeling through your entire body that trumps both science and psychology. since both science and psychology are simply observations that become a belief.

  27. lucy says

    Sorry but your whole article is really dumb.. and even your ‘sources’ say it is only a concern in EXCESS…just like everything else we eat. and fairly sure that it is much better for you than meat.

  28. Mae Bari says

    You’d think this article was about politics or religion given the emotionaly charged comments. And then to think, this article is just about beans, *BEANS*……hysterical, thanks for the laughs. (But really I am scared)

  29. Linda Troxler says

    I have been researching the idea of lectins now for about six months, and Wellness Mama is correct; her claims correspond with the reading I have done, both with credible web sites and scholarly journal articles. Basically, lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that are natural defenses in plants, and have been intensified by modern food processing methods (to make the plants even more insect and disease-resistant).

    Lectins can damage our intestines, and then can move into the bloodstream. I have gone on a low-lectin diet, and the foods I do not eat are wheat, barley, rye, corn, soy, all legumes, dairy, tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, and all kinds of peppers. This diet also cuts out all processed foods, since they contain soy and grains. I am still undecided about rice; it is a grain, but I am still reading about its properties.

    What is left is pure meats, eggs, some vegetables, and some fruits. I use olive oil as a salad dressing and for cooking. Since I have been on this diet, I have lost weight, and my stomach and intestines feel better than they have in many years. I have had stomach and intestinal issues as long as I can remember, but I can live now without pain and digestive issues. I am still continuing to read and research the subject.

  30. Andrew Russo says

    My apologies to the author but this post is a pile of misleading and possibly harmful nonsense. You have a point about ricin, really nasty stuff and heat resistant to an extent. So don’t include castor beans in your diet. Kidney beans can be nasty too, unless you thoroughly and properly cook them which denatures the lectins and leaves behind a well rounded portion of protein, fiber, resistant starch, and beneficial vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Certain beans may have detrimental health effects but I do not believe many of those are commonly found in the human diet. Other beans, and possibly whole unprocessed grains, may cause problems if consumed raw or undercooked. The vast majority of legumes consumed by various cultures around the world, if properly prepared, are nothing but good for you, unless you have an allergy or some other clinical sensitivity.

    In fact, a little over a year ago I switched from a standard western diet to a more plant rich and definitely legume enriched diet and plunged my blood glucose from over 400 to under 100 without the use of medication.

  31. Murph says

    I actually switched to a pretty standard diet: I eat beans 2-3 times a day. In the beans, there will be just a touch of hamburger meat, alot of jalapeno peppers, bell peppers, onions, chili peppers, and tomatoes. My snacks are basically apples, peppers, bananas, pistachios, and sugar snap peas. I also drink a “Amazing Grass” once a day… which contains different vegetables and grasses (3-5 servings of dark greens per scoop). I feel absolutely amazing now that I’ve switched my diet. Yes, before I was eating a typical American diet.. high in sugar..high in animal fats.. I am by no means against eating meat, just trying to do so in moderation.

    Again, I feel amazing. Pinto beans 2-3 times day… awesome… I’m losing weight. I’m staying full. My fasting blood sugar has gone from 93 to 78 in 2 months. My healthy cholesterol is up.. my unhealthy is down.. triglycerides are way down. I’ve lost weight. Obviously, you would expect that weight would drop when you start to eat healthy..but, all of my blood work is better… And to top it off, my bowel movements are as close to normal as they’ve ever been.

  32. Goyangi says

    Why would one not soak beans overnight, I mean it is even written on the package? (I just wonder, why this need to be point out, it is also mostly written on the recipes containing beans.)

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