Are beans very starchy?

Are beans very starchy is question often heard; what are the facts?

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 27th November, 2018.

By Bernard Preston

Starchy lima and broad beans

Here are 100g of a mixture of lima and broad beans, after podding, that I reaped from the garden this morning; that's half a cup; just what will they do to your blood glucose? Will they make you fat?

As a rule of thumb, half a cup of beans contains about 15g of carbohydrate; most of it is in the form of fibre that is not digested in the small intestine, where it would be absorbed as glucose, but passes through to the colon.

It's what is known as resistant starch; instead it is fermented in the colon, provided you have an adequate normal flora, known as the microbiota in biochemical jargon. Those are the friendly bacteria and yeasts that break down the carbohydrate that escapes digestion in the small intestine.

In comparison, half a cup of cooked or raw broccoli, spinach, kale or pumpkin contains about 5g; one third of the starch.

An apple, 1/2 cup of cooked carrots, butternut and corn also contain about 15g of starch, same as the so-called 'very starchy' beans.

One cup of milk or unsweetened yoghurt contains about 12g of starch.

One can of beer contains about 15g of starch and a cola 40g. Avoid artificial sweeteners, by the way; they are even worse than sugar when it comes to insulin resistance.(1)

One slice of bread also contains about 15g.

In comparison, one slice of cheesecake contains 33g of starch and 22g of sugar; 55g altogether, just less than in two cups of beans. 

Whilst most folk can easily stop at half a cup of beans, a popular website says, 'hardly anyone can stop at one slice of cheesecake!' (2) There's the double rub; or should that be rub squared?

Are beans very starchy?

Beans and onions fried in butter.

Are beans very starchy and should we be avoiding them if we want to lose weight or are diabetic?

So, yes, all legumes do have some carbohydrate, but you're never likely to pig out, and it's healthy resistant starch that will hardly affect your blood glucose; if you're frankly diabetic then test yourself. We all react differently to various starches.

It seems that we are set on cereals for breakfast; but they certainly are starchy, far more so than beans, and significantly raise blood sugar and the risk of diabetes, especially if refined and have sugar added.

Many breakfast cereals are just cracked biscuits.

For some years we have rather been enjoying eggs Florentine for breakfast; poached on a bed of spinach, and often on a slice of buttered toast. It has almost no effect on blood sugar, is delicious and quick to make and enjoy.

The allicin benefits in the onions certainly counteract any possible negative effects for diabetics.

A wonderful upgrade has been the addition of limas and favas as they are often known, since beans are marginally starchy but have little effect on blood glucose.

First lightly fry and onion in butter, added a hot pepper or two, the beans and a little garlic; after a couple minutes pop the sliced spinach into the pot, pour on a few tablespoons of water and then, when lightly steamed drop in the eggs.

One of the great joys of fava (broad) beans is their dopamine; it hits the hunger centre of the brain and you won't feel famished for the rest of the day.

Are beans very starchy? No, only mildly so and in comparison with cheesecake they are very low carbohydrate.

I will admit that beans out of a can, or days old at the greengrocer are another story. I'm making a case for beans grown in your own garden, or freshly-picked from a farmers' market.

Here's the eggs Florentine link; our daily breakfast. I give it much of the credit that we take virtually no medication. 

Vegetable high in protein

Much of the focus in the media surrounds the question are beans very starchy, and are they fattening? No, they aren't. What is the glycemic response to legumes is another question you may be asking?

But just as important is that many of the fad diets are encouraging you to get your protein from red meat.

It's a rather invidious decision that you have to make; are you going to avoid legumes because you are concerned about whether beans are very starchy, and will make you fat, or are you going to embrace vegetable high in protein, and lower the risk of getting cancer.

For me it's a no brainer. Enjoy legumes daily and keep cheesecake for high and holy days; and one slice only.

Recent research published in Lancet declares that low carb diets favouring animal-derived protein and fat were associated with a higher mortality, but if you get them from legumes, avocados and olives, and whole grain breads, for example, it was associated with a lower mortality. (1)

In short, if you are going to follow a low carb diet, make sure the fats and protein include a large percentage that are plant based; like beans.

Are beans very starchy? Yes, they are and that's why they are so important in your diet.

Useful links

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. What are legumes
  3. Are beans very starchy

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