What's with Beans?

Learn all about the controversy surrounding beans!

personal trainer Edmonton


Vegans? “Eat them.”
 Paleos? “No way!”
Timothy Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Body? “Eat them.”
Dr. Mark Hyman? “Don’t eat them.”

Every article I’ve read says something different about beans. Who’s right? Well, that depends on what you want to accomplish with your diet.

chilli beans

Vegans Love Beans

Vegans will tell you they choose beans because they’re high in protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Plus, they contain nutrients such as iron, folate, magnesium, potassium, and, to a lesser degree, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamins B1, B3, B5, and B6. However, it’s a little misleading to claim nutrients as an advantage because the processing required to make beans edible removes many them.

The Paleo Beans Debate

 Generally, paleos don’t agree with each other on what to eat and what not to eat. Furthermore,just being “paleo” is controversial. Today’s paleo experts believe one must study ancient teeth to discover what cavemen ate and determine what a paleo diet really consists of. Some will say that beans are included in a paleo diet while others will say they are not. Incidentally, the tooth study confirmed that cavemen from the Paleolithic Era did indeed eat beans. So, if you’re on a paleo diet, you can now eat beans.

paleo beans

Timothy Ferris Loves Beans


Timothy Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Body, swears by beans. He claims it’s the magic ingredient for weight loss. The high carbohydrate/fiber/protein and low glycemic index of beans makes it a “slow carb” and thereby attractive to the weight loss community. Ferris claims that in his study, adding beans to a diet and not changing anything else improved weight loss substantially. Does it work? According to Tim it does. 

According to experts, the glycemic index depends on how the beans are prepared. The more you soak the beans and cook them, the higher the glycemic index. Mom’s baked beans with bacon and brown sugar are delicious, but they are among the highest glycemic index foods you can find. In other words, they make you fat.

Dr. Mark Hyman on Beans

Dr. Mark Hyman is the reason I’m writing this article. He isn’t a fan of beans, but I hadn’t read much on why he didn’t like them. However, the more digging and reading I did, the more I agreed with Dr. Hyman. Mm-hmm… turns out these little suckers can be pretty toxic and cause all kinds of mischief in your body.

dr mark hyman

Plants cannot run or fight, so their way of defending themselves is to produce toxins or poisons. Phytic-acid or phytate is one such poison. It binds with certain minerals and prevents their absorption into the body. Phytate is more of a concern to vegetarians as meat eaters tend to get more minerals from animal products. However, let’s be honest, beans don’t taste that great anyway; they are considered the least addictive food on the planet.

Copper Toxicity from Beans


Another problem vegetarians face is copper toxicity, which some beans are high in. Copper is a necessary nutrient in very small amounts but too much from beans, combined with too little zinc from lack of meat, can lead to copper toxicity.

In theory, anyone with a high copper diet can end up with copper toxicity, not just vegetarians. If you have copper poisoning, you’re likely to hate protein because it stimulates the thyroid and adrenal glands, releasing the stored copper. Consequently, this induces copper toxicity symptoms, including headaches, emotional instability, fatigue, insomnia, depression, skin rashes, brain fog, learning disorders, and premenstrual syndrome. Fortunately, once copper toxicity is overcome, the symptoms go away.

Lectin in Beans

Ever heard of lectin? This is important, my friends. It causes all kinds of problems and it only gets worse. Lectin causes what is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Some doctors still say its nonexistent but it’s getting more and more difficult to deny its harmful effects.

beans leptin

Lectin binds to cells and kills them. When this happens to the lining of the gut, it becomes much more permeable. Lectin can then bind to cells in the bloodstream and kill those cells. We’re talking system-wide inflammation. While lectin is present in all plants, grains, pasteurized dairy, beans, nuts, and seeds have a very high content. 

Genetically Modified Organisms


Then there are GMO (Genetically modified organisms). One way the food industry has modified foods is by increasing their “natural” toxins to keep bugs away. In other words, by making them really high in lectin.

My friends planted organic potatoes and non-organic potatoes on their farm in large amounts. However, the bugs didn’t touch the GMO potatoes and ate the organic ones. Now, if bugs won’t eat it, you shouldn’t either! There’s an absurd amount of problems with GMOs but I’ll stop there for now. If you want more information on GMOs, you can read my article on them here.

Almost all soy beans and soy products are GMOs, along with corn, grains, and sugar. If you’re eating packaged foods, you’re eating corn, soy, and grains, which are all high in lectin, as well as horribly modified sugars. Sugar synergistically magnifies all the inflammation and bad bacteria/yeast in your gut. Not to mention, the preservatives and other toxins in packaged foods.

Processing Beans

Fortunately, you can neutralize the phytate and lectin in beans by soaking them in water, sprouting them ot fermenting them. You can also boil them at 100 degrees Celsius for at least 10 minutes. However, as discussed earlier, soaking and boiling them will also remove nutrients in the beans and increase their glycemic index. 

processing beans

On the other hand, if you don’t cook your beans at a high enough temperature, they can be just as dangerous.  For instance, shockingly, people die every year from lectin poisoning when slow cooking chili. That’s because kidney beans are among the foods highest in lectin, and slow cooking does not reach temperatures high enough to reduce the lectin.

Didn’t think beans were so bad? Studies show that beans have been linked to IBS, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, peptic ulcers, allergies, and type 2 diabetes.

Phytoestrogen in Beans

Phytoestrogen in Beans

Amazingly, another defense mechanism employed by plants is to cause infertility in predators. Phytoestrogen is not estrogen but it mimics estrogen and causes a hormone imbalance. High estrogen levels are not good for men or women for various reason: One is low thyroid, which kills metabolism. Worringly, soy beans are high in phytoestrogen.

FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These carbohydrates are hard to digest and turn into sugars that cause numerous issues in the GI tract. For some, it’s much worse than for others. Unfortunately, beans are a source of FODMAPs.

Aflatoxins and Beans

Peanuts aren’t actually a type of nut – they’re a type of bean. Peanuts carry all the toxins other beans have but, as a bonus, you get aflatoxins, a metabolite of mold and one of the most carcinogenic things known to man. It’s another toxin your body has to deal with and fight off. Who needs more inflammation? The lectin in peanuts and peanut oil is potent, and roasting them does not neutralize the toxicity.

Soy Beans

soy beans

If I haven’t turned you off soy yet, then let me revisit this food. Soy is high in the aforementioned phytoestrogen. It also contains a trypsin inhibitor, an enzyme, which inhibits the digestion of many different proteins by preventing it from breaking these proteins down. Soy protein and soy milk are two things that should never be considered food. In fact, I cringe when I hear the process of how the stuff is made. I hope that’s enough to beat all the great marketing in favor of soy.

That being said, fermented organic soy is the only kind of soy I recommend. It’s called miso and is a staple of Japanese cuisine. 

The Good Beans

Green beans and peas have much less of the above-mentioned toxins and get the thumbs up!

I wish you lots of health, love and happiness!

Travis Wade

The only holistic personal trainer in Edmonton.

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