Downsides of Beans: 10+ Drawbacks Associated with Eating Beans

Eating beans can be beneficial; for instance, they are high in fiber and vitamins. However, there is a dark side to this popular food. If you’ve ever eaten beans and felt miserable afterward, you might be aware of the dark side. 

The disadvantages of eating beans include gastrointestinal distress, an unabsorbable form of iron, and a long time to cook. The phytic acid in beans can impair mineral absorption and may trigger migraines. Canned beans contain a high amount of sodium.

Before you eat that next helping of beans, you may want to learn more about the disadvantages and drawbacks of eating beans.

1. Beans May Cause Gastrointestinal Distress.

If you’re not used to foods high in fiber, such as beans, the fiber can cause stomach cramps and gas. When your body breaks down the sugars and carbohydrates from the beans, intestinal bacteria causes gas to build up, which can be painful.

You may need to gradually build up your tolerance to high fiber foods or take an enzyme with your meals to help your body digest beans properly and without gas. 

2. Beans Don’t Contain All the Essential Amino Acids.

Essential amino acids are the building blocks the body uses to repair cell tissues, create new skin and hair, and keep the muscles in good repair. Unlike animal proteins, vegetable proteins (like beans) do not contain all the essential amino acids.

Beans must be combined, either in the same meal or throughout the day, with other plant proteins to give your body what it needs to stay healthy. 

3. Undercooked Beans Can Cause Illness.

Lectins, which are abundant in beans, need to be destroyed with proper cooking, but if beans are undercooked, they can cause illness. Undercooked lectins can cause nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Scientists discovered that this was a form of food poisoning, much like when chicken is undercooked.  

Beans also contain phytates, which can interfere with mineral absorption. Beans that are cooked properly reduce the phytates, helping you retain more nutrients from the beans you eat.  

4. Slow Cooking Beans Can Increase Their Toxicity.

Cooking beans by boiling is the only way to properly cook them, as it destroys the toxic chemicals that raw beans have. But when beans are cooked in a slow cooker, this is not high enough to kill the toxins. Low temperatures increase these toxins. 

If you have a slow cooker recipe that contains beans, you may want to cook the beans at a high boil on the stove before putting them in the slow cooker.

5. Beans Take a Long Time to Cook.

To prevent eating undercooked beans, they need to be cooked for at least an hour to an hour and a half (or longer), depending on the type of beans. If you plan for it, this should not pose a problem, but if you want beans on a spontaneous whim, you may need to use canned beans

6. Canned Beans Contain High Amounts of Sodium.

While canned beans are great when you don’t plan, they contain a higher amount of sodium than if you cooked your beans from scratch. Not only that, but the linings of most cans contain BPA, which is a chemical typically found in plastic. BPA is associated with heart disease, cancer, and abnormal reproductive development in children.

7. Phytic Acid Impairs Mineral Absorption.

Phytates, found in most bean varieties, may interfere with mineral and vitamin absorption. While they don’t remove nutrients from your body, they will interfere with your body’s ability to absorb any nutrients you may get from the beans. They also inhibit certain enzyme functions that are crucial for protein digestion.

8. The Side Effects From Fiber May Be Unpleasant.

Those who are not used to eating beans (or a high-fiber diet) may find themselves in a world of pain with gas and cramps. The reason for this is that some of the fiber in beans is non-soluble, meaning that it is not digestible. Whatever cannot be digested in the stomach moves down to the intestine where bacteria finish the digestion process. This may cause gas if your body is not used to this process.

9. Beans Contain an Unabsorbable Form of Iron.

Many beans contain a high amount of iron, but that iron is not the kind of iron your body needs. Heme iron is the type that is more absorbable by the body, and it’s the type of iron found in animal proteins. The iron in beans is non-heme iron, and cannot be easily absorbed by the body without some form of vitamin C. 

To counteract this problem, you may consider eating beans with an animal protein, such as chili made with beans and ground beef, to get the type of iron your body needs.

10. Beans Are Not Appropriate for All Diets.

Whether you follow the Paleo diet, the Keto diet, or the Low-Carb diet, beans may not be appropriate. 

The Paleo diet states that beans are not what a Paleolithic cave dweller would eat because beans need a lot of cooking time to be palatable and edible. The Keto and Low-Carb diets state that beans are too high in carbs to be part of a healthy diet. 

11. Beans Contain Protease Inhibitors.

When you eat beans, you may be causing an inability for your body to break down protein the way it should. Protease is an enzyme your body uses to break down protein into a form your body needs to use the protein. 

But legumes, and beans specifically, have certain chemicals that inhibit this process, otherwise known as protease inhibitors

12. Beans Contain Phytoestrogens.

Phytoestrogens (estrogen in plant form) mimic real estrogen in your body at a weak level, causing your body to over-produce the hormone. While they don’t do anything by themselves, your body is tricked into thinking there should be more estrogen produced, which can have serious consequences for both sexes.

In men, this can cause feminine traits, like larger breasts, to develop. In women, this may cause infertility and other problems with the reproductive system.

13. Beans May Trigger Migraines.

For migraine sufferers, eating beans may make their symptoms worse due to the Tyramine substance. According to the National Headache Foundation, a diet low in Tyramine may help migraine symptoms to lessen. Tyramine is the natural by-product when the amino acid tyrosine breaks down in the body. 

While Tyramine is not added to foods, like legumes, its presence increases when foods are aged, fermented, or stored for a long time, like dried beans.

14. Fava Beans May Raise Blood Pressure.

If you take an MAO inhibitor for depression, fava beans could interact with the medication and raise your blood pressure. The reason is that the MAOIs block the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which is instrumental in breaking down Tyramine. But if you eat food high in this amino acid, your blood pressure may rise too fast, requiring emergency treatment.

All in all

While beans may be high in certain nutrients and are a good part of a healthy diet, some drawbacks may cause you to think twice about eating them. If you have a healthy diet and eat beans occasionally, these disadvantages may not be that bad.

Combining beans with meat or other vegetable proteins can provide a wide variety of nutrients that make you healthy. Dishes like chili, lamb with lentils, or even refried beans with Mexican rice can give you the proper amount of essential amino acids with your meals. 

A variety of foods will provide you with a variety of nutrients.

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This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.