Are butter beans on keto?

The ketogenic diet, commonly known as “keto,” has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to lose weight and improve health. The diet is characterized by a very low carbohydrate intake, moderate protein intake, and high fat intake. This forces the body into a metabolic state known as ketosis, where fat becomes the primary fuel source rather than carbohydrates.

Butter beans, also known as lima beans, are a type of legume that is a staple food in many cuisines around the world. As legumes, butter beans contain significant amounts of carbohydrates, which has led some keto dieters to question whether they can be included on a ketogenic diet. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at butter beans and the keto diet to answer the question: are butter beans keto-friendly?

Nutritional profile of butter beans

First, let’s examine the macronutrient profile of butter beans. In a 1/2 cup serving of cooked butter beans (approximately 90g):

  • Calories: 103
  • Fat: 0.6g
  • Carbohydrates: 18g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • Net carbs: 12g
  • Protein: 7g

Butter beans are relatively high in carbohydrates compared to foods like meat, eggs, and low carb vegetables. However, a good portion of those carbs come from fiber. On keto, we calculate net carbs which is total carbs minus fiber. When we account for the high fiber content, the net carb count for 1/2 cup of butter beans drops down to 12g.

Effect on ketosis

So how do those net carbs impact ketosis? The general recommendation on keto is to keep net carbs under 50g per day, although some people can stay in ketosis with slightly higher intakes. Consuming 1/2 cup of butter beans would contribute around 12g of net carbs or about 25% of a 50g daily budget.

Whether or not this knocks you out of ketosis depends on the rest of your diet. If you are consuming very low carb foods for your other meals and snacks, 1/2 cup of butter beans should be fine. However, if you are already approaching your limit from other foods, it may push you over the edge. Some people do best keeping net carbs closer to 20-30g per day, in which case the butter beans would take up a large portion of the allotment.

Effect on weight loss

In addition to ketosis, an important goal for many keto dieters is weight loss. How do butter beans impact weight loss efforts? There are a few factors to consider:

  • Calories – At 103 calories per serving, butter beans are moderately calorie dense. This means they may promote weight loss or maintenance when eaten in moderation, but could slow progress if large portions are consumed.
  • Protein and fiber – The 7g of protein and 6g of fiber per serving help increase satiety, which supports weight loss.
  • Glycemic response – With a low glycemic index, butter beans do not lead to spikes in blood sugar that can trigger hunger and overeating.

Overall, butter beans can be part of a weight loss diet if consumed in reasonable portions. They provide protein, fiber, and nutrients with a relatively low calorie density. However, overdoing portions could hinder progress due to the carb content.

Benefits of adding butter beans

Though they contain more carbs than some keto staples, butter beans can still be a healthy addition to the diet in moderation. Some benefits of adding butter beans include:

  • Fiber – With 6g of fiber per serving, butter beans can help improve digestive health and increase feelings of fullness.
  • Protein – The 7g of plant-based protein helps support muscle mass retention, which is important on keto.
  • Iron – Butter beans provide a considerable amount of iron, an important mineral that some people do not get enough of on keto.
  • Other nutrients – Butter beans contain magnesium, potassium, folate, and small amounts of other vitamins and minerals.
  • Variety – Adding new options like butter beans can help make the keto diet more sustainable and enjoyable long term.

While other low carb foods may be lower in carbs overall, butter beans add beneficial nutrients and variety.

Potential downsides of butter beans

On the flip side, some potential downsides of adding butter beans to a keto diet include:

  • May knock some people out of ketosis, depending on individual carb tolerance.
  • Contains antinutrients like phytic acid that may hinder mineral absorption.
  • Contains lectins and other compounds that some people claim cause inflammation or other issues. However, evidence on this is mixed.
  • May cause digestive issues in some people, especially when first introducing into the diet.

These potential cons should be evaluated based on your individual needs, sensitivities, and goals. Not everyone experiences problems tolerating or digesting beans.

Tips for including butter beans

If you want to incorporate butter beans into your keto diet, here are some tips:

  • Start with a small serving like 1/4 cup and see how your body responds in terms of ketosis, digestion, and weight changes.
  • Try soaking, sprouting, or fermenting the beans before cooking to reduce compounds like phytic acid.
  • Slowly increase portion sizes as tolerated to keep carbs low enough for your needs.
  • Pair with non-starchy vegetables, protein foods, and healthy fats to help balance out the carb content.
  • Consider using butter bean flour in place of regular flour for a lower net carb option.
  • Account for carb intake from butter beans when tracking your daily macros.

Listening to your body’s signals and testing different serving sizes can help you find the sweet spot.

Butter bean recipes

Here are some keto-friendly recipes incorporating butter beans:

Butter bean salad

  • 1 15oz can butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine butter beans, arugula, tomatoes and feta. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Butter bean soup

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 15oz cans butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Pour in broth and add beans, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Blend half the soup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Butter bean burgers

  • 1 15oz can butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

In a food processor, pulse butter beans until broken down but still chunky. Transfer to a bowl and mix in remaining ingredients until well combined. Form into patties. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook patties 5-6 minutes per side until browned. Serve on keto buns with desired toppings.

Buying and preparing butter beans

When purchasing and cooking butter beans:

  • Opt for dry beans and prepare yourself rather than canned to reduce sodium intake.
  • Soak beans overnight, then drain water and rinse beans.
  • Sprout beans by leaving them damp for 1-2 days until sprouts form to reduce phytic acid and other antinutrients.
  • Discard soaking and sprouting water to remove some indigestible compounds.
  • Cook beans thoroughly until very soft. Undercooked beans are more difficult to digest.
  • Try adding kombu seaweed to cooking water for easier digestion.
  • Save bean cooking water to use as a broth base due to high nutrient content.

Following these preparation tips can help improve the digestibility of beans on keto.

The verdict

Butter beans contain more carbs and antinutrients than some other keto-approved foods. However, they can still fit into the diet in moderation for most people. Focus on keeping portions small, preparing beans properly, and balancing them with low carb foods. Listen to your body’s responses.

Butter beans provide a good source of plant-based protein, fiber, iron, and other nutrients. Adding them occasionally can increase variety in the diet and provide health benefits. Just account for the carb content and adjust your intake of other foods accordingly. Beans affect people differently, so finding your personal carb tolerance is key.

The bottom line

Butter beans can be incorporated into a keto diet in small to moderate amounts by most people. However, they are higher in carbs than some other plant foods on keto. Pay attention to your individual carb tolerance, prepare beans properly, and pair them with low carb foods to maximize results and health benefits.

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