Eat Beans for Better Belly Health

Amy Machnak
by Amy Machnak
Share it:
Eat Beans for Better Belly Health

Beans, beans the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot. The lyrics to the classic childhood song may be silly but, as anyone who’s over-indulged in the bean dip knows, those words can be embarrassingly accurate. However, what’s considered impolite is actually a sign your digestion is on track.

“Beans have soluble fiber, insoluble fiber and amino acids,” says Gretchen George, RD and professor at San Francisco State University. “We need these for healthy balance in our gut and amino acids for protein building.”

We know that beans are so good for you. The real question is: Why do they make you fart so much?


“Flatulence often occurs for two reasons,” explains George. “First, a person is not used to eating fiber.” In this case, George suggests adding it to a diet more regularly and gradually increasing the amount over time.

“Second, the diversity of the microbes in the gut may be low. Eating more probiotics to populate the gut and more prebiotics to feed the microbes in the gut will help.”

Think of these microbes as a microscopic farting factory in the human digestive system. Everyone has naturally occurring microbes in their intestines. When carbohydrates come down the pipe by eating high-fiber foods, like beans (a natural prebiotic), the microbes feed on those carbs and it’s that feeding that creates the gas. The gas then allows our bodies to absorb the nutrients in the food.

To all the people following the latest diet trend to avoid beans (yes, Paleo-people, this means you) you’re missing out on some seriously health-inducing farts.

When you crunch the numbers, beans add up to be about as caloric as lean meat. The difference is that beans are mostly water and fiber, which makes you feel full longer. One cup of pinto beans has 15 grams of fiber (about 62% of your RDA) and 245 calories. The same portion of lean chicken breast has 231 calories and lean tri-tip has a whopping 970 calories, but both provide zero fiber.

“The bulking component of fiber can make a person feel more full and also metabolically have more stability with blood glucose,” says George.  “This aides in control of hunger, thus helping with weight loss.”

Losing weight is obviously the goal for many, but that’s only one of the tootin’ benefits of a bean-heavy diet. While good for the waistline, beans may also help in decreasing your chances of serious diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease since being overweight increases the likelihood of developing these diseases. It’s also been proven to lower cholesterol.


Beans are good for you because they make you fart and farting is really good for you. However, does anyone really want to be breaking wind with every step, shimmy and squat? Unless you’re a caveman, the answer is likely no. So there’s a few things you can do about it:


While canned beans are convenient, you have zero control over the amount of gas-producing starch in them. Try buying good-quality dried beans and then soaking and cooking them yourself.


Ideally, beans need to soak before cooking, preferably overnight, so they can absorb water and soften. By changing the water a couple of times while they soak, you help remove the excess starch. Then simmer them (using another round of clean water) until tender. Most beans won’t need more than 20 minutes to half an hour if they’re well hydrated, so most of the effort is the ‘set it and forget it’ type.


Some people think adding a bit of raw ginger or eating oranges before you eat the beans helps, too. We’re not sure about this, but it’s an old wive’s tale so why not try it? In the end, everyone’s gut is different and will have different reactions. So try both and see how it works for you.

Above all, the next time you’re out and about and feel the need to let one go, don’t be shy. Like a burp is a compliment to the chef, your booty is just ripping you a big message of thanks for giving it the good stuff.

About the Author

Amy Machnak
Amy Machnak

Amy is a James Beard award-winning food writer. A former staff writer at Sunset magazine, her work has also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle,, Cooking Light, Tasting Table, and more. She’s contributed to seven cookbooks with Sunset and William’s Sonoma, and written one of her own. When she’s not writing or cooking, you can find her in a sweaty yoga class, drinking wine she can’t afford or on social media mentally correcting people’s punctuation.


32 responses to “Eat Beans for Better Belly Health”

  1. Vince Michel says:

    What is the recipe for the dish pictured with all of the beans, born and fried eggs on top? It looks delicious and like something I would like to make.

    • Justin 'Jay' Brown says:

      I tried to find it with google image search but no luck

    • cjucoder says:

      Quite possible it’s not from a recipe at all, but simply put together by a food stylist solely for the picture. Usually MFP is good about linking their recipes when referenced in another article (in their interest to keep us browsing their blog as long as possible). I agree, though. I’ve saved that picture and want to see if I can create something based on it.

    • V L says:

      It’s called Texas Caviar

      • Jeanne Scharfenberg says:

        It appears that Texas Caviar, like Cowboy Caviar, is more a salad to be served cold. This photo appears to be a hot dish.

    • Joe The Taxi says:

      Recipe doesn’t require eggs at all as others have said it’s just for the picture. If you want to learn how to cook pulses and beans check Italian and Indian recipes.

  2. Deliverr says:

    This sounds and looks so delicious!!!, Thanks for sharing

    • Bethanne says:

      It’s just unfortunate that they show this lovely picture of one incredible meal and don’t give you a recipe for it !


    I am going to challenge some of the statements made in this article especially in reference to The Paleo diet. The reason beans are not recommend on a Paleo style dietary approach is because beans contains anti-nutients such as phytates, which reduces the bodie”s ability to absorb minerals.
    In addition you state that 1 cup of pinto beans contain 15 grams of fiber, but it also contains 45 grams of total carbohydrates, making this a relatively high carb food, especially for those who are limiting their carb intake. It also contains 15 grams of protein. But that is a lot of beans. I know I was never able to eat that much.
    Chicken has no carbs and theirfore no fiber because it is an animal food. Animal foods do not contain plant fiber by definition. However, since that is what you choose, 8oz of chicken contains 17 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbs and 333 calories. I have no idea where you got 910 calories. I found no listings in the My Fitness Pal database that has a calorie count that high not even fried chicken. So I must wonder what your agenda is for writing and posting such a misleading calorie count.
    In summary for those who are looking for a quality protein source that is low carbohydrates and free of mineral depleting phytates chicken would be a good choice. Of you are looking for a high fiber food that are free of phytates there are certainly better options such as sweet potatoe, plaintain, and tuberances.

    • Kingdigs says:

      The article says that “lean tri-tip has a whopping 910 calories”; the chicken has 231 calories. Just need to slow down a bit when you read. 🙂

    • Sarah LaCroix says:

      The paleo diet has been debunked as a bunch of hooey numerous times. We’ve also determined that carbs aren’t the enemy. For weight loss, all that matters is that you eat at a deficit. It doesn’t matter how you get to the deficit.

      You know what has been proven time and time again to be beneficial? Plant based proteins such as beans, lentils and soy. All not allowed on a Paleo diet for BS reasons.

    • Christine York says:

      Re-read the part about the calories & the chicken.., she isn’t referring to chicken when she states 910 calories…. read carefully before posting that something is incorrect.

    • James Sorey says:

      Teresa, read her calorie statement again in the article above. She writes that the equivalent amount of tri-tip (a beef roast and DELICIOUS!) contains 910 calories, not chicken. She states that the chicken has 231 calories. I have not validated whether or not the caloric values are consistent with MFP, simply clarifying what the author clearly states in her article. I found it well written, informative and interesting. I personally love beans and take a few Beano (contains an enzyme to allow us to process galactose) which helps me digest beans without the discomfort and bloating normally associated with gassy foods like beans, onions, et cetera. I find the benefits of beans far outweigh the downside. There is no one “diet” or whatever people want to call it, that works for every person out there. There are a multitude of factors involved; genetic, epigenetic and environmental, impacting how an individuals’ metabolism functions. Paleo is a wonderful solution for some, while others work better as vegetarians, pescetarians, high carb, low carb, keto, high fat, low fat, and so on. Before everyone preaches their style of eating is best for all, keep in mind it’s not necessarily the case. As a fitness nutrition coach, I’ve seen all different body types and dietary methods. It sounds like you’ve settled on a method that works for you, keep it up! However, keep in mind that what works today may not necessarily work for you in the future. Pay attention to what your body is telling you, if you find something is not quite right in the future take a close look at your current dietary habits and experience the to see if there is something that may need to be altered.

      • Hardilythenews says:

        “There is no one “diet” or whatever people want to call it, that works for every person out there.”

        Finally . . . I could never eat my body building son’s heavy protein diet . . . And he would not do well on my vegetable whole grain diet. But it works for us. There are some things out there that are generally bad for everyone, but . . . thanks for the voice of reason

      • Joanne Anna says:

        Thank you James, a voice of reason. I’ve tried numerous “diets” over the years and have done great with them, until I get tired of them and don’t want to be bothered. The best weight and health that I had was when I was exercising 6 days a week (mostly cardio with 4 days at the gym with weights), which led to a better general feeling and so eating “balanced” meals without the urges for sugar and processed foods, was easy without even thinking about it. Unfortunately genetics that affect my musculoskeletal well being have kicked in and I’m no longer able to manage such an exercise schedule. I have substituted the types of exercises that I can now do and have to be more mindful of what I eat, and I see my doctor at least yearly to make sure that my body is on track. Beliefs also are a part of your state of mind. If you’re a vegan that tries changing diet because you were told you have to for medical reasons, it would go against all you believe in and will lead to depression and feelings of guilt. If you are a pledged carnivore and are told you can’t eat meat you will feel deprived which can also lead to depression which often triggers inconsistent eating habits. No one belief is right or wrong, you need to do what works for you and your lifestyle.

  4. Niki Johnson says:

    What do the first three letters of diet spell? Die. There is a reason I won’t say I am on a “diet”. My way of eating is a lifestyle change or choice depending on how I am looking at it that day. Like they say healthy eating and exercise is the healthy way to loose weight.

    • Red says:

      Unfortunately “diet” has taken on the meaning of just loosing weight. A diet is what you eat, good, bad or otherwise.

  5. C_29 says:

    These tips might work for some people by they are by no means universal. My diet is high in fiber and it doesn’t make a difference if I take probiotics or not. And while I generally avoid beans altogether (the abdominal pain and bloating is so intense that I couldn’t handle it even if I was a caveman), canned beans are a lot easier for me to digest than cooked dried ones. Beans are a wonderful food, but they are not for everyone!

  6. knows the game says:

    No one needs a “DIET” Let the sciences of anatomy and paleontology guide your food choices. Humans have sharp fore-teeth for tearing flesh. Our eyes are on the front of our skulls. Our ears are not multi-directional like rabbits or deer that constantly need to be on the alert for predators. We are at the top of the food chain. (unless you are swimming in shark infested waters or meandering about the jungle unarmed) The aforementioned prove that humans are PREDATORS when it comes to the foods we should consume. Don’t let anthropomorphism cloud your thinking. Meat, eggs, fish, some dairy, fruits, veggies, and nuts are what we need for a healthy diet. Cut back on the portions and cut out the processed wheat and corn based foods and sugars. Exercise daily. It’ll change your life. It’s not easy at first but it can be done. It’s worked wonders for me.

    • Bethanne says:

      Anyone who eats meat that has been injected with hormones and steroids is a complete idiot. Please don’t lecture us about what we should and shouldn’t eat same thing goes for dairy it’s all garbage no want you to Darien don’t want you to eat meat and fish is filthy !

    • Kira says:

      And if you check out our molars, you’ll notice the flat grinding surfaces for fiber-heavy plant foods.

      Humans are natural omnivores and food generalists, as not just anatomy and paleontology but the massive variety of traditional local cuisines demonstrate. Cutting out over-processed foods and exercising daily is great, but don’t use just-so stories about human evolution to justify your advice — what evolution prepared us to do is eat anything that we can catch that doesn’t poison us, because our ancestors who were the best at surviving were the best at making use of whatever calories they could scrounge up out of a generally hostile landscape.

      As a result, we can survive on a wide variety of diets … so eat food that you like and that makes you feel good, with a reasonable mix of protein and energy sources (fat or complex carbohydrate), enough micronutrients, and not too many calories for your personal metabolic needs.

  7. Beth Anne Fleetwood says:

    No recipe for the beans??? Am I missing something?

  8. JoAnn says:

    My sister-in-law is hispanic and she cooks her beans with a whole potato in them. It is supposed to stop the gas and bloating. It’s worth the try!

  9. manthony says:

    What I’ve found to reduce or eliminate the gas producing effects of beans is to add kombu (seaweed) to the cooking water. It completely breaks down, you can’t really taste it and it adds micronutrients! Epazote is also supposed to work.

    • Kira says:

      Can confirm, epazote works well, and also adds a nice mild, herbal flavor to the beans. It’s a hot-weather herb, but you can buy it dried at most specialty spice stores.

      I’ll have to try the kombu trick — thanks!

  10. Jeanne Scharfenberg says:

    This article has been publish twice in the last couple of months, and STILL we don’t have the recipe for the pictured did. I’ve gon looking on the web, but have not found a match. Doesn’t anyone reply to the comments on these things? Last time it was published, the same desire was expressed frequently in the comments.

  11. fryboyski says:

    Hahaha great article

  12. Tess-toss-tyrone says:

    “The real question is: Why do they make you fart so much?”

    What a silly, puerile little article. Unbefitting of the myfitnesspal blog.

  13. MV says:

    Beans are a high FODMAP food. Surprised anyone with any nutrition knowledge could truly recommend them for better belly health. My Fitness Pal should do a better job at making sure what is posted is actual relevant information. Any GI doctor will tell you to AVOID beans for better gut health. While everyone may not respond poorly, majority do. And the attack on those who eat paleo is rather immature & tasteless. What a waste of time reading this!

  14. Ellen Burroughs says:

    I love beans! I also loved this report. It was hysterical! Unfortunately for me (and those around me) I can’t help but let them rip-although I try to only do it at home and Walmart!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Never Miss a Post!

Turn on MyFitnessPal desktop notifications and stay up to date on the latest health and fitness advice.


Click the 'Allow' Button Above


You're all set.