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Beans in the Atkins Diet

By Jay Schwartz

Beans are a nutritious, high-carbohydrate, low-fat food. Dr. Robert Atkins, the late best-selling author of several diet books, disagreed. His list of foods that people should eat regularly did not include any beans, and he recommended that you don't eat beans at all in the early stages of his diet plans.

Do Beans Cause Fat?

Atkins disagreed with many other medical experts about whether beans are a healthy food because he believed that high-carbohydrate foods caused obesity by raising blood sugar levels and fats caused "virtually no blood sugar elevation." Many other medical experts believe that you should eat more beans and other high-carb foods to lose weight and regard beans as an excellent alternative to high-fat meats as a source of protein. "Eating fat makes you fat," wrote Dr. Dean Ornish in "Dr. Dean Ornish's Program For Reversing Heart Disease."

Carbohydrate Counter

Eating few high-carbohydrate foods was so important to Atkins that he inserted a "Carbohydrate Gram Counter" on the inside cover of "Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution." The chart shows that beans have more carbohydrates per serving than all meats and cheeses, and virtually all fruits and vegetables. Navy beans have 23.9 grams of carbohydrates per serving, chickpeas 22.5 grams, baby lima beans 21.2 grams, black beans 20.4 grams, lentils 19.9 grams and red kidney beans 19.8 grams. Only soybeans, with 9.9 grams of carbs per serving, are relatively low in carbs.

No Beans For Weeks

Atkins recommended that you eat no beans during his diet's Induction phase. This means you cannot eat any beans for at least two weeks. The more weight you need to lose, the longer the induction phase.

The diet's second phase, Ongoing Weight Loss, lasts until you are 5 to 10 pounds overweight and includes a "carbohydrate ladder" that lets you increase your carb intake by 5 grams per week, beginning with vegetables. The ladder has nine food groups, and beans are in Group 6. Beans' high-carbohydrate composition means that you can't eat many beans for several weeks.

A Few More Beans

Atkins' diet lets you eat more beans during its last two phases.

You can eat an additional 10 grams of carbohydrates per week in the Pre-Maintenance phase, which lasts until you are at your ideal weight. Several beans contain 10 grams of carbs in 1/4 cup--kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, lima beans and pinto beans. On Atkins' list of Lifetime Maintenance foods, no beans are in the "eat regularly" category. Soybeans, kidney beans and dried peas are in the "eat in moderation" group, and all other beans are in the "eat sparingly" category.

Atkins' Pyramid

Atkins' healthy diet pyramid has beans near the pyramid's point in the same category as nuts, oils, nuts, cheeses and dairy products. Only whole-grain foods should be eaten less than foods in the beans' category, according to Atkins' books. His pyramid recommends that you eat more meats than any other food. The most commonly accepted healthy diet pyramid, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's -- USDA -- pyramid, puts meats and beans in the same category, but recommends that you eat more beans and avoid high-fat meat.

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