Beans and Legumes: Are they Paleo?

Beans and Legumes | The Paleo Diet

A few days ago I was delighted to learn that Dr. Oz was going to again feature The Paleo Diet on his nationally syndicated television show along with one of my co-authors, Nell Stephenson, of The Paleo Diet Cookbook. I tuned into the Dr. Oz show and was happy about most of what I saw except for Chris Kresser, expounding upon the health virtues of a food group, beans and legumes, that definitely are not Paleo. Please read the following article on beans and legumes, and decide for yourself if beans and legumes are Paleo and feel free to pass this information on to your friends, family and anyone interested in starting a Paleo Diet.

In the decade since I wrote The Paleo Diet, a question that comes up time and again is, “Why can’t I eat beans?”  I briefly touched upon this topic in my first book, but never really was able to get into the necessary detail of why you should avoid not only beans, but all other legumes including peanuts and soy.  Now let me bring you fully up to date on recent developments about our understanding of how beans, soy and other legumes may impact our health.  But most importantly, I’ll show you beyond a shadow of a doubt why legumes are inferior foods that should not be part of any contemporary Paleo Diet.

Toxicity of Uncooked Beans

It may come as a surprise to you, but as recently as 19 years ago imports of red kidney beans into South Africa were legally prohibited because of “their potential toxicity to humans” (63).  Although many people think about kidney beans as nutritious, plant based high-protein foods; few would ever consider them to be toxic poisons.  But indeed toxic they are – unless adequately soaked and boiled kidney beans and almost all legumes produce detrimental effects in our bodies.  Starting in the early 1970’s a number of scientific papers reported that consumption of raw or undercooked red kidney beans caused nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, muscle weakness and even inflammation of the heart (42, 52, 60).  Similar symptoms were documented in horses and cattle (8).  Further, raw kidney beans were lethally toxic to rats when fed at more than 37 % of their daily calories  (24, 27, 51).  Like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, these clues should make us proceed cautiously as we consider the nutritional benefits and/or liabilities of beans and legumes.  Before I get into why raw or partially cooked beans, legumes and soy are toxic, I want to first point out the obvious – these foods (even when fully cooked) are nutritional lightweights when compared to meat, fish and other animal foods.

 The Nutrient Content of Beans and Legumes

If we examine the USDA’s My Plate, governmental nutritionists have arbitrarily created five food groups: 1) grains, 2) vegetables, 3) fruit, 4) dairy and 5) protein foods (61).  On the surface, these categories seem reasonable, and I would basically agree that most common foods could logically be placed into one of these five categories except for one glaring exception – protein foods.

Upon more careful inspection of this category we find the USDA has decided that protein foods should include: 1) meat, 2) poultry, 3) fish, 4) eggs, 5) nuts and seeds and 6) dry beans and peas.  I have little disagreement that meat, poultry, fish and eggs are good sources of protein.  However, digging a little bit deeper, we soon find that the USDA tells us that these six protein food groups are equivalent and can be used interchangeably with one another (61) – meaning that animal protein sources (meats, poultry, fish and eggs) are nutritionally comparable to plant protein sources (nuts, seeds, dry beans and peas).  OK? It gets better still.  I quote the USDA My Plate recommendations:

“Dry beans and peas are the mature forms of legumes such as kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils.  These foods are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc.  They are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients.  Many people consider dry beans and peas as vegetarian alternatives for meat.” (61).

The Paleo Diet

OK let’s let the data speak for itself and really see how “dry beans and peas” stack up to meats, poultry, fish and eggs in terms of protein, iron and zinc as alluded to by the USDA.  In the figure below [data from (66)] you can see that on a calorie by calorie basis, legumes are utter lightweights when compared to the protein content of lean poultry, beef, pork and seafood. Nuts and seeds fare even worse.  Beans, peas and other legumes contain 66 % less protein than either lean chicken or turkey, and 61 % less protein than lean beef, pork and seafood.  What the USDA doesn’t tell us is that our bodies don’t process bean and legume proteins nearly as efficiently as plant proteins – meaning that the proteins found in beans, peas and other legumes have poor digestibility.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)/World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations have devised a protein quality index known as the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS).  This index reveals that beans and other legumes maintain second-rate PDCAAS ratings which average about 20 to 25 % lower than animal protein ratings (14).  So to add insult to injury legumes and beans not only contain about three times less protein than animal foods, but what little protein they do have is poorly digested.  Their poor PDCAAS scores stem from a variety of antinutrients which impair protein absorption (20, 29, 44) and from low levels of two essential amino acids (cysteine and methionine) (66).  I don’t know about you, but I have no idea how the USDA concluded that legumes are, “excellent sources of plant protein . . . similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients.

Now let’s take a look at the average zinc and iron content of eight commonly eaten legumes (green peas, lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans [chick peas], black-eyed peas, mung beans and soybeans).  In the two figures below, I have contrasted the average iron and zinc content [data from (66)] of these eight legumes to lean chicken, turkey, beef, pork and seafood.

The Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet

Notice that the iron content of legumes appears to be similar to seafood and about twice as high as in lean meats and eggs.  Once again, as was the case with legume protein, this data is misleading because it doesn’t tell us how legume iron is handled in our bodies.  Experimental human studies from Dr. Cook’s laboratory in Switzerland and (30) from Dr. Hallberg’s research group in Sweden (26) have shown that only about 20 to 25 % of the iron in legumes is available for absorption because it is bound to phytate.  So in reality, the high iron content of legumes (2.2 mg/100 kcal) plummets by 75 – 80 %, thereby making legumes a very poor source of iron compared to animal foods.  A similar situation occurs with zinc, as phytate and other antinutrients in legumes severely reduce its absorption in our bodies (13, 19, 57).  Given that this information has been known for more than 30 years, it absolutely defies logic how the USDA could misinform the American public by declaring that, “These foods are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc.  They are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients.” 

Antinutrients in Beans and Legumes

From the picture I have painted so far, you can see how misleading it can be to evaluate the nutritional and health effects of beans and other legumes by simply analyzing their nutrient content on paper, as the USDA has done.  Before we can pass nutritional judgment on any food, it is absolutely essential to determine how it actually acts within our bodies.  Beans are not good sources of either zinc or iron, and they have low protein digestibility because these legumes are chock full of antinutrients that impair our body’s ability to absorb and assimilate potential nutrients found in these foods.

As with whole grains, the primary purpose of most antinutrients in legumes is to discourage predation and prevent destruction of the plant’s reproductive materials (e.g. its seeds) by microorganisms, insects, birds, rodents and large mammals (10, 25).  We most frequently refer to legume seeds as beans, but don’t forget that peanuts are not really nuts at all, but rather are legumes.  In the table below I have listed some of the more commonly known legume seeds along with their scientific names.

Table of Commonly Consumed Legumes

The Paleo Diet

Part of the reason for doing this is to point out that many different versions of the beans we frequently eat actually are the exact same species – and as such contain comparable concentrations of toxic antinutrients.  Notice how many times you see the scientific name, Phaseolus vulgaris, repeated in the table above.  If you enjoy Mexican food then you have probably tasted Phaseolus vulgaris as either refried beans or black beans, since these two beans are one in the same species, differing only by color.  Great northern beans, green beans, kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans and white kidney beans also are members of the same species, Phaseolus vulgaris.  I bring this information up because all beans that are members of Phaseolus vulgaris contain some of the highest concentrations of antinutrients known.

The list of antinutrients found in legumes, beans and soy is seemingly endless and includes: lectins, saponins, phytate, polyphenols (tannins, isoflavones), protease inhibitors, raffinose oligosaccharides, cyanogenetic glycosides, and favism glycosides.  I know that this list appears somewhat formidable at first because of all the scientific terms, but don’t be worried – the concepts underlying how these toxins may impair our health are easily understood.  Let’s briefly go through this list so you can clearly understand why you should avoid legumes.


All beans and legumes are concentrated sources of lectins.    Lectins are potent antinutrients that plants have evolved as toxins to ward off predators (10).  You remember from earlier in this chapter that raw or undercooked kidney beans caused severe cases of food poisoning in humans and were lethally toxic in rats.  Although several kidney bean antinutrients probably contributed to these poisonous effects, animal experiments indicate that a specific lectin found in kidney beans was the major culprit (2, 44).  Kidney beans and all other varieties of beans (black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, string beans, navy beans etc.) within the Phaseolus vulgaris species contain a lectin called phytohemagglutinin (PHA).  The more PHA we ingest, the more ill we become.  This is why raw beans are so toxic – they contain much higher concentrations of PHA than cooked beans (4, 23. 46).  However, cooking doesn’t completely eliminate PHA, and even small amounts of this lectin are known to produce adverse health effects, providing they can penetrate our gut barrier.

The trick with lectins is that they must bypass our intestinal wall and enter into our bloodstream if they are to wreak havoc within our bodies. So far, no human studies of PHA have ever been conducted.  However, in laboratory animals, PHA easily breeches the gut barrier and enters into the bloodstream where it may travel to many organs and tissues and disrupt normal cell function and cause disease (45, 49).  Human and animal tissue experiments reveal that PHA and other food lectins can cause a “leaky gut” and enter circulation (24, 34, 35, 45, 47, 49, 64, 65) .  A leaky gut represents one of the first steps implicated in many autoimmune diseases (67).  Impaired intestinal integrity produced by dietary lectins may also my cause low level inflammation in our bloodstreams (15, 43, 48, 62) – a necessary step for atherosclerosis (the artery clogging process) and cancer.

Besides  kidney beans and other bean varieties within Phaseolus vulgaris species, all other legumes contain lectins with varying degrees of toxicity ranging from mild to lethal.   Soybean lectin (SBA) is also known to impair intestinal permeability and cause a leaky gut (1, 35).  Peanut lectin (PNA) is the only legume lectin to have been tested in living humans by Dr. Rhodes’ research group in London.  Within less than an hour after ingestion in healthy normal subjects, PNA entered their bloodstreams (64) – whether the peanuts were cooked or not.   Later I will show you how peanuts and PNA are potent initiators of atherosclerosis.

The lectins found in peas (PSA) and lentils (LCA) seem to be much less toxic than PHA, SBA or PNA, however they are not completely without adverse effects in tissue and animal experiments (9, 21, 25, 38 ).  Unfortunately, no long term lectin experiments have ever been conducted in humans.  Nevertheless, from animal and tissue studies, we know that these antinutrients damage the intestinal barrier, impair growth, alter normal immune function and cause inflammation.


The term, saponin, is derived from the word soap.  Saponins are antinutrients found in almost all legumes and have soap-like properties that punch holes in the membranes lining the exterior of all cells.  As was the case with lectins, this effect is dose dependent – meaning that the more saponins you ingest, the greater will be the damage to your body’s cells.  Our first line of defense against any antinutrient is our gut barrier.  Human tissue and animal studies confirm that legume saponins can easily disrupt the cells lining our intestines and rapidly make their way into our bloodstream (1, 16, 17, 18, 32 ).  Once in the bloodstream in sufficient quantities, saponins can then cause ruptures in our red blood cells in a process known as hemolysis which can then temporarily impair our blood’s oxygen carrying capacity (3).  In the long term, the major threat to our health from legume saponins stems not from hemolysis (red blood cell damage) but rather from their ability to increase intestinal permeability (3, 16, 17, 18, 32)  A leaky gut likely promotes low level inflammation because it allows toxins and bacteria in our guts to interact with our immune system.  This process is known to be is a necessary first step in autoimmune diseases (67) and may promote the inflammation  necessary for heart disease and and the metabolic syndrome to develop and progress (68).

The other major problem with legume saponins is that cooking does not destroy them.  In fact, even after extended boiling for two hours, 85-100 % of the original saponins in most beans and legumes remain intact (55).   On the other hand, by eating fermented soy products such as tofu and tempeh, or sprouted beans you can lower your saponin intake (39).  The table below shows you the saponin content of some common beans, legumes and soy products.

Saponin Content of Selected Beans, Legumes and Soy Products

The Paleo Diet

Consumers beware! Notice that the concentration of saponins in soy protein isolates is dangerously high.  If you are an athlete or anyone else trying to increase your protein intake by supplementing with soy protein isolates, I suggest that you reconsider.  A much healthier strategy would be to eat more meats, fish and seafood.  These protein packed foods taste a whole lot better than artificial soy isolates and are much better for your body.  If we only eat legumes occasionally,  saponin damage to our intestines will quickly repair itself, however when legumes or soy products are consumed in high amounts as staples or daily supplements, the risk for a leaky gut and the diseases associated with it is greatly increased.


We’ve already discussed this antinutrient in great detail, so there is really not much else to say.  Because phytate prevents the full absorption of iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and copper present in legumes and whole grains, then reliance upon these plant foods frequently causes multiple nutritional deficiencies in adults, children and even nursing infants.  Boiling and cooking don’t seem to have much effect upon the phytate content of legumes, whereas sprouting and fermentation can moderately reduce phytate concentrations. Also, vitamin C counteracts phytate’ s inhibitory effects on mineral absorption.  Nevertheless, the best tactic to reduce phytate in your diet is to adopt The Paleo Diet – humanity’s original legume and grain free diet.

Polyphenols: Tannins and Isoflavones

Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds that protect plants from UV sunlight damage as well as from insects, pests and other microorganisms.  Just like sunscreens protect our skin from UV damage, polyphenols are one of the compounds plants have evolved to escape the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, along with damage caused by animal and microorganism predators.  Polyphenols come in many different varieties and forms and are common throughout the plant kingdom.  When we eat these compounds, they seem to have both healthful and detrimental effects in our bodies.  For instance, resveratrol is a polyphenol found in red wine that may increase lifespan in mice and slow or prevent many diseases.    On the other hand, at least two types of polyphenols (tannins and isoflavones) within beans, soy and other legumes may have adverse effects in our bodies (59).

Tannins are bitter tasting polyphenols and give wine its astringent qualities.  As with all antinutrients, the more tannin you ingest, the greater is the potential to disrupt your health.   Tannins are similar to phytate in that they reduce protein digestibility and bind iron and other minerals, thereby preventing their normal absorption (29, 59).  Some, but not all tannins damage our intestines causing a “leaky gut” (59).   By now you can see that legumes, beans and soy represent a triple threat to our intestinal integrity since three separate antinutrients (lectins, saponins, and tannins) all work together to encourage a leaky gut. Let’s move on to the next category of polyphenols.

Isoflavones are some of nature’s weirder plant compounds in that they act like female hormones in our bodies.  Certain isoflavones which are concentrated in soybeans and soy products are called phytoestrogens – literally meaning, “plant estrogens”.  I’ve previously mentioned that isoflavones from soy products can cause goiters (an enlargement of the thyroid gland), particularly if your blood levels of iodine are low.  Two phytoestrogens in soy called genistein and daidzen produce goiters in experimental animals.  You don’t have to develop full blown goiters by these soy isoflavones to impair your health.  In a study of elderly subjects, Dr. Ishizuki (31) and colleagues demonstrated that when subjects (average age, 61 years) were given 30 grams of soy daily for three months they developed symptoms of low thyroid function (malaise, lethargy, and constipation), and half of these people ended up with goiters.

For women, regular intake of soy or soy isoflavones may disrupt certain hormones that regulate the normal menstrual cycle.  In a meta analysis of 47 studies, Dr. Hooper and co-workers (28) demonstrated that soy or soy isoflavones consumption caused two female hormones, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), to fall by 20 %.  The authors concluded, “The clinical implications of these modest hormonal changes remain to be determined.”

I wouldn’t necessary agree with this conclusion, nor would I call a 20 % reduction in both FSH and LH “modest”.  In one study, seven of nine women who consumed vegetarian diets (containing significant quantities of legumes) for only six weeks stopped ovulating (69).  One of the hormonal changes reported in this study, concurrent with the cessation of normal periods, was a significant decline in luteinizing hormone (LH).  Because western vegetarian diets almost always contain lots of soy and hence soy isoflavones, it is entirely possible that soy isoflavones were directly responsible for the declines in LH and the disruption of normal menstrual periods documented in this study.

I have received email from women all over the world who’s menstrual and infertility problems subsided after adopting The Paleo Diet (see Chapter 13). Their stories paint a credible picture that modern day Paleo Diets contain multiple nutritional elements that may improve or eliminate female reproductive and menstrual problems.  Unfortunately scientific validation of these women’s experiences still lies in the future.

Perhaps the most worrisome effects of soy isoflavones may occur in developing fetuses with iodine deficient mothers and in infants receiving soy formula.  A recent (2007) paper by Dr. Gustavo Roman (54) at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center has implicated soy isoflavones as risk factors for autism via their ability to impair normal iodine metabolism and thyroid function.  Specifically, the soy isoflavone known as genistein may inhibit a key iodine based enzyme required for normal brain development.  Pregnant women with borderline iodine status can become iodine deficient by consuming a high soy diet.  Their deficiency may then be conveyed to their developing fetus which in turn impairs growth in fetal brain cells known to be involved in autism.  Infants born with iodine deficiencies are made worse if they are fed a soy formula.  Once again, the evolutionary lesson repeats itself.  If a food or nutrient generally was not a part of our ancestral diet, it has a high probability of disrupting our health and that of our children.

Protease Inhibitors

Unless you are a biologist by trade or are involved in a very narrow area of human nutrition, very few people on the planet know about protease inhibitors.  But I can tell you that when you eat beans, soy or other legumes you should be as aware of protease inhibitors as you are of a radar trap on the freeway – that is – if you don’t want to get a ticket or eat foods that can have unfavorably effects upon your health.

When we eat any protein, we have enzymes in our intestines which break protein into its component amino acids.  These enzymes are called proteases and must be operating normally for our bodies to properly assimilate dietary proteins.  Almost all legumes are concentrated sources of antinutrients called protease inhibitors which prevent our gut enzymes from degrading protein into amino acids.  Protease inhibitors found in beans, soy, peanuts and other legumes are part of the reason why legume proteins have lower bioavailability than meat proteins (20).  In experimental animals ingestion of protease inhibitors in high amounts depresses normal growth and causes pancreatic enlargement (21, 39, 41).  Heating and cooking effectively destroys about 80 % of protease inhibitors found in most legumes (5, 11), so the dietary concentrations of these antinutrients found in beans and soy are thought to have little harmful effects in our bodies.  Nevertheless, at least one important adverse effect of protease inhibitors may have been overlooked.

When the gut’s normal protein degrading enzymes are inhibited by legume protease inhibitors, the pancreas works harder and compensates by secreting more protein degrading enzymes.  Consequently, consumption of protease inhibitors causes levels of protein degrading enzymes to rise within our intestines.  One enzyme in particular, called trypsin, increases significantly.  The rise in trypsin concentrations inside our gut is not without consequence, because elevated trypsin levels increase intestinal permeability in animal experiments (53).  Once again we see yet another antinutrient found in legumes that contribute to a leaky gut, which as I have explained early is not without consequence.

Raffinose Oligosaccharides

Here’s another big scientific term for a little problem almost every one of us has had to deal with at one time or another after we ate beans.  Beans cause gas or flatulence.  Almost all legumes contain complex sugars called oligosaccharides.  In particular, two complex sugars (raffinose and stachyose) are the culprits and are the elements in beans that give us gas (6).  We lack the gut enzymes to breakdown these complex sugars into simpler sugars.  Consequently, bacteria in our intestines metabolize these oligosaccharides into a variety of gases (hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane).  Beans don’t affect us all equally.  Some people experience extreme digestive discomfort with diarrhea, nausea, intestinal rumbling and flatulence, whereas others are almost symptomless (6).  These differences among people seem to be caused by varying types of gut flora (microorganisms).

Cyanogenetic Glycosides

Upon digestion, antinutrients in lima beans called cyanogenetic glycosides are turned into the lethal poison, hydrogen cyanide, in our intestines.  Fortunately, cooking eliminates most of the hydrogen cyanide in lima beans.  Nevertheless a number of fatal poisonings have been reported in the medical literature from people eating raw or undercooked lima beans (70).

Although most of us would never consider eating raw lima beans, the problem doesn’t end here.  Upon cooking most of the hydrogen cyanide in lima beans is converted into a compound called thiocyanate which you can add to soy isoflavones as dietary antinutrients that impair iodine metabolism and cause goiter (70).  In iodine deficient children, these so-called goitrogens are suspect dietary agents underlying autism (54).

Favism  Glycosides

Unless you are a bean connoisseur, most of us in the United States have never tasted broad beans which are also known as fava or faba beans.  In Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African countries broad beans are more popular.  Unfortunately, for many people in these countries, particularly young children, consumption of fava beans can be lethal.  It has been intuitively known for centuries that fava bean consumption was fatal in certain people.  However, the biochemistry of the disease (called favism) has only been worked out in the past 50 years or so (7).

Favism can only occur in people with a genetic defect called G6PD deficiency.  This mutation is the most common human enzyme defect – being present in more than 400 million people worldwide.   It is thought to confer protection against malaria.  People whose genetic background can be traced to Italy, Greece, the Middle East or North Africa are at a much higher risk for carrying this mutation.  If you or your children don’t know if you have the genes causing favism, a simple blood test available at most hospitals and medical clinics can diagnose this problem.  Consumption of fava beans in genetically susceptible people causes a massive rupturing of red blood cells called hemolytic anemia and may frequently be fatal in small children unless blood transfusions are made immediately (7, 71).  Not all people with G6PD deficiency experience favism symptoms after they eat broad beans; however if your family background is from the Mediterranean region you may be particularly susceptible.

Although it is not completely known how broad bean consumption causes favism, three antinutrient glycosides (divicine, isouramil and convicine) found in these legumes likely do the damage (72).  These compounds enter our bloodstreams, and in people with the G6PD mutations interact with red blood cells in a manner that causes them to rupture.   So, you can now add fava beans along with lima beans to the list of legumes which are lethally toxic.

Peanuts and Heart Disease

What’s wrong with Peanut Oil and Peanuts?  Most nutritional experts would tell us that they are heart healthy foods because they contain little saturated fat and most of their fat is made up of cholesterol lowering monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  Hence, on the surface, you might think that peanut oil would probably be helpful in preventing the artery clogging process (atherosclerosis) that underlies heart disease.  Your thoughts were not much different from those of nutritional scientists – that is until they actually tested peanuts and peanut oil in laboratory animals.  Starting in the 1960’s and continuing into the 1980’s scientists unexpectedly found peanut oil to be highly atherogenic, causing arterial plaques to form in rabbits, rats and primates (73-78) – only a single study (79) showed otherwise.  Peanut oil was found to be so atherogenic that it continues to be routinely fed to rabbits to produce atherosclerosis to study the disease itself.

Initially, it was unclear how a seemingly healthful oil could be so toxic in such a wide variety of animals.  Dr. David Kritchevsky and co-workers at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia were able to show with a series of experiments that peanut oil lectin (PNA) was most likely responsible for it artery clogging properties (36, 37).  Lectins are large protein molecules and most scientists had presumed that digestive enzymes in the gut would degrade it into its component amino acids.  Consequently, it was assumed that the intact lectin molecule would not be able to get into the bloodstream to do its dirty work.  But they were wrong.  It turned out that lectins were highly resistant to the gut’s protein shearing enzymes.  An experiment conducted by Dr. Wang and colleagues and published in the prestigious medical journal Lancet (64) revealed that PNA got into the bloodstream intact in as little 1-4 hours after subjects ate a handful of roasted, salted peanuts.   Even though the concentrations of PNA in the subject’s blood were quite low, they were still at concentrations known to cause atherosclerosis in experimental animals.  Lectins are a lot like super glue – it doesn’t take much.  Because these proteins contain carbohydrates, they can bind to a wide variety of cells in the body, including the cells lining the arteries.  And indeed, it was found that PNA did its damage to the arteries by binding to a specific sugar receptor (58).  So, the practical point here is to stay away from both peanuts and peanut oil and all legumes.


I’d like to make a final departing comment before we leave the topic of beans and legumes.  As you adopt The Paleo Diet or any diet, listen to your body.  If a food or food type doesn’t agree with you or makes you feel ill or unwell, don’t eat it.  I should have listened to my own advice 25 years ago when I was experimenting with vegetarian diets.  Whenever I ate beans or legumes, I experienced digestive upset, gas and frequently had diarrhea.   Since embracing The Paleo Diet almost 20 years ago, these symptoms have become a thing of the past.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus


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48. Pusztai A.. Dietary lectins are metabolic signals for the gut and modulate immune and hormone functions. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1993;47: 691-99.

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50. Pusztai A, Grant G, Spencer RJ, Duguid TJ, Brown DS, Ewen, SWB, Peumans WJ, Van Damme EJM, Bardocz S.  Kidney bean lectin-induced Escherichia coli overgrowth in the small intestine is blocked by GNA, a mannose-specific lectin. Journal of Applied Bacteriology. 1993;75: 360-68.

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About Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Loren Cordain, PhD, Professor EmeritusDr. Loren Cordain is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. His research emphasis over the past 20 years has focused upon the evolutionary and anthropological basis for diet, health and well being in modern humans. Dr. Cordain’s scientific publications have examined the nutritional characteristics of worldwide hunter-gatherer diets as well as the nutrient composition of wild plant and animal foods consumed by foraging humans. He is the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets and has lectured extensively on the Paleolithic nutrition worldwide. Dr. Cordain is the author of six popular bestselling books including The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The Paleo Diet Cookbook, summarizing his research findings.

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“58” Comments

  1. La dieta paleo basada en la teoría evolutiva es atrayente, sin embargo no es concluyente, debido a que puede aparecer nuevas evidencias que confirme o desvie el enfoque inicial. De cualquier manera, es un enorme aporte del Dr. Loren Cordain y el Dr Eaton. Lo que si que abría que cuidar, es la interpretación de la evidencia encontrada o falta de evidencia en algunos argumentos planteados.

  2. Dear Dr. Cordain, I’d be grateful if you could tell me if:

    • arrowroot flour
    • organic tapioca flour
    • and soluble tapioca fiber

    are compatible with the paleo diet, especially gut-wise and antinutrient-wise. Thanks so much!


    This diet SAVED my gallbladder, liver, spleen and lungs. Legumes and grains of any kind make me sick! I had so much inflammation in my body and was diagnosed with everything. I did some research and visited a Naturopathic doctor and he directed me to STOP eating the inflammatory foods that were killing me……one of which are LEGUMES. I was also tested for every allergy known to man via skin testing and bloodwork. I was literally forced to only eat lean protein (i.e. fish, chicken, meat, seafood, eggs), veggies and fruits. I CAN NOT eat grain (except; basmati & jasmine rice), LEGUMES (including peas, string beans, all beans plus soy), OR dairy. I not only feel great, but have lost all the edema in my body, have no more joint pain and my gallbladder is now functioning again. My PCP wanted to remove it but no need, plus NO ASTHMA ATTACKS ANYMORE. After being hospitalized 5 TIMES in a years times I was desperate. Gratefully, I am living a healthy life, by eating fresh foods and several small meals during the day maximizing my workout. NO issues anymore

  4. If legumes are bad then how come they’re the only food group associated with longevity in the elderly! Most of these compounds are in raw legumes and some of them actually have many benefits. Bad argument!

  5. I did not interpret Chris Kresser’s views on legumes in the same way. His points were – yes these are toxic (especially raw, and who eats raw kidney beans), but the exact same compounds at even higher levels are found in many good foods, spinach for example. So, be conscious about how much you eat, but unnecessary to avoid all together.
    Your real enemy is processed food and sugar. So, eat whole food – avoid boxes and bags of “food”. Lay off the fast food, soda, bread and dessert. Be conscious about what you put into your body.

  6. While a 100% vegan whole food diet high on legumes and grains too but also vegetables ruined my health and gut, I find now that some legumes such as the white beans and cannellini to be very well tolerated by my gut, no bloating no gas (I had as vegan even after 1 year) but instead of using them as protein sources I see them as a little starch addition to vegetables and meat (which btw is how traditional recepies here in Italy suggest to consume them). I got anemic on a vegan diet so have seen enough how the extremes can be dangerous but probably even some antinutrients can be tolerated in small quantities when good fresh meat and fish is there. Just my guess from experience

  7. I want to advise people who follow certain diets to give it a second thought. The Paleo Diet goes against what 2/3 (if not more) of the world population feed TODAY on, rice and legumes.

    Trying to approach modern diet with paleo diet is like trying to approach modern lifestyle with paleo lifestyle, we aren’t supposed to eat as hunter, in the same way we are not supposed to live (move, work, amuse, whatever) like one either. To begin with, vegetables are also packed with anti-nutrients (saponins, oxalates, phytic acid -specially nuts-, trypsin inhibitors…). And meats aren’t also the healthiest food out there, specially red meat (AGE -advance glycation-, PAH, HCA, NCO), not to say that today meat can’t compare with yesteryears (fat packed, hormones, low in O3, high in O6).

    Now you see the big picture, I don’t advocate for vegan nor paleo, but actually good choices of food sources. That is legumes aren’t bad, but there are some better than others like lentils, mung beans, lupins… same with meat, favouring chicken, turkey, rabbit and fish. And it’s the same with vegetables, not so much spinach (oxalates), arthicokes or fruits (high fructose, produce glycation), potatoes (trypsin inhibitor), etc. Use science to choose your diet, not some primitive premise (hunter diet) to align on.

    • phbgjf,
      As a Type 2 Diabetic with Coronary Artery Disease, I tried eating the exact diet you recommend. I wound up having a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery, so NO, your “scientific diet” is pretty damned deadly!!

  8. Thanks so much Dr. Cordain for this comprehensive article on legumes. I recently found out that I have G6PD deficiency (which millions of people have, although the deficiency isn’t widely discussed or tested for). I’ve struggled to find a variety of comprehensive research and information concerning the deficiency and am very grateful to any doctors and researchers that include it in their work and attempt to get the word out about the dangers of eating legumes, specifically for people with G6PD deficiency. Hopefully, this article will shine some light on this potentially dangerous deficiency that many people have and aren’t aware of.

  9. Amazing how many people are willing to trash the work of “the author of more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles and abstracts, and his research into the health benefits of Stone Age Diets for contemporary people has appeared in the world’s top scientific journals including the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the British Journal of Nutrition, and the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, among others. He is also on the Advisory Board of Paleo Magazine the first, and only, print magazine dedicated to the Paleo/Primal lifestyle and ancestral health.”

    Go ahead and eat beans if you want to, for crying out loud. But you don’t have to crap all over half a lifetime of study and research by a bona fide peer-reviewed and respected scientist.

  10. How to PREPARE BEANS for easy digestion:

    I used to organically grow and eat various dry (winter) beans. I was well aware that they would kill mice that ate them raw – I considered it a benefit for storage.

    But as I got older I had trouble digesting them and gave them up completely for decades, losing all my seed varieties.

    Then I decided to experiment with various preparations. I have found that soaking them between 12 to 18 hours (you don’t want to drown them), with one change of water is the start. Then I drain them and treat them like sprouts for a minimum of one day, a maximum of 2 days but could be longer if very cool- rinse each day. I want to see most of them just beginning to sprout, but few long sprouts.

    Then I boil them, spooning off the foam that floats to the top. I toss the water and rinse and repeat. I toss the second water and rinse and start cooking, bringing to a hard boil at the beginning. Uses a lot of water, but I’m not in a dry area.

    The following are optional, but it is how I do it. I add winter corn that I grow organically (non GMO, I collected seed from Indians across the country 45 years ago and have selected and grown from that organic seed ever since. I’m lucky that no one grows corn around me so no wind borne corrupted pollen. I add some veggies – onions, garlic, carrots etc. and simmer for 3 or 4 hours after the first hard boil.

    I remove them from the iron pot and put into warmed heavy glass containers and cool and refrigerate. I’ve been eating them like that for a few years, they seem to help my health.I managed to find some old style pale red kidney beans that tasted good and were not too “viney” – more bush like so they stand up. I select and save my seed from that strain. I can grow them and I don’t need a hunting license to gather them. 🙂

    OK, I do hunt and bow hunt and eat all the meat I get. I’m in a very rural area.

    By the way, I decided on my own that wheat was poison about 1969, based on what North Americans ate. I’m surprised to see others avoiding it today. I thought I was a fanatic or something back then.

  11. Now I know the Paleo diet is a just another marketing scam. Beans and legumes are excellent sources of soluble dietary fibre and beneficial for gastrointestinal health. Soak them first of course. Organic beans have been eaten by cultures for thousands of years.

  12. Dr. Cordain,

    Dr. Sally Fallon has discussed many of the anti-nutrients you point out in her books, so doesn’t it resolve the issue to soak the beans with whey or lemon juice to take care of these anti-nutrients?

    • Bernadette,

      Soaking to remove antinutrients has some credibility, but still needs to be researched further. That being said, it is best to avoid legumes all together on The Paleo Diet. Legume consumption is the result of the agricultural revolution at approximately 10,000 years ago. For the majority of human evolution, legumes were not a staple food source.

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  14. Why is it then, that in the 5 known Blue Zones, where many people live to 100, and have much lower rates of disease, are beans a staple in their diet?

    • It has nothing to do with beans or legumes. In the West, we eat largely processed, GMO crap now and that has contributed to all our health issues.

  15. Really, you people sound like this article just called your mother a horrible name. Stop being so defensive. This article makes perfect sense to me. I cannot eat beans at all anymore. In fact, if I do eat them, I can feel the effects within 20-30 minutes after consumption.

  16. There’s some good in depth info on phytate on the site of dr. Michael Greger. Go to and use the search option. I was anti Paleo but it seems I am eating Paleo alike, however I include beans. I am a great fan of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill and no one can argue with that. Have a nice day you all!

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  18. Who ever does not soak their beans is a moron, I have to cook beans and lentils and little meat, due to my boyfriends kidney stones, the meat causes them to form. He can have meat, just not as much. And yes, fermented foods are fine too, they are a natural process of preserving foods. It all depends on the person and what they can and can’t eat. The reason why I like the paleo diet, it’s going back to non processed foods without CHEMICALS, fermented dairy doesn’t have chemicals. I get the paleo, and I do introduce it to our diets, such and nut and seed cheeses, as once again, to much dairy cheeses build kidney stones in my boyfriends diet. So little meat, little dairy, but still use it, it still has great nutrients and benefits on many levels. I like beans and lentils for many reasons as well, but again, in moderation, as everything we eat should be in moderation. If you live fully by the paleo, and it works for you great! each person is different with diet. We try so hard as individuals not to be the sheeple, but as a society we end up trying to follow the crowd, even in fad diets. Do what works for you, just try to cut out, cut back and/or avoid processed foods that have a long shelf life. And yes, beans and rice do have a long shelf life, in dry form, once soaked and/or cooked, they don’t have a long shelf life. Soak your beans and lentils for 8 hours or over night, they become more digestible, then cook them in a crock pot/slow cooker, these were invented to cook the bean and lentil. But really, yes, our main food basics are best for us, we are after all, still apart of the animal kingdom in a sense, but not all animals are the same and therefore eat the same foods available. The only difference between us and them really, is we have thumbs that can open doors that we built with our own hands.
    Just a personal opinion, eat what works for you, but if you don’t follow the paleo diet to a T, it’s okay, again, just avoid processed foods.

  19. Green beans, too? I thought these were safe to eat since the whole thing is eaten, not just the little seeds inside. Please let me know.

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  39. After reading so much about what’s good to eat and what’s not; I’m more confused than ever! I make a lot of paleo foods but not following it exactly. I do avoid wheat/grains but like dairy and beans/legumes. What about Kefir? I thought that was a great probiotic? I eat it everyday. So confusing with all the info out there.

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  49. Having been on the Paleo diet for 6 years, I can say that one of the best things I did was give up legumes. It may not be necessary for everyone, but it worked wonders for me. Based on the scientific evidence both pro and con, I’m sticking with the strict Paleo interpretation. This article provides an excellent overview of the cons. Dr. Cordain stresses is that even when legumes are cooked, many of the problems remain.

    Paleo is not a religion that says “we can never eat something that wasn’t eaten in the Paleolithic era, and we should always eat everything that did exist in the Paleolithic era.” The fact that in certain places people ate and still eat legumes doesn’t matter. Communities of people worldwide eat a fairly wide variety of foods. Over generations, a community becomes genetically adapted to whatever is locally available and thrives on that limited diet. Weston Price discovered this fact in his travels and the point is reiterated by Denise Minger in her wonderful book “Death By Food Pyramid.”

    I don’t hear Dr. Cordain arguing that nobody ever ate a bean and lived to tell the tale. It’s simply that with our more advanced understanding of biochemistry, we can study legumes (and every other food) and assess which are better for us and why. I was a vegetarian (and gluten-free!) for 25 years, ate legumes as my main source of protein, and never felt well digestively speaking. I experienced gas, bloating and sinus congestion that I just “lived with” or blamed on who-knows-what, because I was convinced I was eating healthily.

    Ultimately, there’s no-one-size-fits-all where diet is concerned, and I don’t think Dr. Cordain would argue that there is. Everybody has to arrive at a dietary approach that feels right for them. Dr. Cordain is not a pseudo-scientist, a con-artist or a guru. He’s a mature, credentialed scientist who has made some discoveries about food and, along with colleagues around the world, has decided to share them with you and me. His discoveries, as well as everyone else’s, are there for our consideration, to take or leave alone.

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  59. Hey Loren,

    Thanks for the well referenced article. I do have one question – and I’m really looking for an answer here, I’m not trolling.

    I’ve read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s books, and he’s a BIG fan of beans. Several times he references the correlation between societies that eat beans (specifically, he’s referencing black beans, kidney beans, and son on) and long life.

    Because of that, and also with the information in your article, I’m still on the fence about beans. Oh, yes, Tim Ferris advocates eating them as a major component of the 4-Hour Body diet as well (and I’ve lost and kept off 30 lbs from using that protocol). So, thoughts? I’m all ears. Thanks!


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  65. FYI, peanuts are also beans! 🙂 I had wondered for a while about the way peanuts grow and why we harvest them from underground when the “fruits” of every other legume are above ground level. Turns out the peanut plant takes its pods and shoves them down into the earth with special stems. A peanut pod has the same structures as a green bean or a pea pod; it just grows in a different place.

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  68. Honestly, you people sound like this article just called your mother a horrible name. Stop being so defensive. This article makes perfect sense to me. I cannot eat beans at all anymore. In fact, if I do eat them, I can feel the effects within 20-30 minutes after consumption. Kidney beans especially make me seriously ill. Eating chilli is certain to make me sick. Beans are poison to me. Oddly enough, I ate them as a child and had no issues really, but I am not sure the beans I ate as a child are the same as the beans today with all the GMO nonsense.

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  70. Maybe the meat, fish, and poultry are way better than the beans/legumes nutritionally… but I would love to see you come and work with the poverty-level families I work with as a Home Visitor for Head Start/Early Head Start. I think we all know the price of meat/fish versus the prices of beans at the grocery store. How do I justify this to people who are UNDER THE FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL? It’s hard enough to get our families away from the drive-through line and the pre-packaged convenience foods when, unfortunately, fresh foods can be much more expensive. *I* know what’s better, and *you* know what’s better, but I wish those of you writing these articles would step out from behind the computer and break it down for the real world.

    • It is a total myth that convenience food, packaged food, and fast food is cheaper than healthy food. Just go to the store and do some math. Healthy food is cheaper, by quite a bit actually. The difference is you have to prepare it and cook it, skills that people have lost in the last generation or two and don’t seem interested in gaining.

      • Right on. I’m always amazed at how low my bill is at Aldi (in my town, Cedar Rapids IA, they are by far and away the best place to shop for inexpensive fresh produce). Unless I buy something that has already been cooked/processed. The only time my receipt goes over $20 is when I buy coffee and/or meat.

        The canned seafood, by the way, is both inexpensive and delicious. Herrings, sardines, tuna, yes they cost more than beans, no they won’t break a food stamp (SNAP) budget.

        But food preparation is required. Fortunately, I enjoy it.

  71. Dr. Cordain, I’d like to know more about the bioavailability of mushroom’s protein.
    They are also high in protein when using the “per-100-kilocalories” scale.

  72. I also don’t get the prohibition around legumes.

    Native Americans are well known to have eaten what they all the “three sisters” i.e. corn, beans and squash. So predominantly hunter gatherers DID eat beans. In fact, there is a bean named after one Native American Pueblo people: the Anasazi bean.

    Phytates are broken down and eliminated by cooking and by soaking. Which is how beans are normally prepared anyway. That’s like saying people should avoid meat because it contains salmonella and other bacteria. But nobody today eats raw meat. There is also no evidence phytates cause mineral deficiencies due to malabsorbtion

    Phytates actually have some health benefits. They are antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory effects, and are a low glycemic load.

    Lectins: Almost all plant foods contain lectins. Nuts are relatively high in lectin. So why are nuts considered Paleo? As with phytates, 90% of the lectins are eliminated by soaking and cooking.

    Examples of legumes in primal diets:
    wild African tamarind legume fruit pods
    wild coffee beans
    marama bean
    cashews (which are a legume, not a nut)

    Boyd Eaton in the Paleolithic Prescription did allow for eating legumes.

        • Beans believed to be one of key indicators of a long life.

          I. Darmadi-Blackberry, M. Wahlqvist, A. Kouris-Blazos, et al. Legumes: the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2004;13(2):217-20.

          W. Chang, M. Wahlqvist, H. Chang, C. Hsu, M. Lee, W. Wang, C. Hsiung. A bean-free diet increases the risk of all-cause mortality among Taiwanese women: The role of the metabolic syndrome. Public Health Nutr 2012 15(4):663 – 672.

          S. J. Nechuta, B. J. Caan, W. Y. Chen, W. Lu, Z. Chen, M. L. Kwan, S. W. Flatt, Y. Zheng, W. Zheng, J. P. Pierce, X. O. Shu. Soy food intake after diagnosis of breast cancer and survival: An in-depth analysis of combined evidence from cohort studies of US and Chinese women. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2012 96(1):123 – 132.

          S. M. Krebs-Smith, P. M. Guenther, A. F. Subar, S. I. Kirkpatrick, K. W. Dodd. Americans do not meet federal dietary recommendations. J. Nutr. 2010 140(10):1832 – 1838.

          S. E. Fleming, A. U. O’Donnell, J. A. Perman. Influence of frequent and long-term bean consumption on colonic function and fermentation. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1985 41(5):909 – 918.

          M. Zanovec, C. O’Neil, T. Nicklas. Comparison of Nutrient Density and Nutrient-to-Cost between Cooked and Canned Beans. Food and Nutrition Sciences 2011 2(NA):66-73.

          Y. Zhang, H. Kang, B. Li, R. Zhang. Positive effects of soy isoflavone food on survival of breast cancer patients in China. Asian Pac. J. Cancer Prev. 2012 13(2):479 – 482.

          D. M. Winham, A. M. Hutchins. Perceptions of flatulence from bean consumption among adults in 3 feeding studies. Nutr J 2011 10(NA):128.

          H. M. Spiro. Fat, foreboding, and flatulence. Ann. Intern. Med. 1999 130(4-Pt-1):320 – 322.

          R. Sandler, N. Zorich, T. Filloon, H. Wiseman. Gastrointestinal Symptoms in 3181 Volunteers Ingesting Snack Foods Containing Olestra or Triglycerides. Ann Intern Med. 1999 130(NA):253-261.

          Anderson, J.W. 1997. Estimated Values for Isoflavone Content of Selected Soyfoods*. American Dietetic Association 80th Annual Meeting and Exhibition.

    • And let’s not forget all that fermentable fiber we get from properly cooked legumes. When indigestible fibers reach the gut, many of them get fermented into short chain fatty acids that fight inflammation, promote satiety,help control blood sugar and more. Butyrate, one of those SFCAs, also helps heal the intestinal lining, an important barrier between the gut and blood. No wonder scientists say that “immunity begins in the gut.”

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  74. I began to wonder about beans when i noticed a few years ago in gardening catalogs that they were offering many varieties of asian beans like yard long or horse beans iirc and they said to eat these when young because they said they were “highly toxic” when mature.

    for myself my health was getting worse and worse (i thought i was doing myself good by eating raw oatmeal with soymilk for breakfast and very lightly cooked “salad lentils” for dinner and luckily i just happened along some radio nutritionist on a Christian station who recc to not eat grains or legumes. from there i found Paleo, which i had initially laughed at as just another fad diet like the cabbage soup diet. Then i found out that you guys actually seem to be interested in the truth. 🙂

    Thanks so much. Maybe you saved my life? My skin was horrible and i couldn’t understand why i felt tired and had difficulty breathing after eating some meals. Probably i’ll give up nightshades next to see if i can further improve. am also taking about 15 grams of glutamate per day to hopefully help heal my gut.

    anyone reading this just try it for a week and i bet you’ll improve.

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  82. Wow. What a bunch of B.S. You could just as easily drum up as much or more scientific evidence against the consumption of red meat. It matters NOT ONE BIT whether or not it is good for you in large amounts to be considered Paleo. I dont care how many books you’ve written, if you base your diet on anything other than what Paleolithic humans could and did consume you are simply crafting another stupid fad. I can walk out into the desert and find no less than twenty different legumes which may be picked from the trees and shrubs they grow on. Paleolithic humans ate them. Probably not in the quantities that agricultureal societies did, but they definitely ate legumes in season. Your diet is simply not Paleo, and everyone should question your authority on all things Paleo.

    • The paleo diet was always so appealing to me, by that I mean it just seemed cool! But the bean thing really bothered me. And I found veganism with the occassional cut of wild salmon to work best for me. But the reality is that paleo is a fad diet with little scientific basis. Nor is the diet reflective of paleolithic intake. Many nut and seed varieties were domesticated, and were poisonous prior to this(almonds). Furthermore paleolithic diet studies rely heavily on tooth wear, and the latest evidence shows that we were and are oppotuinists, eating as high as 99% meat in some areas/seasons, but living entirely on foraged plants in other times/regions. Furthermore nuts/seeds , while nutritious in moderation, are loaded with fat in very unhealthy omega 6 quantities. Legumes have just as much of similar quality protein, generally extremely low fat, and much more fiber. And at only half the protein of your sacred meats, its still above and beyond the amount needed for even athletes. If you adhered to science instead of speculation you’d not be putting your protein figures at bloated 1960s FDA levels. Fad diet. Period. Essentially a watered down iteration of the first wave of dangerously unscientific low carb diets. Finding a new excuse to demonize most carbs under the mistaken belief that high fiber bread = soda pop, or that lots of carbs = weight gain. At least its not dangerous enough to limit fruits and veggie based carbs!! But seriously, as otherwise stated by other posters 1. The paleo diet is a gimmick, hardly reflective of actual paleolithic trends. 2. Beans are domesticated. So are nuts and seeds. Beans are healthier, higher fiber, lower inflammatory omega 6’s. Eat beans.

    • Thank you John! You nailed it. A complete bunch of nonsense, the whole thing. The only redeeming quality the Paleo diet has is it does eliminate processed foods and encourages whole foods. Goes to show you anyone can make anything sound scientific and convincing.

      • I am glad to read these comments, as I was questioning a lot of this as I was reading. I switched to what I call a relaxed vegan approach several months ago. I eat mostly fruit, nuts, vegetables and legumes. I have meat about once a week. I am allergic to dairy (as in stuffy nose, etc.) so I switched to cashew milk or almond milk 3 years ago. Since reducing cheese in my diet I noticed a lot less allergy trouble. I also cut eggs out of my diet completely. I am prone to kidney stones and my father had a heart attack due to 90% arterial blockage. He has been meat and potatoes his whole life. I think all things in moderation. It seems that a paleo diet would probably kill me with my family history of heart disease. I think if we learn what foods are affecting us adversely and make adjustments as necessary that is the smartest approach. Making sure we exercise and keep our portion sizes reasonable are key in making sure we are healthy.

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  84. great article dr.cordain. Would you care to comment on this article by chris kresser? –

    he claims that legumes are much lower sources of phytates than other paleo friendly food such as spinach and chard (which I think is true). Are legumes really more dense in antinutrients then vegetables? thanks.

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  88. As you wrote in this article, not all beans are equal in toxicity. Even if I do eat meat, I don’t eat rat meat, so I’d prefer to not eat kidney beans or soy or peanuts either. But that doesn’t mean that lentils, peas/chickpeas and green beans are so bad as this article makes them out to be.

    There are 3 studies (I don’t have their links off hand), that this article didn’t mention (why not?), where they mention that lectins are going away after soaking and pressure-cooking beans.

    One thing I never understood in the Paleo diet is why they’re so against legumes, while they’re never bother to soak their nuts! Nuts are even worse than legumes in anti-nutrients, and they’re LOADED with omega-6. And yet, all you see is people snacking on roasted nuts (which oxidizes them on top of all the other problems), or on “Paleo cookies” (is there really such a thing?).

    This is my personal observation regarding beans and my gut health. Facts:
    1. I was born and grew up in Greece, where we’d eat beans 2-3 times a week (staple).
    2. I had failure to thrive as a kid, and the sh*t hit the fan in terms of health by the age of 30.
    3. During these times, (traditionally-prepared) legumes would give me the usual gut problems: indigestion, gas.
    4. Fast forward to age 38, when I found Paleo: Gluten and legumes are going bye-bye, and I only had fermented goat dairy from all the “no-no” foods. The diet saved my life. I later found that I was an undiagnosed celiac for all these years and that gluten was to blame for my miserable life.
    5. Two years later after going Paleo, while my gut has healed, I decided to give legumes a try again.
    6. I tried lentils, chickpeas, and black beans. Guess what. I had NO PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER eating these now!

    My conclusion is that the indigestion problems people get from legumes are either a cross-reaction with gluten (as some dairy intolerance cases are), OR their guts are *already* so permeable, that they can’t tolerate them anymore. Of course, my legumes were soaked and pressure-cooked, as my mom did so always (and as the research papers say that we should do so). But this time, I have had NO problems AT ALL.

    In my opinion, you should not be advising against legumes with so much vigor. You mostly have research papers for uncooked beans, not properly prepared ones. WE DON’T know how much of the bad stuff actually still remain after the beans are soaked and cooked. There are not enough papers for that!

    As for vitamins, I always track what I eat. On Paleo, I’m CONSTANTLY LOW on B1 and Folate. I don’t know why you mention zinc as a comparative example, because if I wanted Zinc, I’d just eat oysters, not beans. I eat lentils for their B1 and folate, the two vitamins that Paleo just doesn’t offer me enough of (unless I gulp down huge amounts of nuts, which I don’t want to for reasons mentioned above).

    And unless you have peer reviewed papers that B1 and folate are not properly absorbed by the human gut AFTER these lentils have been soaked, and cooked (and maybe even sprouted), then all I hear is yada-yada-yada.

    Yes, legumes CAN be bad. But they can also be more than tolerable, under the right conditions, and they can even help you with some vitamins that you might be missing. Same situation with dairy, when it’s fermented and from casein A2 animals (and if the individual is not horribly allergic to it).

    The only foods that are a no-no 100% of the time are glutenous grains, seed oils, processed foods and excess sugars. Everything else are gray areas in my experience and it depends on the species, individual’s existing gut health, their genetic background, and how these foods were prepared.

    • Great response, thanks for that. People really need to stick to the basic premise of Paleo and think for themselves before blindly accepting the proclamations of self appointed experts. The whole “research into the human body” argument is what got us into this mess to begin with. Nothing against science, I’m all for it, but science requires skepticism. Paleo is not just a diet, it’s a baseline for the human conditon generally.

    • Thanks Eugenia! I agre 100% with you, I am brazilian and beans are also a staple food here but we have no problems eating them if they are prep as they should. That’s a great post.

    • I don’t know what to think about these anti-nutrients, they are probably to remove if we can. But one important point is never mentioned by paleo specialists: it is the study about “Blue Zones” (those 5 identified area of the world where people live longer and in better health). Blue Zones have a big common point: Beans/Legumes. All of those populations are big legumes eaters. The variety of legume depending on the World’s area where those people live (Soy bean in Okinawa/Japan, Lentils or chickpeas in Ikaria/Greece…). If it was so toxic to eat such products, would they live so long and in a such good health?

      • the Japanese eat aged and fermented soy products primarily. they don’t use soy isoflavones like in the u.s. they eat a lot of seaweed for iodine which is good for everything in the body. I did macrobiotics from 71-75 including living at the Kushi residence. the cooking and preparation of traditional foods is very specific to remove many of the harmful factors. certainly not paleo…but sometimes the baby is thrown out with the bathwater too quickly. but the information on this site is compelling. I’ve been doing paleo before paleo was called paleo with a few of my old macro habits thrown in.

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