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Are Pinto Beans Keto-Friendly? (& Substitutes)

On the ketogenic diet the goal is to keep your carbohydrate intake low enough. What about pinto beans, are they keto-friendly or not?

Pinto beans are a color-speckled legume that comes in a wide variety of colors. You can eat them boiled on their own or as an ingredient in dishes like chili.

The net amount of carbs, which comes down to total carbs minus carbs from fiber, in boiled pinto beans is around 17.2 grams per 100 grams.

While it depends on the rest of your diet, for most people pinto beans are not keto-friendly. They are not completely off-limits but you will have to exercise some serious portion control.

In any case, there are many substitutes for pinto beans that are better for staying in ketosis.

When is a food keto-friendly

The goal of the ketogenic diet is to put your body into ketosis, a state where it starts mainly burning fat as a fuel (1). This comes down to more or less getting 55%-60% of your macronutrients from fat, 30%-35% from protein, and 5%-10% from carbohydrates.

For most people this comes down to eating around 20g – 50g of carbohydrates a day.

In reality, this number is different depending on a lot of factors. For example, people who exercise a lot may be able to consume more carbohydrates before getting kicked out of ketosis.

That being said that daily amount can be a good general guideline.

It is also common to exclude fiber from this amount since it doesn’t get absorbed into your body the same way as regular carbohydrates.

Carbs in pinto beans

100 grams of boiled pinto beans contains the following amounts of carbs (2):

  • Total carbs: 26.2 grams
  • Of which fiber: 9 grams
  • Net carbs: 17.2 grams

Combined with the other foods in your diet the 17.2 grams of net carbs in 100 grams of boiled pinto beans is likely enough to kick you out of ketosis.

One ounce of pinto beans is about 28 grams and contains the following amounts of carbs:

  • Total carbs: 7.3 grams
  • Of which fiber: 2.5 grams
  • Net carbs: 4.8 grams

The number of net carbs in 1 ounce of boiled pinto beans, 4.8 grams, is a bit easier to fit into a keto diet but still likely too much.

Whether or not pinto beans are keto for you ultimately depends on how many pinto beans you have in mind, your individual situation, and the rest of your diet.

Other nutrients in pinto beans

Other nutrients like fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals also still matter on the ketogenic diet.

100 grams of boiled pinto beans contains the following nutrients (2):

  • Calories: 143
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Carbs: 26.2 grams
  • Part of the carbs that is fiber: 9 grams
  • Fat: 0.7 grams
  • Folate: 43% of the DV (Daily Value)
  • Manganese: 23% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 15% of the DV
  • Thiamin: 13% of the DV
  • Iron: 12% of the DV

And some other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts.

Pinto beans are relatively high in net carbs but they do contain nice amounts of valuable nutrients per 100 grams compared to many other foods.

How to avoid eating too many pinto beans

By now it is clear that to be able to fit pinto beans in your keto diet, you will have to exercise some serious portion control. Preparing a big pot of pinto beans and hoping that you don’t eat too many is not the ideal way to do this.

You can avoid eating too many pinto beans with some of the following tips:

  • Plan ahead, how many grams of pinto beans will you eat?
  • Put the planned amount on a plate and leave the rest out of sight
  • Don’t eat during other activities like watching TV
  • Consider not buying pinto beans if you crave them too much

If you notice you get out of ketosis you may need to reduce the quantity of pinto beans you eat.

Substitutes for pinto beans on keto

Pinto beans are not the only option when you want to eat legumes on the ketogenic diet. Pinto beans are actually an option that is one of the highest in net carbs so there are a few more keto-friendly legumes.

Some of the following substitutes may be better on the keto diet. These are the net carb values per 100 grams of boiled legumes (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8):

  • Soybeans: 3.9 grams of net carbs
  • Lupins: 7.1 grams of net carbs
  • Peanuts: 7.6 grams of net carbs
  • Green peas: 8.6 grams of net carbs
  • Mung beans: 11.6 grams of net carbs
  • Lentils: 12.2 grams of net carbs

If you have trouble staying in ketosis but still have cravings for legumes it may be smart to choose some of these substitutes over pinto beans. However, even with these examples you will have to exercise portion control to stay in ketosis.

What is your goal with keto?

Even a small amount of pinto beans added to certain daily diets can potentially put you just over the net carbs border, out of ketosis. Depending on the goal you have with keto this may or may not be a problem.

If your goal is to stay strictly in ketosis 24/7 you want to be careful about your carbohydrate intake.

If your goal is to lose weight and become healthier, pinto beans can be a good food option even if they potentially put you at a carbohydrate level slightly above your ketosis level.