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Beans vs meat: which is better?

Meat, although packed with protein, can also be a source of unhealthy saturated fats. Protein- and fibre-rich beans are a cost-effective and healthy protein alternative. We discover just how much they deliver.

One small thing: Try a bean burger. Blend cooked black beans, onion, garlic, eggs, breadcrumbs and seasoning in a food processor. Form patties from the mixture and cook as you would “normal” burgers.

Protein is one of the body’s fundamental building blocks and is responsible for cell growth and repair, a healthy immune system, various metabolic processes and maintaining a healthy weight. Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein makes up the three macronutrients the body needs in large amounts.

Meat, eggs, seafood and dairy are primary sources of protein, but beans are also an excellent way to get your protein allowance without the risk of heart-harming saturated fat, which is present in many animal-based foods.

How much protein can you get from beans?

Soya, kidney, white cannellini and baked beans should be your pantry staples as they’re packed with protein, fibre and other beneficial nutrients. Here’s how much protein you’ll get from a cup of cooked beans:

Type of bean Amount of protein (g)
Soybeans 29
Kidney beans 13
Pinto (speckled) beans 16
Black beans 15


Complete vs incomplete proteins

Complete proteins, such as red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt, contain all nine essential amino acids the body requires. Although beans deliver high protein value, they are incomplete proteins since they lack a few of the essential amino acids. For this reason, vegans and vegetarians need to supplement their diet with other plant proteins, such as brown rice, wholegrains and nuts, to meet the required daily protein intake. One of the best plant sources of protein that contains all nine amino acids is soya.

Beans deliver protein and fibre

In a recent study conducted by the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, and the Faculty of Science at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, participants who ate bean meals with 19% protein, consumed 12% fewer kilojoules in their next meal than when they had eaten the meat meals (also 19% protein).

The researchers concluded that bean meals were more filling, which prevented overeating at the next meal. They were also able to deduce that the nutritional goodness in beans is not just the protein but the high fibre content that leaves you feeling fuller for longer.

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