The Bean Diet Guide: An Expert Nutritionist’s Take

Love them or hate them, beans are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, so it’s probably no surprise that there is a Bean Diet for weight loss.

The official Bean Diet to lose weight and improve health is also called the Bean Protocol, but some people have modified the original Bean Protocol diet to various other Bean Diet weight loss plans like a 7 day Bean Diet or a 30 day Bean Diet plan for weight loss.

But, what are the Bean Diet results? What can you expect from a Bean Diet before and after in terms of health? What are the benefits of the Bean Protocol?

In this guide, we will discuss the Bean Protocol diet plan, how to follow the Bean Protocol for weight loss, Bean Diet results, and the purported Bean Protocol before and after results.

We will look at: 

  • What is the Karen Hurd Bean Diet (Bean Protocol)?
  • What Can You Eat On the Bean Diet Plan?
  • What Are the Benefits of the Bean Diet?

Let’s get started!

Sacks of different types of beans.

What is the Karen Hurd Bean Diet (Bean Protocol)?

Although there are various Bean Diet weight loss plans these days, the original Bean Diet for weight loss is attributed to Karen Hurd and is called the Karen Hurd Bean Protocol.

Although a 7 day Bean Diet for weight loss or a general Bean Diet weight loss plan is geared specifically towards weight loss, the Karen Hurd Bean Protocol is intended to support not only healthy body weight but also optimal hormonal balance, so it is as much of a “health diet” as a weight loss diet.

Karen Hurd is a former military biochemist.

She reportedly created the Karen Hurd Bean Protocol in response to her 18-month-old daughter being poisoned by a high concentration of pesticides sprayed around her home in 1989.

This led to her baby experiencing a host of alarming symptoms such as allergies, infections, seizures, warts, and colds, which ultimately caused the doctors to assert that her baby was dying and that there were no treatment options.

A bowl of different types of beans and legumes.

Karen Hurd then made it her mission to create a concoction with healthy foods (mainly beans due to the soluble fiber content) that would help heal her daughter by encouraging the elimination of the toxins that had built up and the restoration of all of her biological systems that were shutting down.

Amazingly, Hurd’s efforts worked, and her daughter’s health improved.

Over time, the Bean Protocol was created based on the healing and healthy powers of beans and other foods high in soluble fiber that Karen Hurd discovered.

The official Bean Protocol diet isn’t a weight loss diet, as much as it is a diet plan that is supposed to help “detox“ the liver and help the body heal from a host of elements such as inflammation, digestive issues, allergies, autoimmune conditions, infertility, hormonal imbalances, and more.

The Bean Protocol Diet Plan involves eating soup beans and/or lentils 3 to 6 times per day for at least three months and significantly longer for those who have chronic diseases.

Offshoots like the 7 day Bean Diet for weight loss or a 30 day weight loss Bean Diet meal plan have been developed to focus more specifically on eating beans and legumes to promote weight loss, but it is important to establish that there is a distinction between the intended health impacts of the Bean Protocol vs Bean Diet for weight loss.

A bean weight loss diet meal plan capitalizes on the satiating effects of beans to promote weight loss while cutting calories.

A spoonful of beans.

What Can You Eat On the Bean Diet Plan?

Given the fact that the Bean Protocol diet plan and modified bean weight loss diet plans are distinct in their goals, what you can eat on a Bean Diet meal plan depends on the type of Bean Diet program you are interested in following.

The official Karen Hurd Bean Protocol meal plan involves the following daily intake:

3 to 6, 1/2 cup-servings of beans or lentils

Note that if you do not want to have all of these servings of beans, you can supplement psyllium husk for some or all of the servings, but beans are preferred. This is how you are getting the soluble fiber integral to the Bean Protocol benefits.

You are supposed to limit the amount of oil that you use to cook the beans, with other cooking methods preferable.

Three servings of a complete lean protein per day (palm-sized serving)

Examples include lean meat, eggs, poultry, fish, and seafood. Note that most plant-based proteins are not complete proteins except for soy, but soy is not allowed on the Bean Protocol menu.


A minimum of three, but preferably 5 ½-cups of non-starchy vegetables per day or 1 ½ cups of leafy green vegetables per day

Examples include asparagus, green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Potatoes, corn, and sweet potatoes count as “starches and “not vegetables on the Bean Diet meal plan.

Fats and oils from nuts and seeds

Preferably almonds, flaxseeds, Chia seeds, peanut butter, etc.

Note that coconut oil is a saturated fat and is not recommended on the Bean Protocol meal plan.

Avocado is a good alternative, including avocado oil or flaxseed oil, extra-virgin olive oil, or walnut oil.

A minimum of 96 ounces of water per day

Preferably warm or hot. This is imperative for eating hydration and digestion, given the increased fiber intake. 

Note that sparkling water does not count towards this water intake, though it is allowed on the Bean Protocol foods list.

In addition to the Bean Protocol food list for your meal plan, you are supposed to sleep eight hours every night or a minimum of 56 hours over the course of the week, reduce stress as much as possible, and engage in daily low-intensity exercises such as walking, yoga, Pilates, or gentle exercise bike workouts.

Pouring a glass of water.

Here are the foods to avoid on the Bean Protocol diet plan:

  • Sugars or sweeteners of any kind, including artificial sweeteners and fruit, honey, natural sweeteners, etc. 
  • Caffeine in all forms, including trace amounts in decaf coffee, chocolate, etc.
  • Saturated fats
  • Alcohol
  • Chewing gum
  • Soy of all types, including soy lecithin and soy found in food products.
  • Processed foods of any kind
  • Dairy products of all kinds, including Greek yogurt and cottage cheese

In addition to the list of Bean Protocol foods to avoid, you are supposed to minimize stress and eliminate all fragrances from your home and body care routine.

A 7 day Bean Diet to lose weight, or a general Bean Diet plan, may be much more flexible.

It may include healthy, whole, unprocessed foods like non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, eggs, and low-fat dairy products, in addition to an emphasis on beans and lentils as one of the primary sources of protein and complex carbohydrates.

A bowl of chickpeas.

What Are the Benefits of the Bean Diet?

Bean Diet results will depend on whether you are following the official Bean Protocol or a 7-day Bean Diet weight loss plan.

The benefits of a Bean Diet, in general, are that beans are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, which aids digestion, promotes satiety to help you control your caloric intake, feeds the beneficial gut bacteria for a healthy microbiome, and reduces the risk of certain lifestyle diseases and inflammatory conditions. 

Beans are also rich in many vitamins and minerals, such as folate, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron.

For example, one cup of cooked lentils has 28 grams of protein and 90% of the RDI of folate.

One cup of cooked black beans contains about 15 grams of both fiber and protein, 64% of the RDI of folate, 28% of the RDI of thiamine, 38% of the RDI of manganese, 30% of the RDI of magnesium, and 20% of the RDI of iron.

A heart ramekin filled with chickpeas.

Studies have shown that the consumption of garbanzo beans can reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. 

Karen Hurd’s Bean Protocol benefits have been purported to extend beyond weight loss and include things like improving skin, decreasing inflammation, eating liver “detoxification, “ and more. 

However, there are no specific studies, and these are anecdotal Bean Diet before and after testimonials using this protocol.

Overall, whether you follow the official Bean Protocol or use a more flexible Bean Diet for weight loss, incorporating more beans into your daily diet can offer many benefits. 

We just can’t say for certain that all of the purported Bean Protocol benefits are necessarily true. 

Speak with your doctor or work with an integrative medicine provider if you are having chronic conditions that may require a specific meal plan to get you on the track to better health. 

The words "healthy diets" and a variety of food surrounding them.
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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