Can I Give My Dog Beans?
One of the most commonly eaten (and least often praised) foods is the bean. It is delicious, versatile, nutritious, easy to cook, easy to store, and one of the most environmentally-friendly calorie sources available to us in the modern era. Though few of us would list beans as one of our favorite foods, many of our favorite foods often contain beans. Everything from tacos and burritos to rice bowls, soups, salads, and vegetarian burgers often feature beans as a key ingredient. Self-identified health food nuts and hippies latch onto beans for their environmental friendliness and high micronutrient content, and the budget-conscious utilize them as an excellent, wallet-friendly source of satisfying protein and carbohydrates.
Almost everyone eats beans: adults, kids, vegans, meat-eaters, and gluten-free folks alike. Bean-based dishes are among the safest entrees to bring to a potluck, because almost everyone will be able to eat them. But what about the four-legged party guests? Can dogs have beans?
The answer: absolutely! Dogs can eat beans, and in fact, beans are among the healthiest foods you can incorporate into your dog’s diet. Your dog can eat most types of beans in moderation as long as they are well-cooked and low in added salt and sugar. Just don’t overdo it—after all, beans are known as “the musical fruit” for a reason!
Health Benefits of Feeding Your Dog Beans
Though beans are small and unassuming, they pack a powerful nutritional punch. These beautifully colored little plants are full of all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that can improve your dog’s overall health. But two of the most often discussed benefits of beans are not micronutrients at all: protein and fiber.
Though dogs are technically omnivores, their protein needs are higher than ours (in percentage of total calories), so high-protein foods are an important part of their diet. But, contrary to popular belief, protein doesn’t have to mean meat—beans are absolutely loaded with the stuff! While carbohydrates are used primarily as a source of fuel, proteins provide the building blocks needed to maintain a strong, healthy body.
The protein in beans provides essential amino acids necessary to build strong, healthy cells. Without consuming adequate protein, dogs may suffer from decreased recovery, slow wound healing, a thin or dull coat, low energy, and poor immunity. After all, it doesn’t matter how much energy (carbohydrates) you throw at the body if you don’t give it the materials (proteins) it needs to build!
Fiber is unique in that it provides huge health benefits without adding any calories—in fact, it passes through the body largely undigested. The dietary fiber in beans is responsible for their gassy side effects, but it also has far more pleasant side effects, including improved digestive health and a decreased risk of cancer and cardiovascular illness. Fiber is an excellent way to improve poor digestion, and can treat both constipation and diarrhea. It prevents constipation because it becomes a gelatinous substance when it absorbs water, which speeds up bowel movements. It can also treat diarrhea by adding bulk to stool and soaking up excess water in the colon.
Fiber also helps regulate blood sugar, which reduces your dog’s risk of diabetes. It also works as a great appetite regulator. Fiber provides a lot of bulk for zero calories, which slows digestion and allows your dog to feel fuller for longer while eating fewer calories. This makes beans an excellent ‘people food’ to give to dogs who need to lose weight or improve insulin sensitivity.
Things to Keep in Mind
As previously mentioned, beans are also great for their micronutrients. They are full of B vitamins, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants. The antioxidants found in beans are powerful immunity-boosters; they fight dangerous free radicals, which are responsible for the cellular damage that often leads to inflammation, disease, and the adverse effects of aging. Antioxidants are one of the most powerful cancer-fighting compounds at our disposal. Since they destroy free radicals, they minimize the cell damage that leads to cancer. Beans are also great anti-inflammatory foods, and may be beneficial for dogs who have inflammatory illnesses such as arthritis.
When feeding your dog beans, make sure they are fully cooked, as undercooked beans may be poisonous to people and dogs. Avoid giving your dogs canned beans that are high in salt and sugar, which can have adverse health effects, and be sure to practice moderation to avoid bloating and other digestive symptoms. Also be aware of your dog’s dental health—wet, soft foods like beans are more likely to contribute cavities and gingivitis. So brush your dog’s teeth!
Overall, beans are a great food to give your dog in moderation. They are high in protein and fiber, which are important for maintaining healthy, athletic bodies and optimal digestive health. They are also low in fat, nontoxic, and loaded with the micronutrients our dogs need to live long, healthy lives. Just make sure they are fully cooked and keep their portion sizes small to minimize gas.