Beans, which are seeds of leguminous plants, have a unique nutritional profile and bioactive properties that make them an important part of a well-balanced diet. However, consuming beans is often associated with flatulence and gas and might be hard on a baby’s digestive system. So, can you include beans in a weaning baby’s diet?
This post tells you about beans for babies, their health benefits, side effects, and age-appropriate ways to include them in the diet.
When To Introduce Beans To Babies?
Beans can be added to a baby’s diet from the age of six to seven months, when they begin consuming solids (1) (2). The protein and iron-rich foods can be a valuable addition to your baby’s weaning diet as it gets more difficult for babies to get all the nutrients they need from milk alone. Moreover, at this age most babies are able to handle foods compositions that are different from those of milk.
Gastrointestinal issues, like flatulence, may occur in sensitive infants during the first few times of consuming beans. However, it should not be a concern if the baby is healthy and not in any discomfort. Soaking beans for at least four hours before cooking (3) and feeding in small quantities may help reduce flatulence. Methods like soaking, cooking, and sprouting decrease antinutrients in beans to a considerable extent.
Which Beans Are Good For Babies?
Some common dry beans considered suitable for babies are black beans, white beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, fava beans, cannellini beans, mature lima beans, and chickpeas or garbanzo beans (4). Some varieties like soybeans are associated with some food allergies. You can begin feeding any type of beans but check for the suitability of the bean variety to your baby.
For infants, use simple preparations when introducing beans. You can feed well-cooked beans in an easy-to-digest, mashed/puree/soup form.You may mix them with a fruit or vegetable that your baby eats. Older babies and toddlers can consume well-cooked bean pieces as finger foods.
How Much Beans Can Babies Consume?
You can introduce one to two tablespoons of pureed beans once a day (1). Once the baby completes eight months, you can serve them two tablespoons of mashed beans a day. Toddlers older than 12 months can consume two tablespoons of cooked beans per serving, twice a day (5) (6). Increase the quantity gradually.
Nutritional Value Of Beans
In general, beans are a good source of protein, PUFA, dietary fiber, and micronutrients like folate and iron (6). Below is the proximate composition of one cup of two common cooked beans with the recommended dietary allowance per day for each nutrient (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12).
|Name||Pinto beans||Garbanzo bean||RDA (7-12 months)|
|Carbohydrate, by difference(g)||44.8||45||–|
|Fiber, total dietary(g)||15.4||12.5||–|
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, World Health Organization, and Oregon State University
*AI = Adequate intake
The nutrient composition of beans varies from one another. Hence, adding a variety of beans in the diet is the best way to ensure optimum nutrient intake.
Possible Health Benefits Of Beans For Babies
Beans could provide various health benefits when consumed with a well-balanced diet.
- Support nutritional needs: Beans contain a considerable amount of macronutrients and micronutrients that can support your infant’s development. Some of the important nutrients that beans can provide are folate, calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and essential amino acid lysine (13). Good amount of protein helps in muscle growth of your baby. All these nutrients promote normal development and functioning of the vital organs.
- Promote digestive health: Beans are rich in dietary fiber and resistant starch. Dietary fiber adds bulk to the diet and helps maintain healthy bowel movement. And reduce chances of constipation. The resistant starch after fermentation in the large intestine exhibits prebiotic properties to support the gut bacteria (13) (14).
- Contribute to overall immunity: Beans contain significant amounts of protein and zinc that can support the immune system (15). Besides, they contain bioactive compounds, like phenolic acids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins, exhibiting antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties (16). Soybeans, being rich is vitamin C, strengthen the immune system and protect the baby from cold, cough, or flu. They also control free radicals thus gives builds overall health if your baby.
Precautions To Take While Feeding Beans To Your Baby
Follow these simple precautionary measures to ensure the safe consumption of beans bybabies and toddlers.
- Prefer high-quality, USDA-certified packaged organic dry beans from a reputed manufacturer and seller.
- Avoid canned beans as they tend to be high in sodium, additives, and preservatives. Rinsing canned beans with water could wash away the additives, but may also wash away some water-soluble nutrients.
- Presoak beans for at least four hours before cooking. It will soften the outer skin making cooking and digestion easy. It may also reduce the antinutrients like phytic acid and lectins and non-digestible carbohydrates that cause gas and interfere with mineral absorption.
- Germinating and roasting beans can also reduce their antinutrient and non-digestible carbohydrate content (17) (18).
- Avoid using softening agents, such as baking soda, to cook beans. It may help cook beans faster, but could expose your baby to excess sodium.
- Do not add acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes and vinegar, until beans are well-cooked. Acidic foods can slow down the cooking.
- Introduce beans in pureed form and gradually move to mashed versions. Once the baby turns a toddler, you can serve cooked beans as finger food.
- Never serve cooked whole beans to babies since they can be a choking hazard. Once the baby begins consuming finger foods, you can serve well-cooked, soft, and choppedpieces of beans (19).
- Follow a three-day wait rule while introducing beans to a baby. Do not introduce any other new food during this period.Discontinue feeding beans if you observe signs indicating allergy or sensitivity.
- Feed beans in small quantities initially to avoid indigestion and gas due to its high fibre and protein content.
Ways To Include Beans In Your Baby And Toddler’s Diet
Here are some ways to add a variety of beans to your infant and toddler’s diet.
- You can feed mashed/pureed beans mixed with mashed/pureed baby cereal, grains, and vegetables in moderate amounts.
- Cereal made of roasted and germinated beans is an option for babies already consuming beans.
- Multi-bean soups with mashed vegetables are a good choice for both babies and toddlers. Also, pureed beans, like pinto and garbanzo beans, can work as soup thickeners.
- Tiny pieces of cooked/roasted beans can be served as finger food for older babies.
- Chopped home-baked beans added to recipes, like salads, stews, pasta, make a wholesome meal for toddlers.
- Pancakes made of white bean or red bean are yet another healthy option for toddlers.
- Hummus, a dip made of garbanzo beans, can be used as a spread or sauce to make sandwiches or rolls for older babies and toddlers.
- Add well-cooked and mashed beans to cooked pieces of meat, fish, poultry, or grains and cereals, like quinoa, buckwheat, etc., to intensify the meal’s overall nutritional value.
Flavorful and Healthy Bean Recipes For Babies And Toddlers
Beans can make wholesome recipes that your baby/ toddler would enjoy consuming. Below are some recipes that are worth a try.
1. Bean and sweet potato puree
Bean and sweet potato puree is a nutrient-rich recipe for babies older thansix months.
You will need:
- ½ cup white beans (well-cooked)
- 2tbsp navy beans (well-cooked)
- 1 small sweet potato (baked potato)
- 1tsp virgin olive oil
- Blend all the ingredients (except olive oil) in a blender or food processor until you get a smooth paste. Ensure no lumps are left.
- Heat olive oil in a flat pan and add the blended mix to it. Cook for 15 to 20 seconds and serve immediately.
- You can add other pureed/mashed vegetables, like carrots, pumpkin, green peas, green beans, and butternut squash.
2. Black bean soup
Black bean soup is a nutrient-dense, packed with folate, potassium, vitamin B6, soulful, packed with flavor and appetizing recipe for babies aged eight months and older.
You will need:
- 1 cup black bean (well-cooked)
- 2 cups fresh vegetable broth
- ½ cup mashed carrots
- 1 onion (roughly chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (mashed)
- 1tbsp cumin
- ¼ cup tofu (slices)
- 1tbsp cilantro (for garnish)
- 2tbsp sesame seeds oil
- Put all the ingredients in a large stockpot and cook on low flame for an hour or until vegetables look tender and beans turn mashable.
- Once done, remove the soup from the heat and let it come to room temperature.
- Blend the soup into a smooth puree, using an immersion blender. Ensure no lumps are left.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.
3. Kidney bean and spinach baby food
It is a delectable iron and protein-rich spinach baby food recipe for babies aged ten months and older.
You will need:
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes (chopped)
- 1/2 cup kidney beans (well-cooked)
- 1 cup fresh spinach (chopped)
- ¼ cup cheddar cheese
- 1tsp herb mix
- 1tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
- 1tbsp sesame seeds oil
- Heat oil in a thick bottom pan, add cherry tomatoes and cook until they turn mushy.
- Add kidney beans and spinach, and cook for five minutes or until spinach wilts.
- Put the flame on low, cover the pan with a lid, and let the ingredients simmer for another five minutes.
- Switch off the flame and let the mixture cool to the room temperature.
- Once cooled, blend the mixture to smooth puree, garnish with cheese and cilantro, and serve immediately.
Beans are an excellent choice of nutrient-dense food that can add value to your baby’s weaning diet. Feed at least one serving of beans daily to let your baby reap its benefits in the long run. Begin with single-ingredient bean mash/puree to age-appropriate soups, stews, and multi-bean recipes. For toddlers, mix beans with other recipes.
2. Bellows, A. Clark, and R. Moore, Introducing Solid Foods to Infants; Colorado State University
3. Intestinal Gas; Canadian Society of Intestinal Research
4. Infant Nutrition and Feeding; Wicworks USDA
5. Serving Sizes for Toddlers; Healthy Children; AAP
6. All About Beans Nutrition, Health Benefits, Preparation and Use in Menus; North Dakota State University
7. Beans, pinto, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt, FDC ID: 175200; Fooddata Central, USDA
8. Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, bengal gram), mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt, FDC ID: 173757; Fooddata Central, USDA
9. Feeding and nutrition of infants and young children; WHO
10. Zinc; Oregon State University
11. Phosphorus; Oregon State University
12. Folate; Oregon State University
13. Virginia Messina; Nutritional and health benefits of dried beans; Oxford University Press
14. What Is Resistant Starch?; Johns Hopkins
15. Support Your Health With Nutrition; Eat Right; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
16. Kumar Ganesan and BaojunXu; Polyphenol-Rich Dry Common Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) and Their Health Benefits; NCBI
17. Henrietta Oboh et al.; Effect of soaking, cooking and germination on the oligosaccharide content of selected Nigerian legume seeds; NCBI
18. Anindita Roy et al.; Food Processing Methods Towards Reduction of Antinutritional Factors in Chickpea; International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences
19. Choking Prevention; C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital