Beans are highly nutritious and an excellent source of many nutrients, including fiber, folate, magnesium, and plant-based protein.

Even though beans are well known for their health benefits, parents may wonder whether they’re a good choice for babies.

Here’s look at the potential health benefits beans may provide your little one — and how to safely add them into your baby’s increasingly diverse diet.

You can start introducing foods other than breast milk and formula to your little one around 6 months of age. After 6 months, it becomes more difficult for babies to get all the nutrients they need from milk alone. Plus, this is the age at which most babies are developmentally able to handle foods with textures and nutrient compositions that are different than those of milk.

Breast milk or formula should continue to be your baby’s main calorie source.

In fact, it’s suggested that breast milk and/or formula (or cow’s milk after the age of 1) provide one-half of your baby’s energy needs between the ages of 6 and 12 months, and one-third of their energy needs between the ages of 12 and 24 months.

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Baby’s first foods should be nutrient-dense and especially rich in several important nutrients, including iron, protein, and calcium.

What’s more, your baby’s ability to handle foods of different sizes and textures changes as they age. While younger babies do best with puréed foods or pastes, older babies can typically handle foods of different sizes and textures, as long as the food is appropriately and safely presented.

Beans and lentils are a good choice for babies because they’re:

  • nutrient-dense
  • soft
  • able to be puréed easily
  • typically bland
  • able to pair well with many different flavors

Beans can usually be added to your baby’s diet around 7 to 10 months of age.

Beans are highly nutritious and associated with many health benefits. For example, beans offer an excellent source of fiber.

Adding fiber-rich foods like beans to your baby’s diet can help reduce their risk of constipation and promote healthy bowel movements. Plus, the specific fibers found in beans help promote a healthy population of gut bacteria.

Also, studies show that babies and young children with high fiber intakes generally consume more nutrients — including iron, magnesium, and potassium — than babies and young children with lower fiber intakes.

In addition to fiber, beans are packed with nutrients that are critical for your baby’s health, including:

  • iron
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • calcium
  • folate
  • zinc

They’re also a great source of plant-based protein.

Even though beans are highly nutritious, they should be one of many foods that make up your baby’s diet when weaning. The key to providing a balanced, nutritious diet for your baby is ensuring that they’re exposed to an array of foods that offer a variety of nutrients.

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There are a number of legumes, including beans and lentils, to choose from. Some good choices to offer your little one include:

  • black beans
  • garbanzo beans
  • kidney beans
  • pinto beans
  • red lentils
  • cannellini beans

Keep in mind that some legumes are associated with food allergies more than others. For example, peanuts and soybeans are common food allergens. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are different recommendations regarding when to introduce these foods based on your baby’s risk of allergy.

For this reason, it’s best to consult your pediatrician for advice on when and how to introduce soybean and peanut products to your baby.

Choosing dried beans over canned beans may be the best option, as canned beans tend to be loaded with sodium that’s unnecessary for you, let alone your little one. Bonus: Dried beans and lentils are usually more affordable.

Use simple preparations when introducing beans and lentils to your baby. Simply cooking the beans, puréeing or mashing them (depending on your baby’s age), and offering them plain is best. Mixing them with a fruit, vegetable, or protein source that you know your baby likes may increase the chances of acceptance.

Beans and lentils contain compounds called antinutrients, such as phytic acid and lectins. Antinutrients can make it harder to digest some nutrients, such as iron, calcium, and magnesium.

Fortunately, prep methods like soaking, cooking, and sprouting significantly decrease antinutrients in beans and lentils.

You can purchase sprouted legumes online or in natural food stores and prepare them as you would regular beans and lentils. You can also sprout seeds at home using these directions.

Thoroughly cook all sprouted beans and lentils before offering them to your little one to protect against foodborne illness.

Baby-led weaning (BLW) is a weaning method that involves letting your baby:

  • feed themselves
  • control which foods they would like to try
  • explore the textures and taste of different foods

Unlike traditional weaning, BLW skips puréed foods and instead starts with offering babies small pieces of whole foods from the start to encourage self-feeding. Although BLW has been linked to a variety of potential benefits, it comes with some risks, including an increased risk of choking.

Beans are a popular food used by baby-led weaning enthusiasts. Beans and lentils can be made into mashes, bites, or simply smashed into smaller, more manageable bits. Making beans into a paste might be the safest bet for younger babies, as bean skins may get caught in your baby’s mouth or throat.

Check with your doctor if you’re unsure whether beans are a safe option for baby-led weaning.

There are a few things to consider before offering beans and lentils to your little one.

Beans are high in fiber and may cause digestive upset like gas and diarrhea if you give your baby too large of a portion. Start with a very small portion of a tablespoon or so when introducing beans to your baby and increase the portion over time.

Although beans are nutritious, they shouldn’t comprise the bulk of your baby’s diet. Remember to offer your baby a variety of nutrient-dense, whole foods to ensure they’re getting plenty of nutrients.

Lastly, although soybeans and peanuts are common allergens, most beans and lentils are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in your baby. However, it can happen, so it’s always best to monitor your baby whenever you’re introducing a new food into their diet.

Beans can be a good choice for your baby’s diet. However, it’s essential to offer beans in safe and healthy ways that are appropriate for your baby’s age.

If you have questions about adding beans to your baby’s diet, talk to your pediatrician.