Usually a weight loss plan calls for restriction or removing foods to drop pounds. But new research is advising you to add to your meal plan. Continuing my series on how to fill your diet with delicious, low calorie, low density foods- adding the family of pulses fits this bill.
Pulses are the dried seeds of the legume branch. In other words, eat your beans. Or peas, chickpeas and lentils. These foods will help you lose weight and feel fuller, longer.
Researchers analyzed 21 previous clinical trials of adults who lost an average of 3/4 of a pound over six weeks. Participants had added a single serving of pulses to their diet, without changing anything else. It found consuming a single serving of legumes makes people feel fuller. This new study fits well into previous work, which found that pulses increased the feeling of fullness by 31%.
Because the protein and fiber in beans delay stomach emptying, you’ll stay fuller, longer. While many people turn to meat for their protein fix, most don’t realize that beans are stocked with proteins and nutrients too. Even better, the low-fat nature of beans makes it easier to lose weight. A lot of that has to do with how beans get processed in your system. In the GI tract, fiber fills you up, but it doesn’t get digested and absorbed into the blood stream where it either has to be burned or stored- another great reason to make beans your super food for weight loss.
Here are some examples:
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a great source of fiber and protein. One cup (164 grams) of cooked chickpeas contains roughly 269 calories, 12.5 grams of fiber and 14.5 grams of protein. Chickpeas are particularly beneficial at reducing blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity when compared with other high-carb foods. In one study, those who ate a meal containing 1.7 ounces (50 grams) of chickpeas had significantly lower blood sugar and insulin levels than those who ate the same amount of white bread or other wheat-containing foods. Another study showed that eating 26 ounces (728 grams) of chickpeas per week for 12 weeks significantly reduced insulin levels. Your gut and the beneficial bacteria within it play an important role in many aspects of your health, so eating foods that contain gut-friendly fiber makes a difference.
Lentils are a great source of vegetarian protein and are a perfect addition to soups and stews. One cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils contains roughly 230 calories, 15.6 grams of fiber and 17.9 grams of protein. Similar to chickpeas, lentils can help reduce blood sugar compared to other foods. In one study those given pasta and tomato sauce containing lentils ate significantly less during the meal and had lower blood sugar than those who ate the same meal without lentils. Another study found that those with the highest intake of lentils and other legumes had the lowest rates of diabetes. These benefits may be due to the effects lentils have in the gut. Some studies have shown that lentils benefit gut health by improving bowel function and slowing the rate that the stomach empties, which could help with digestion and prevent spikes in blood sugar.
Peas are also a type of legume, and there are a number of different types. One cup (160 grams) of cooked peas contains roughly 125 calories, 8.8 grams of fiber and 8.2 grams protein. One study showed participants who were overweight and had high cholesterol and ate 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of pea flour per day, for 28 days, significantly reduced insulin resistance and belly fat, compared to wheat flour. Pea flour and pea fiber have shown similar benefits in other studies by reducing the increase in insulin and blood sugar after a meal, reducing blood triglycerides and increasing feelings of fullness. Because fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, pea fiber may also improve gut health. In those with constipation it increased stool frequency and reduced the use of laxatives.
Kidney Beans are one of the most commonly consumed beans, and are often eaten with rice. One cup (256 grams) of cooked kidney beans contains roughly 215 calories, 13.4 grams of protein and 13.6 grams of fiber. Like other high fiber foods, kidney beans can help slow the absorption of sugar into the blood and therefore reduce blood sugar levels. One study of people with type 2 diabetes found that eating kidney beans with rice significantly reduced the spike in blood sugar after the meal, compared to rice alone. Along with high blood sugar, weight gain is also a risk factor for diabetes and metabolic syndrome, but kidney beans have the potential to reduce these risk factors.
Like many other beans, black beans are a great source of fiber, protein and folate. They are a staple food in Central and South America. One cup (172 grams) of cooked black beans contains roughly 227 calories, 15.2 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber. Black beans may also help reduce the spike in blood sugar that occurs after eating a meal, which may help reduce the risk of diabetes and weight gain. This beneficial effect is because black beans have a lower glycemic index compared to many other high-carbohydrate foods. This means they cause a smaller rise in blood sugar after a meal.
Soybeans are commonly consumed in Asia in a number of different forms, including tofu. One cup (172 grams) of cooked soybeans contains roughly 298 calories, 28.6 grams of protein and 10.3 grams of fiber. In addition to these nutrients, soybeans contain high levels of antioxidants called isoflavones, which are responsible for many of their health benefits. A large study that combined the results of 21 other studies found that eating high amounts of soybeans was associated with a 15% lower risk of stomach and other gastrointestinal cancers. Soybeans appeared to be especially effective in women. Many of these benefits may be due to the fact that soy isoflavones are phytoestrogens. This means that they can mimic the effect of estrogen in the body, which tends to decline during menopause.
Pinto beans are common in Mexico. They’re often eaten as whole beans, or mashed and fried. One cup (171 grams) of cooked pinto beans contains roughly 245 calories, 15.4 grams protein and 15.4 grams of fiber. Pinto beans may help reduce blood cholesterol. A study found that eating 1/2 cup of pinto beans per day for eight weeks significantly reduced both total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood. Another study showed that pinto beans may reduce LDL cholesterol as well as increase the production of propionate, which is good for gut health. Like many other beans, pinto beans can also reduce the rise in blood sugar that happens after eating a meal. Of course, how you cook them will influence their caloric impact.
Also known as haricot beans, navy beans are a great source of fiber, B vitamins and minerals. One cup (182 grams) of cooked navy beans contains roughly 255 calories, 15.0 grams protein and 19.1 grams of fiber. Navy beans appear to help reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome, likely due to their high fiber content. An interesting study in children and adults who had abnormal blood cholesterol found that those who ate a muffin or smoothie containing 17.5 grams of navy bean powder every day for four weeks had higher levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. A study in overweight and obese adults found that eating 5 cups (910 grams) of navy beans and other legumes per week was as effective as dietary counseling for reducing waist circumference, blood sugar and blood pressure.
If you have an allergy to beans or legumes (like peanuts), you may be allergic to others as well! It is also unsafe to eat many beans raw because they contain proteins called lectins. These proteins can cause severe food poisoning because they interfere with digestion and can lead to cyanide formation. Cooking the beans for at least 10 minutes destroys lectins so that they can be safely eaten. The most common side effects of eating beans are gas and intestinal discomfort. While not dangerous, it can be unpleasant and even painful for some people. You can reduce the risk of gas and other intestinal problems by hot soaking beans and discarding the water used for soaking, or sprouting, boiling, or pressure-cooking them. Digestive enzymes can also be taken to improve digestion of beans.
The majority of diets fail because they’re too restrictive. Exciting new research shows that adding foods, rather than taking them away, is a better, smarter way to overcome the weight loss battle. It’s all good news with beans, especially since they are inexpensive, can be purchased in bulk, and cooked in multiple ways to please any palette. Pulses are also a notable source of vegetarian protein which makes reducing one’s meat intake much easier to do. Whatever way you like, adding beans to your diet will stave off cravings longer and help shed pounds.