Certain beans and legumes—or “pulses” as they are commonly known in other countries—are the single-most underrated superfood, according to Cynthia Sass, RD. Find out how eating beans can speed weight loss and boost your health.
Pulses Boost Satiety and Curb Cravings for Processed Snacks
Australian researchers asked 42 volunteers to consume their usual diets plus about 3½ ounces of chickpeas daily for 12 weeks and then return to their typical diets for another month. Based on food diaries, the participants ate less from every food group, especially grains, during the three-month chickpea intervention. They also reported feeling more satisfied. In the four weeks after the study ended, their intake of processed snacks spiked.
Pulses Boost Calorie and Fat Burning
In a study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, University of Manitoba scientists found that hamsters fed diets containing 10 percent pea flour in place of cornstarch took in more oxygen, a measure of metabolic rate. Scientists believe this is because the pea-based diets contained nearly 25 percent more arginine, an amino acid that’s been shown to increase both carbohydrate and fat burning. Fava beans and lentils are also rich in arginine as well as glutamine, another amino acid that in human research has been tied to a 50 percent boost in post-meal calorie burning.
Pulses Quadruple Weight Loss
Scientists at Indiana’s Purdue University and Bastyr University in Washington State asked volunteers to consume 30 percent fewer calories than usual, randomly assigning dieters to one of three eating plans. The first plan included 3 cups of beans and lentils, or pulses, per week, the second included nearly 2 cups of pulses a day for women and 3 for men, and the third included minimal amounts of pulses. After six weeks, all three groups lost weight, but the dieters who consumed the most pulses shed the most pounds. The thrice-weekly bean/lentil eaters lost 7.5 pounds, those on the pulse-loaded diet lost 8.5 pounds, and those with the minimal pulse intake lost just 2 pounds.
Pulses Attack Belly Fat
One of my favorite studies, from the British Journal of Nutrition, tracked overweight women with high cholesterol who, twice a day for 28 days, received muffins containing either whole pea flour (equivalent to ½ cup of pulses), fractionated pea flour (hulls only), or white wheat flour. At the end of the study, the women who ate the muffins with the whole pea protein powder had the lowest waist-to-hip ratios, indicating that fat was directed away from the waistline. Previous animal research compared rats fed and unhealthy diet with or without added chickpeas to rodents that ate healthy fare. The chickpea-eating rats had significantly reduced belly fat and had blood sugar and insulin levels similar to the animals fed healthy food.
Pulses Offer Heart Protection Plus Weight Loss
In a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, 30 obese adults were randomly assigned to one of two calorie-restricted diets for eight weeks. One diet contained no beans or lentils; the other contained four weekly servings of lentils, chickpeas, peas, or beans. The pulse eaters lost more weight—17 pounds compared to 11—and experienced greater improvements in cholesterol and blood pressure. They also had a greater reduction in C-reactive protein (CRP), a blood marker for inflammation, a known trigger of premature aging, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
A High-Fiber Pulse Diet Rivals a Low-Carb Diet for Weight Loss
Researchers at Loma Linda University randomly assigned 173 overweight women and men to either a fiber-rich, bean-enhanced diet or a low-carbohydrate diet. Low-carb dieters lost just 2 more pounds over 16 weeks, but only the bean eaters experienced reductions in LDL cholesterol. The heart protective effects were maintained one year later.