Inside Scoop: This simple weight loss food has been a staple in the diets of the longest living populations and offers so many benefits beyond weight loss.
This post was submitted by Brian Bender PhD, certified nutritionist, biomedical engineer and co-founder of Intake.
There are a few things you typically look for when you start the weight loss process.
First, you want to make sure you aren’t starving the entire time you’re losing weight. Those who spend their days hungry, quit.
And who could blame them?
Second, as you cut back calories you don’t want to cut out essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You may be getting excited that the scale is going down, but silently accumulating micronutrient deficiencies is simply shifting from one form of poor health to another.
And third, you want the diet to be sustainable, so that when the weight comes off, it stays off. This works best when your weight-loss diet, and your post-weight-loss diet, look the same.
There’s a humble solution that works well across all three fronts (as well as a few bonuses).
A food you’ve most certainly had before, but likely are not eating as much as you should be.
THIS SIMPLE WEIGHT LOSS FOOD IS…BEANS!
Simply adding this simple weight loss food to your diet may be one of the simplest yet routinely successful methods for losing weight in a totally healthy and sustainable way. And equally important, it’s one of the best methods for the difficult task of maintaining a healthy weight thereafter.
These humble pulses work wonders for weight loss for a number of reasons that have scores of academic research to back it up.
Beans Can Help You Lose Weight
A 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed 21 randomized controlled trials for the effect of pulse consumption (non-oil seeds of legumes such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, and dried peas) on weight loss.
Not only did pulse consumption lead to weight loss, but it did so “even when diets were not intended to be calorically restricted.” That means, even without designing the weight loss diet to cut calories, diets high in pulses naturally led to weight loss.
That’s a big deal. This statement essentially suggests that it’s conceivable to lose weight without going on a diet. Rather, you can lose weight by changing your diet or dietary habits.
And high-bean diets seem to work just as well for weight-loss as other popular diets, such as low-carb diets.
What’s causing this magic you may ask?
Beans Keep You Feeling Fuller, for Longer
Weight loss diets are notoriously intolerable. The thought of going hungry for days on end can feel utterly dreadful.
But beans have two tricks up its sleeves. Beans are dense in both fiber and protein. And it is this combination that makes them special as a weight loss food.
Both fiber and protein appear to increase satiety. In other words, they make you feel fuller, for longer.
Interestingly, studies have shown that the protein and fiber combo of beans may even be more satiating than meat. And even more impressive, this occurred even when fewer calories were consumed from legumes.
Fiber-Dense Beans Fill You Up
Fiber is thought to pull this trick off, in part, by slowing down the digestion process. Because fiber causes food to pass through your digestive process slower, you maintain satiety longer.
But that’s not all fiber does. The evidence is accumulating that increasing fiber intake may help reduce cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, pancreatic cancer, and gastric cancer.
Fiber used to be a much larger component of our diets. In fact, recent studies of the Hadza, an African tribe of hunter-gatherers, were shown to eat between 100 and 150 grams of fiber per day! That’s about 10 times higher than the average Western diet.
Consuming this simple weight loss food in higher amounts during weight loss helps you reduce weight while maintaining adequate levels of fiber consumption.
Protein Decrease Hunger More Than Fat or Carbs
The reason protein curbs hunger is less clear. Some point to the suppression of hunger-hormones like ghrelin, while others point to interactions with gut-brain receptors that trigger feelings of hunger.
Nevertheless, a 2016 meta-analysis suggests that higher protein meals increase ratings of fullness compared to lower protein meals.
And beans are full of protein.
Together, fiber and protein work in concert to keep you full. That, in turn, is what helps many people lose weight as they increase bean consumption. While the results aren’t rapid, the increased feelings of fullness naturally cause you to eat less over time, resulting in weight loss.
Applying beans as a simple weight loss for is one amazing technique to help with weight loss, alongside a balanced diet with other high protein and fiber foods. Download your free 5 Ingredient Cookbook and challenge yourself to cook 1 recipe/ day for 5 days to see how simple and delicious cooking for weight loss can be. Download your cookbook here:
Beans are Highly Nutritious
A common problem for those losing weight can be the decrease in other essential nutrients along with the calories you hope to limit. Studies show those on popular fad diets are often low in several essential micronutrients, and that a focus on nutrient-dense foods is a useful strategy during dieting.
Decreasing your intake of essential vitamins and minerals can impair your health and defeat some of the benefits of weight loss in the process.
As it turns out, beans are highly nutritious. In fact, when compared by nutrient density against other vegetables, beans are some of the healthiest vegetables you can find.
On average, beans meet the recommended dietary intake values for calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and copper on a calorie-by-calorie basis.
And while they are not very high in fat soluble vitamins or vitamin B12 (only found in animal-derived products), they are typically very high in all the remaining B-vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, and folate.
Beans are a staple of traditional cultures around the globe, many of which still possess some of the healthiest and longest-lived individuals on the planet. In fact, according to Dan Buettner’s talk from the Aspen Ideas Festival about these so-called Blue Zones,
“No matter where you go in the world, people living a long time, they’re eating about a cup of beans a day. It probably yields them an extra four years of life expectancy. Every 2 extra ounces of beans you add to your diet, you lower your mortality rate about 9 percent.”
Beans are also a core part of most of the top-rated dietary regimes recommended by leading health organizations, including the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet, and the MIND Diet.
Beans are also low in many of the nutrient we either tend to overconsume or shouldn’t be eating at all. Sugar is practically non-existent. And sodium (unless eaten from canned beans with added sodium) is also extremely low and could help offset our typically high-sodium Western diets.
Beans are also devoid of trans fats, now banned from production in the U.S. and Canada because of their ill-health effects.
Although not a perfect food complete in all essential nutrients the body needs to survive, beans are generally high in the nutrients of which you want more, and low in the nutrients of which you should be eating less of.
Beans are a Sustainable Staple for Your Diet
There comes an exciting yet pivotal moment during the weight loss journey. The point of the success. The point of triumph.
There are few moments like reaching your weight loss goal that bring such deserving pride in a job well done.
But shortly after the celebration, the equally important notion of maintaining your new weight should come into focus.
Sustainable Diets Last a Lifetime
This shift in focus is a major shift for some. Especially those who have made sharp changes to their diets and lifestyles to achieve their weight loss goals.
Unfortunately, it is often those who have made such sharp changes that contribute to the overwhelming statistics of those who gain their lost weight back. A UCLA study showed that one-third to two-thirds of dieters actually regain more weight after several years following a diet.
Nearly any diet can lead to weight loss in the short term. But the true mark of success for a diet is whether the weight comes off, and stays off.
The most sustainable weight loss strategies require you to adopt a new lifestyle that incorporates a new, healthier diet. When the new diet becomes your diet, the health benefits and lost weight last.
Another advantage to sustainability of a bean-heavy diet versus other common diets is its simplicity. The focus is purely on one food item.
There are countless blog posts and informational content on how to follow a paleo diet, or keto diet, or low carb diet, or low fat diet. The difficulty with sticking to many of these diets revolves around the uncertainty many individuals have about what is allowed and what isn’t.
The focus on increasing beans to your diet is simple. It doesn’t say what kind of beans are good or bad. Nor does it dictate how many cups you need. Just, add more.
This simplicity is an advantage when looking for long-term dietary changes that stick because it’s that much harder to get confused and decide to quit.
Let us show you how easy finding a sustainable diet can be. Take the 5 Ingredient Challenge below.
Sustainable Diets are Affordable
And one of the best parts of a bean-heavy diet is that it is accessible to nearly everyone. Beans are typically one of the most inexpensive food items you can find.
Using the USDA Food Database, one pound of dried black beans yields 1,538 calories, while one pound of ground beef yields approximately 689 calories. When trying to meet your daily caloric needs, beef becomes more like 5.5 times the cost.
Sustainable Diets are Sustainable for the Planet
These protein and fiber-heavy foods, when added to your diet, tend to displace other proteins and high-calorie food items.
That’s good for your waistline. It’s also good for the planet.
Meat is the go-to protein for most people. But meat production is a climate-intensive process.
A recent study showed that if the U.S. shifted its consumption of beef to beans (still allowing for the same level of consumption of other meats like chicken, for example), the U.S. would reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 46-74% of the reductions need to meet 2020 GHG targets for the U.S.
The study authors suggest this personal change can reduce your environmental footprint more than downsizing your car, vigilantly turning off light bulbs, or taking shorter showers.
Beans are One of the Simplest Routes to Weight Loss
Beans were a part of our diets for a long part of our history. Evidence of bean cultivation dates back to over 7,000 years ago in parts of Asia and has continued ever since.
Yet, particularly in the West, we’ve seemed to lose our fondness for the humble bean.
As mentioned earlier, Dan Buettner of the Blue Zones points out that elderly individuals living in parts of the world with the highest concentration of centenarians with relatively low rates of chronic diseases like diabetes and dementia eat about one cup of beans per day.
But according to the US Dry Bean Council, the average consumption of beans in America, at 7.5 pound per year, translates to roughly 0.12 cups per day.
That’s 8X less beans than these super-healthy enclaves.
That is unfortunate. It’s worth bringing them back into our diets. And not just as a side, but as a major component of our meals.
This simple change can bring positive changes to your diet that you will benefit from for the rest of your days (which will likely extend)! Beans will help you lose weight, and they’ll help you maintain a healthy weight once you’ve lost those pounds.
They also help you lose weight in a healthy way. That is, they help you lose weight slowly and while maintaining adequate intake levels of essential micronutrients and fiber.
Furthermore, beans help you lose weight the easy way, without requiring complete starvation. Beans can help you ease the hunger you feel during calorie restriction by increasing satiety through the consumption of extra fiber and protein.
So, start looking for some new recipes like these Vegan Bean Tacos, Healthy Black Bean Dip, Spinach Artichoke Hummus, Black Bean Burger or Mashed Chickpea Salad, and ease into your new diet. Your health, your waistline, your bank account, and the planet will thank you.
Brian Bender, PhD, is a certified nutritionist and biomedical engineer. Brian cofounded Intake, a medical device company building sophisticated nutrition tracking tools designed to help you meet your dietary goals and help the world improve its nutritional health and wellbeing.