The interest and research in identifying foods that may help individuals maintain a healthy body weight is growing. As the global overweight and obesity epidemic continues, identifying foods that may aid in weight loss and weight management is extremely important.
Beans are a healthful, plant-based protein. They are naturally low in fat, high in fiber, and a good source of protein. Research shows that people who eat more fiber tend to weigh less, and protein has been shown to help people feel full longer. Consuming beans may contribute to feelings of fullness and satiety as a result of the beans’ fiber and protein content. (McCrory, 2010)
A number of studies have sought to determine the role of beans (and other pulses) and their contributions to maintaining a healthful weight and aiding in weight loss.
In a study of 35 obese men fed four different protein-rich diets, the diet providing the majority of protein from legumes (including beans) produced the greatest amount of weight loss in an eight-week period. (Abete, 2009) Members of the group instructed to eat legumes at least four days a week also experienced significant reductions in waist circumference, body fat mass, blood pressure, and total cholesterol when compared with members of the other groups.
According to results from the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), adults who consumed beans on a regular basis were less likely (−22%) to be classified as obese and to have a higher waist circumference (−23%) than those who did not consume beans. (Papanikolaou, 2008)
According to the results of studies conducted in Brazil, a traditional diet high in rice and beans was associated with a lower body mass index (BMI), compared with a typical Western diet containing more fat, snacks and soda. (Sichieri, 2002; Cunha, 2010)
Researchers also have studied the role of hormones, including leptin and ghrelin, in regulating appetite and weight. Researchers measured the leptin and ghrelin levels in 36 insulin-sensitive and 28 insulin resistant men. Leptin levels decreased among the group consuming a diet enriched with legumes. When leptin is present in smaller concentrations, it is more effective in regulating appetite and may aid in weight loss and weight maintenance. (Zhang, 2011)
A randomized controlled trial looking at the effect of pulse consumption in combination with whole grains in obese adults found that participants who consumed 2 servings of pulses and 4 servings of whole grain foods per day, as substitutions for more refined carbohydrates, had higher intakes of fiber and a greater reduction in waist circumference (−2.8 cm after 18 months) than the control group. (Venn, 2010) In addition, American bean consumers aged 12–19 years weighed significantly less than non-consumers and had smaller waist measurements when compared with their non-consuming counterparts. (Fulgoni et al, 2006)
Overall, research supports the regular consumption of beans as part of a healthy diet to promote weight control.
Abete I, Parra D, Martinez JA. Legume-, fish-, or high-protein-based hypocaloric diets: effects on weight loss and mitochondrial oxidation in obese men. J Med Food. 2009;12(1):100-108.
Cunha DB, de Almeida RMVR, Sichieri R, Pereira RA. Association of dietary patterns with BMI and waist circumference in a low-income neighbourhood in Brazil. Br J Nutr. 2010;104:908-913
McCrory MA, Hamaker BR, Lovejoy JC, Eichelsdoerfer PE. Pulse consumption, satiety, and weight management. Adv Nutr. 2010;1:17–30.
Sichieri R. Dietary patterns and their associations with obesity in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. Obes Res. 2002;10(1):42-48.
Zhang Z, Lanza E, Ross AC, Albert PS, Colburn NH, Rovine MJ, et al. A highlegume low-glycemic index diet reduces fasting plasma leptin in middle-aged insulin resistant and -sensitive men. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011;65:415-418