The prevalence of obesity is on such a surge that it has reached epidemic proportions. Finding an effective solution to this problem has become a public health priority.
In 2004 the World Health Assembly created policies and programs that promote healthy eating and exercising habits to combat obesity.
Eating habits have shifted from vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruits to high carb grains, refined sugars and processed foods all over the globe.
This is mainly due to lower prices and easy availability of these highly-processed food products. There is a need for a reminder to shift back to nutrient dense food from these calorie dense foods.
The consumption of these processed foods not only leads to obesity but numerous other obesity related disorders such as arthritis, coronary artery disease as well as micro-nutrient malnutrition.
We are living in such times that now we have to convince people to eat vegetables and fruits which were the main food sources once upon a time. In such a scenario, even a small healthy change in the eating habits creates a relatively larger impact on one’s health and body weight.
How beans help in weight loss?
In weight loss diets foods that are nutrient dense and have a relatively less calorific value are of great importance. Therefore, foods belonging to certain food groups such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean meat, etc. are included in a weight loss diet.
Of all the aforementioned food items the focus of this articles is on legumes or rather Beans to be specific.
Let us first understand the difference between legumes, beans and pulses.
Legumes are a broad category of plants that include soy, peanuts, pulses (dried beans, chick peas, lentils), peas.
Pulses are a type of legume that are exclusively harvested for the dried seed therefore it excludes soy bean and nuts that are harvested for their oil. Beans can be classified under pulses or legumes both .
Beans are high in fibre, have a low energy density, are a good source of digestible proteins, some beans contain slowly digestible carbohydrates. They also contain phytochemicals such as phytates and lectins.
Epidemiological studies have shown that bean consumers showed a significant reduction in weight and waist circumference as compared to non-consumers of beans .
Another clinical trial was conducted to determine the effect of bean diet and a low carbohydrate diet on obesity in women. The low carbohydrate diet and the bean diet both were found to be equally effective in bringing about weight loss.
What is important to note here is that the group of women who consumed beans showed a reduction in atherogenic lipids. This suggests that not only do beans help in the reduction of weight but also bring about healthy changes in the body .
4 Surprising Benefits of Beans In Weight Loss
This reduction in weight by beans is brought about due to the following reasons:
1.They are low in calories
The main cause of obesity is negative energy balance i.e. the amount of energy consumed is more than the energy spent. This excess energy is stored as fat causing weight gain.
There is need to overcome this negative energy balance by decreasing the energy intake and increasing energy expenditure .
Therefore, foods that are low in energy density should be consumed. Beans are relatively low on energy for the nutrition they provide. Let’s consider kidney beans for instance, each 100 g of cooked kidney beans offers just 127 Calories .
What does this mean?
Beans are low in energy and nutrient dense. Hence, they fit right in, in an weight loss diet.
2. They are high in fibre
Beans are rich in dietary fibre, this is one of their important characteristics. Dietary fibre has often been associated with weight loss .
They aid in weight loss by promoting satiety, the soluble fibre become viscous in the stomach and cause the feeling of fullness that further reduces the food (energy) intake and helps in weight loss.
Half a serving of beans contains approximately 5-7 grams of fibre. an experiment was conducted wherein the people were given fibre from two sources. One from bean and the other from vegetables, fruits and whole grains for a trial period of our weeks.
After the trial period all the people who consumed bean showed a significant reduction in weight, whereas only half the people receiving fibre from sources other than bean lost weight .This suggests a 100 % efficacy of bean fibre in bringing about weight loss.
What does this mean?
Beans being rich in fibre bring about the feeling of satiety and cause a reduction in the food intake.
3.Beans are rich in proteins
Pulses and legumes are considered as the main source of proteins for vegetarians. Beans are rich in proteins (each 100g of kidney beans contains around 9 g of proteins). Proteins bring about satiety in a number of ways.
The diet induced thermogenic effect (DIT) of proteins is high and high DIT has often been associated with satiety . Dietary proteins also cause suppression of the hunger hormone Ghrelin. This reduces hunger and curbs one’s appetite .
What does this mean?
Beans are rich in proteins, these dietary proteins cause satiety in a number of ways and lead to a decrease in appetite.
4.They contain resistant starch that control appetite
Some beans particularly white beans contain resistant starch . Resistance starch does not get digested throughout the gastro intestinal tract except in the colon. the gut microbiota present in the colon acts on this starch and brings about its fermentation.
One of the by-products of this fermentation process are Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs are responsible for causing satiety .
What does this mean?
Resistant starch present in beans causes satiety and curbs appetite leading to weight loss.
NOTE: Beans contain Phytochemicals such as Phytates and Lectins. These are often called ‘anti-nutrients’ as they bind to the vitamins and minerals present in beans and reduce their bio-availability.
Lectins cause malabsorption of nutrients from the intestine and sometimes produce toxicity by initiating bacterial growth in the gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) . Steaming or boiling reduces the concentration of lectin.
Hence, it is recommended that beans be properly boiled before cooking. Because of these antinutrients present in beans they should be consumed in moderate amounts.
5 beans great for weight loss
Here are some beans that you can include in diet for weight loss and adequate fibre
1.White kidney beans
These are kidney shaped and are like the commonly available rajma but white in colour. They contain alpha amylase inhibitors or ‘starch-blockers’ that decrease the availability or absorption of carbohydrates from the food.(Read White kidney bean extract for weight loss)
Over-consumption of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates has often been associated with obesity .
2.Red kidney beans
These beans are commonly called ‘rajma’ in India. Rajma is quite frequently eaten with rice and is a famous dish in Indian households.
The amino acids present in rice complement the amino acids present in beans. When they are eaten together they provide a complete source of protein. Therefore, they can be a good substitute for animal products that are a good source of complete proteins, and the fats present in these animal products can be avoided .
Red kidney beans along with rice provide a complete source of protein and a fat-free meal. These two aspects help in losing weight.
Navy beans these are also called white pea beans and have a delicate taste. They are called navy beans because they were widely included in the U.S navy diet in the 19th century.
Like the white kidney beans also contain starch blockers that prevent the absorption of readily-available carbohydrates in the body thereby helping in weight loss as the carbohydrate-derived calories are avoided. Cooked navy beans may also have some anti-cancerous properties
These have a mottled beige-brown skin and are commonly used in burritos as a filling in whole or mashed form. 100 grams of pinto beans contains just 143 Calories.
An 8-week clinical trial concluded that consumption of half a cup of pinto beans everyday reduced the total cholesterol by 8% and improved heart health.
Dried pinto beans contain high amounts of dietary fibre. dietary fibre have often been associated with weight loss
These have a matte-black skin and an oval shape.The presence of Anthocyanidins present in them is what makes them unique.
These anthocyanidins have alpha-amylase inhibiting property like white beans that reduces the absorption and assimilation of carbohydrates. Thereby, avoiding carbohydrate-derived calories.
These beans also have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties .
Since obesity is sometimes associated with inflammation they might have potential use in treating obesity .
Certain studies recommend that the consumption of one and a half cups of beans per day is effective in bringing about weight loss .
Till date no toxicity or adverse effects have been noted due to the consumption of beans. However, one adverse effect of bean consumption is Flatulence. One might experience flatulence related abdominal discomfort.
This is attributed to their high fibre content. But, each individual responds differently to the fibre and different beans contain varying amounts of fibre. Therefore, it is hard to tell the exact amount of bean that should be consumed that won’t cause flatulence.
Since they contain good amounts of fibre they should be introduced into the diet gradually otherwise they may cause diarrhea, stomach pain, discomfort, etc.
Beans are economical, easily available, easy to cook and taste good. They are nutrient dense and low in calories. The consumption of beans but in moderation, is recommended for weight loss.