Eating More Beans, Chickpeas May Aid Weight-Related Goals

Eating More Beans, Chickpeas May Aid Weight-Related Goals


Simply adding more canned and dried beans and chickpeas into your diet could improve your overall diet quality and may even help you reach weight-related goals, new research shows.

The claim comes from a new study published in Nutrition Journal that looked at the quality of adult diets that included beans and chickpeas compared to diets that didn’t. Results showed that people who ate beans and chickpeas experienced a range of benefits, including better diet quality, higher intakes of essential nutrients, and improved weight-related outcomes.

“Most people are aware that beans and chickpeas are good for your heart, but our new research shows they are really good for so much more—like improving nutrient intake and healthier dietary patterns,” study author Yanni Papanikolaou, MPH, vice president of Nutrition Strategies, Inc., said in a news release.

“Our analysis shows that canned and dry beans and/or chickpeas help close nutrient gaps, and fuels nutrient-dense diets in the US,” Papanikolaou added. “Conversely, the data suggests that avoiding beans and/or chickpeas may lead to nutrient deficits and public health consequences in adults.”

Here’s what you need to know about diets that include beans and chickpeas, how they can benefit your overall health, and how to add more pulses to your daily eating plan.

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For the study, funded by the Coalition for the Advancement of Pulses and Cannedbeans.org, researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which takes information from free-living people across the U.S. and is compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The analysis focused on one 24-hour period in which people recalled their diet via in-person interviews. Bean consumption patterns and population weights were used to identify the differences among dietary patterns. Bean consumption was defined as eating kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, and pinto beans.

Four different bean patterns were identified along with a “no consumption” group. The four bean patterns (Bean Dietary Patterns 1–4), differed in their percentage of calories coming from beans and overall diet quality.

Bean Dietary Pattern 1 and 2 had the largest contribution of calories from vegetables and Bean Dietary Pattern 4 had the greatest contribution from sweets and snacks. Bean Dietary Pattern 3 had over one-third of calories derived from mixed dishes, which have greater amounts of sodium and saturated fat. All Bean Dietary Patterns included approximately 1.7–2 servings of beans per day.

When compared to the no bean consumption group, all four bean dietary patterns of consumption showed significantly higher diet quality. Individuals in all four categories consumed greater amounts of vegetables, greens, beans, seafood, and other plant proteins. They also showed better fatty acid ratios, which are higher levels of heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats compared to saturated fats.

“Current U.S. dietary patterns show that Americans are not meeting recommendations for nutrient intakes and diet quality, which can have negative effects on public health and disease incidence,” Papanikolaou told Health. “Our study showed that adults consuming about two servings of canned or dried beans per day had a 25% improvement in total diet quality compared to adults avoiding beans.”

Dietary patterns rich in beans are associated with higher diet quality scores due to increased intake from other food groups including vegetables, greens, seafood, and plant proteins.

Beans are an excellent source of fiber, which supports heart health, a healthy gut microbiome, and decreases low-grade inflammation that is associated with many cardiometabolic diseases such as high cholesterol, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.

According to registered dietitian Lori McCall, MS, RD, LDN, “beneficial gut bacteria help you break down resistant starch that gives beans their fetid fame during digestion. If you don’t feed them that starch consistently, those healthy strains won’t stick around to do the job.” Dishes and dietary patterns that contain beans are often naturally rich in other nutrients as well, contributing to overall better diet quality.

Those who consume beans also show higher intakes of shortfall nutrients, which include choline, alpha-linolenic acid, folate, iron, magnesium, and vitamin E.

“Shortfall nutrients are those that are typically deficient in the diet,” registered dietitian Moushumi Mukherjee, MS, RDN told Health. “They are nutrients that are marked as health concerns by professionals because people don’t usually consume enough of them.”

Additional nutrients of public health concern include dietary fiber and potassium, which are significantly elevated in bean consumption patterns. Increased intake of these nutrients contributes to lower systolic blood pressure, reduced cardiovascular disease risk, decreased diabetes risk, and reduced risk for cancer.

Two of the bean dietary patterns were also significantly associated with improved weight-related outcomes. Adults in Bean Dietary Patterns 1 and 2 had lower BMIs (body mass indexes). Further, adults who consume a variety of beans showed a 29% lower risk of having an elevated waist circumference compared to non-consumers.

This is likely due to beans’ high fiber and protein content, which makes them and meals that contain them filling and satisfying. “Certain diet-related diseases can disrupt the metabolic process, therefore, consuming a well-balanced diet that includes beans can aid in achieving weight-related goals,” Mukherjee adds.

This research adds to the growing body of evidence for eating more beans and legumes as part of a nutrient-dense dietary pattern. “Eating beans daily in combination with regular physical activity and a dietary pattern that includes greater intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, dry nuts, and seeds, and limiting intake of added sugar, saturated fats, and sodium can have significant health benefits,” Papanikolaou told Health. The avoidance of beans may exacerbate nutrient deficiencies and public health concerns in adults.

Beans are a diverse, convenient plant-based protein that add flavor, color, and texture to many dishes. Dried beans typically cook anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours where canned beans are ready instantly out of the can, and both are extremely nutrient-rich. Beans can be added as the main protein in a vegetarian dish or used in meat dishes to bulk them up with additional protein and fiber.

“Add your favorite variety to any savory, mixed-texture dish like casseroles, stews, stir-fries, and salad,” McCall told Health. Sneak beans into soups and sauces for more protein and a creamy texture or even into black bean brownies for a higher-fiber sweet.

While canned beans are convenient, some have high sodium content. Drain and rinse your beans to reduce the salt content in the brine, or try cooking dried beans for full control over the sodium content. You can even add garlic, herbs, and spices to the water you cook your beans for maximum flavor.

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