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AICR Health Talk

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: I keep hearing about pulses like black beans as super-nutritious foods. But aren’t they fattening?

A: Actually, research shows that as long as they’re not prepared with lots of high-calorie flavorings, pulses and other dried beans may play a doubly valuable role for people who are overweight. Pulses are the dried seeds from the legume family and include chickpeas, lentils, split peas and other dried beans. The high fiber and protein of dried beans such as kidney, garbanzo and lentils may make them more filling and help hold off hunger longer than lower calorie vegetables like tomatoes or broccoli.

A recent analysis of 21 trials found that when total calories were the same, people eating a half to three-quarters cup (cooked) pulses daily maintained almost a pound less weight in trials that aimed for weight maintenance. In trials that cut calories for weight loss, the bean-eating groups lost about four pounds more than those getting no pulses. Note that in these research studies, there was an average follow-up of only six weeks. And pulses’ weight advantage came when comparing groups whose total calorie was the same. Chickpeas, dried beans and other pulses have about 115 calories per 1/2 cup serving.

Here’s the double benefit: health risks associated with overweight and obesity (high levels of blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and blood pressure) seem to improve when people consume pulses frequently, and this can happen even without weight loss.

Try beans as a replacement for some or all of refined grains like white rice in a casserole, soup or tortilla dish. Use beans to replace meat in chili. Substitute dried beans for higher calorie foods rather than just adding them to your current diet. Add beans to a green salad, or serve a bean and vegetable side dish instead of having white bread or rolls or a sugary gelatin side dish. .

Learn more about Pulses like Dried Beans and Peas in AICR's Foods that Fight Cancer.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).

Published on 07/25/2016

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