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Slim your waist with whole grains and legumes
I've said for years that the most important factor in weight loss is the number of calories you eat versus the number of calories you burn. That said, we also know that some foods are more filling and satisfying than others, which is just one explanation for why those who eat more whole grains tend to gain less weight over the years. Further, those who eat more legumes seem to have a lower Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR).

Waist and Hip Measurements
There are some risks that you can't change, like your family history or gender. Lifestyle issues like exercise and diet are the factors that you have the most control over, and one factor in understanding your risk is not just in what you weigh. One indirect measure that is used is the Body Mass Index. This calculation is widely used in research and has proven a fairly accurate predictor of risk for illness.

Bean there, done that!
I have written recently about the positive effects that diet can have on different cancers. We know that people with a normal Body Mass Index have a lower risk of cancer. Studies have also shown a clear link with increased fruit and vegetable intake providing a decrease in the risk of some cancers.


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Lose weight without trying - with beans

a bowl of lentil soup

Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?

As you may already know if you've been following Dr. Gourmet for a while, pulses are legumes, which are described as any fruit that develops seeds lined up in a pod, like soybeans, lentils, garbanzo beans, or peas. Legumes are part of a Mediterranean-style diet, are high in protein and fiber, and have been shown to help prevent colon cancer, improve your cholesterol score (because of their high fiber content), and may even help you lose inches from your waist (improving your Waist to Hip Ratio).

A team of researchers primarily in Canada noted that legumes are foods that are high in protein and fiber, both of which are known to help increase feelings of fullness - a feature that makes higher-protein and higher-fiber foods important in managing body weight. Would diets that specifically include pulses tend to help people maintain or lose weight (Am J Clin Nutr 2016;103:1213-23)?

To find out, they searched out controlled trials that compared diets that included pulses (an average of just 1 serving per day) with diets that didn't. They found 21 trials that fit their criteria, which included 940 participants in total with followup periods of 6 weeks, on average. The average age of the studies' participants was 51 and their average Body Mass Index was just over 30 (clinically obese).

Four of the studies were designed to help the participants lose weight by cutting calories, while 17 were designed to maintain the participants' weight. The participants' height, weight, waist and hip circumferences, and amount of body fat were measured at the start and end of the trials.

Somewhat surprisingly, regardless of whether their diets were designed for weight loss or weight maintenance, those following the diets that included pulses lost more weight than those on the diets that did not include pulses. The difference was losing about .29 kilograms (about .6 pounds) more with the maintenance diets and 1.74 kilograms (3.8 pounds) more on the diets designed for weight loss.

While this study did not see people losing more waist circumference consuming pulses, in 6 of the studies they did appear to lose more body fat - about .34% more body fat than those who did not consume pulses.

What this means for you

Eight of the studies used in this meta-analysis included "mixed beans," while 4 used chickpeas, 2 used dried peas, and 1 used lentils in their interventions, so this study would not support the idea that any legume would necessarily be better than any other. One serving per day of your favorite legume could help you maintain your body weight more easily or even help you lose weight, if that is your goal.

Here are some side dishes that use legumes - pick a new favorite!


Asian Spiced Snap Peas
Creamed Peas
Creamy Cauliflower Lentils | Low Sodium Version
Curried Peas
Ginger Snow Peas
Green Beans Almondine
Green Bean and Mushroom Salad
Green Beans Salad with Bacon Buttermilk Dressing
Green Beans with Red Onion
Honey Peas
Mary's Simple Beans and Greens
Minted Peas
Moroccan Chickpeas
Mustard Vinaigrette Green Beans
Seared Okra with Buttermilk Glaze
Seared Okra with Cajun Glaze
Southern Green Beans
Spiced Snap Peas


Black Bean Cakes
Black Beans with Summer Squash
Black Bean Hummus
Black Bean Stuffed Peppers | Low Sodium Version
Black Eyed Pea Hummus
Black Eyed Peas | Low Sodium Version
Boston Baked Beans
Cajun Black Eyed Pea Salad
Cowboy Pinto Beans
Creamy White Bean Salad
Cumin, Black Eyes and Corn Salad | Low Sodium Version
Curried Chickpeas
Hoppin' John
Indian Chickpea Pancakes
Navarran White Beans (Poches de Navarra)
Quinoa with Peas | Low Sodium Version
Rice and Lentil Pilaf | Low Sodium Version
Risotto with Peas
Roasted Garlic Succotash | Low Sodium Version
Smokey Black Eyed Peas
Southwest Succotash | Low Sodium Version
Succotash | Low Sodium Version


First posted: May 4, 2016