Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat, the more you… can lose weight? According to research, the answer is yes. Beans are among the most widely consumed foods worldwide and are celebrated for their versatility and nutritional benefits. But with their rich carbohydrate and plant-protein content, can eating beans help you lose weight? In this article, we chatted with Destini Moody, RDN, CSSD, LD, a registered dietitian and sports dietitian with Garage Gym Reviews, who guides us in exploring beans’ potential weight loss benefits.
Beans are packed with fiber, protein, and an array of other essential nutrients, making them a nutrient-dense addition to your diet. Additionally, studies point out that beans can help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes since they’re naturally low in fat (especially saturated fats) and cholesterol-free.
“Beans can and should be included in a weight loss diet,” Moody states. “They are superfoods packed with a variety of nutrients, are heart healthy, and are vegan and vegetarian friendly.”
Read on to learn how adding more legumes to your diet can help you lose weight and keep it off in the long term. Then, when you’re finished, find out How To Lose One Pound a Week Just by Walking.
They’re high in magnesium and B vitamins.
“Beans are packed with so many nutrients, especially magnesium and B vitamins like folate. These nutrients play key roles in producing ATP, or the body’s unit of energy. When energy levels can remain high, this encourages you to move your body more, be it through exercise or activities of daily living. By staving off fatigue, you can burn more calories throughout the day, which can be helpful on a weight loss journey,” explains Moody.
Research shows magnesium plays a role in regulating insulin sensitivity, which helps support your body’s ability to utilize glucose efficiently. Meanwhile, B vitamins are essential for energy metabolism, promoting a balanced and sustained source of energy—a critical factor in maintaining an active lifestyle conducive to weight loss.
They’re an excellent source of soluble fiber.
According to a 2021 study in Molecules, soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. This substance helps slow down digestion and promotes a feeling of fullness. That’s why beans can assist in appetite control but reduce overall calorie intake, making them a valuable addition to a weight-loss-friendly diet.
Moody says, “Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that mixes with the fluid in your digestive tract to form a gel. This gel adds bulk to the digesting food in your stomach and moves through the intestines much slower than food in its liquid form. This process keeps you fuller for longer, prevents overeating throughout the day, and helps you manage weight.”
They’re high in protein.
When it comes to sustainable weight loss, protein is the king macronutrient to consume. A high-protein diet has been associated with increased satiety and the preservation of lean muscle mass during weight loss. One cup of cooked pinto beans provides over 15 grams of plant-based protein, making beans a beneficial food to help moderate your calorie intake and prevent overeating.
“Beans are a great source of plant-based protein, with half a cup of black beans providing as much protein as one cup of milk,” Moody explains. “This protein can help you maintain lean body mass, which can help raise your resting metabolism. They also tend to be a lower calorie source of protein compared to non-lean meats like beef and pork.”
They can improve gut health.
“Legumes like garbanzo beans, red beans, and lentils contain resistant starch,” says Moody. “Resistant starches are fermentable, meaning bacteria in your gut can break them down as food. This can help nourish the good bacteria in your gut to grow and multiply. According to science, a healthy microbiome may help one manage a healthy weight.”
Additionally, studies have found that the prebiotic fibers in beans fuel beneficial gut bacteria growth. A thriving gut microbiome is associated with improved digestion and metabolism, two crucial factors for healthy weight management.
They help you feel fuller longer.
A standout benefit of incorporating beans into your weight loss diet is their ability to enhance satiety. The combination of fiber, protein, and nutrients in beans contributes to a feeling of fullness that persists over time. According to a 2020 study in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, beans can help you feel fuller longer and promote weight loss since they’re low in fat, don’t spike your blood sugar, and are high in fiber and plant protein.
“Research shows that beans produce cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone released into the intestines during digestion,” explains Moody. “CCK slows down stomach emptying for high fiber foods like beans to give the body more time to process the fibrous food. This decreases appetite, which can help with weight loss.”