Pass the chickpeas, please! A new study has found that pulses—a specific type of legume—can help you lose and maintain a healthy weight.

In the world of healthy eating, there seems to be a lot of carb-o-phobia, and it couldn’t be more misplaced. Sure, refined carbohydrates like white bread and sugar are bad news for maintaining a healthy weight, but not all carbohydrate-rich foods are bad for us. Unrefined carbs, like whole grains and beans, help you feel fuller, which is great when you’re trying to cut back to a healthy number of calories.

The new analysis from St. Michael’s Hospital suggests that eating beans, lentils, dried peas and chickpeas—all carbohydrate-rich foods—can help you achieve and maintain weight loss. It builds on previous research, which found that adding a 3/4 cup serving of pulses to your diet helped people feel 31 percent fuller and reduced their LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad cholesterol.”

Researchers compared weight loss outcomes among pulse-eaters from 21 studies, which encompassed 940 adults. People who ate that serving of pulses each day lost—and kept 0ff—about 3/4 of a pound over six weeks. Study author Dr. Russell de Souza said in a press release, “Though the weight loss was small, our findings suggest that simply including pulses in your diet may help you lose weight, and we think more importantly, prevent you from gaining it back after you lose it.”

What are pulses, and why are they important?

Pulses are part of the legume family. Dried beans, dried peas, chickpeas and lentils are all pulses. They’re high in fiber and protein, and many of them are also rich in carbs. Lentils are a good example of pulses. A one-cup serving of lentils delivers 18 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber and 40 grams of carbohydrates.

The researchers at St. Michael’s say that exactly how pulses aid in weight loss is “unclear,” but a look at other research on healthy weight loss suggests that their high fiber content is a big part of the equation. A 2015 study found that getting 30 grams of fiber a day helped participants lose weight. Those lentils I mentioned have more than half of that in a single one-cup serving. A smaller study also found that a plant-based vegan diet helped participants lose weight, even if they didn’t count calories. Vegans tend to eat a lot of fiber-rich foods, since plant foods are the only natural source of dietary fiber.

Pulses are a big deal this year, because the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared 2016 “The International Year of Pulses.” According to the FAO, “Pulses are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet to address obesity, as well as to prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions and cancer.”

Pulses are good for our bodies, and they’re good for the planet. They are nitrogen-fixing crops, meaning they restore vital nutrients to the soil where they’re planted. Healthy soil may not be as sexy as healthy weight loss, but in terms of the future of our food supply, it’s critical. The world’s soil is in trouble, and regenerative farming, including growing pulses, can help mitigate the damage we’ve done by tilling, monocropping and over-developing on our land

Like the statement from the FAO suggests, there are benefits to eating pulses beyond achieving a healthy weight. Ann Pietrangelo here at Care2 wrote a piece last month about what pulses are and all the ways they benefit our health.


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