Pulses -- The New Buzz for Weight Loss

By Charlyn Fargo

April 8, 2016 6 min read

Go for the pulses — beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils. Those humble foods, otherwise known as beans, that may pack a punch for weight loss. That's the finding of a new analysis of reports by Canadian researchers.

A new analysis of data from 21 clinical trials on pulses finds that they can help dieters feel full, and shed unwanted pounds.

"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," wrote study lead author Russell de Souza, a researcher at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, in a news release.

It's the fiber and protein in the pulses that helps dieters feel full. And pulses also offer a boost of vitamins and minerals. Research has also found they can help reduce cholesterol if eaten regularly.

The Canadian team also noted that pulses have a "low glycemic index" — meaning that they break down slowly in the digestive tract thanks to the fiber. As such, they can be consumed instead of animal protein or unhealthy fats at mealtimes.

The trials included in the new analysis involved a total of 940 adults. When participants started eating one serving (3/4 cup) of pulses a day, they lost an average of 0.75 pounds over six weeks without making any special effort to avoid other types of foods, the researchers said.

According to de Souza's team, prior research has shown that eating bean, lentils and other pulses makes people feel fuller.

That's key to weight loss — 90 percent of weight loss programs fail, due in part to the influence of hunger and food cravings, according to de Souza.

"This new study fits well with our previous work, which found that pulses increased the feeling of fullness by 31 percent, which may indeed result in less food intake," he said.

These foods also appear to help lower blood levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, he added.

The bottom line is pulses may help you lose weight — without even trying very hard. Add some beans to a salad, snack on hummus and dig out that split pea soup recipe or add some black beans to your favorite chili. Consuming them on a daily basis turns out to be a good idea.

The findings were published March 30 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Q and A

Q: Does a lactose-free diet play a role in reducing cancer risk?

A: For people who can't digest lactose, a naturally occurring sugar in milk, eating or drinking milk and other dairy products can lead to uncomfortable cramping and diarrhea. Overall, research shows no reduction in cancer risk by avoiding foods with lactose (dairy products). In fact, the latest report from the American Institute for Cancer Research analyzing the evidence links milk and calcium intake with lower risk of colorectal cancer. There is some research linking consumption of dairy products with increased risk of prostate cancer, but the evidence here is not strong. A few studies have also linked high consumption of lactose with greater risk of ovarian cancer, but overall research does not show any clear link between lactose or dairy consumption and ovarian or other cancer. Limited animal research even shows possible protective effects of lactose for the colon. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2-3 servings of dairy per day as part of an overall healthy eating plan. One serving equals 1 cup milk or yogurt or 1 1/2 ounces natural cheese. — American Institute for Cancer Research.


Breakfast is important to start your day. Here's a make ahead, high fiber breakfast cereal with barley, oats, nuts and raisins to keep you going all morning. Walnuts provide omega-3 fatty acids. Serve with Greek yogurt or milk and top with fresh fruit. It's from Cooking Light magazine.

Three-Grain Breakfast Cereal with Walnuts and Dried Fruit

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup honey

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups regular oats

1 cup uncooked quick-cooking barley

3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cooking spray

1 (7-ounce) package dried mixed fruit, chopped (such as Sun-Maid brand)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine first four ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Combine oats, barley, walnuts, wheat germ, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add syrup mixture; stir well to coat. Spread oat mixture evenly onto a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until browned, stirring every 10 minutes. Stir in dried fruit. Cool completely.

Note: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes 24 servings (serving size: 1/3 cup).

Per serving: 185 calories, 4.5 g protein, 31.3 g carbohydrates, 4.8 g fat, 0 cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 4 mg sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill, and a spokesperson for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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