Legumes are packed with fiber. More studies than I can count have drawn a connection between high-fiber foods and weight loss. It’s pretty simple: Foods that are high in fiber fill you up, staying in your digestive system longer than other, more quickly digested foods. People who eat legumes are less hungry compared with people who eat low-fiber foods with the same amount of calories. Legume eaters also tend to consume fewer calories later in the day.
All this fullness translates to weight loss, as confirmed in a number of studies. For example, in a 2009 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, obese men following low-calorie diets lost about 50 percent more weight when their meal plans included legumes. And a 2008 analysis of nearly 1,500 people published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that bean eaters had lower body weights and waist sizes than non–bean eaters. In fact, bean eaters were 22 percent less likely to be obese than those who didn’t eat beans.
Legumes are stuffed with both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber generally helps the heart, and insoluble fiber keeps food moving smoothly through the gut.
But beans are also more than just useful little packages of nutrients. In the kitchen, just about everything you couple them with gets better.