Study: Eating Beans Is Better Than Cutting Calories

People on low-carb diets, Atkins diets, and especially Paleo or Caveman diets don’t eat beans. Beans have a lot of carbohydrate; most of their calories come from carbohydrate. They’re very low in fat. They do provide a good amount of protein. In fact, beans, peas, and legumes are the most concentrated source of protein for people on a plant-based diet.

Eating beans has been shown to lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Dr. Greger presents two studies in this short clip that attest to that:

The first is a case (n=80)/control (n=160) study:

Legume Intake Is Inversely Associated With Metabolic Syndrome In Adults, Archives of Iranian Medicine, September 2012

After adjustment for potential confounders, decreases in mean systolic blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, and increase in HDL cholesterol levels were observed across increasing quartile categories of legume intake. After adjustments for life style and food groups, subjects in the highest quartile of legume intake had lower odds of having MetS compared with those in the lowest quartile.

Those who ate 3 or more servings of beans* a week had just a quarter of the risk for Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) compared to those who ate only 1 serving or less. Metabolic Syndrome, they noted, is a “constellation of metabolic abnormalities that include glucose intolerance, abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, and hypertension.” Eating beans improved all characteristics of the MetS in this study. That’s right, the more high-carb beans they ate, the lower their blood glucose. The association was independent of other foods and food components such as whole grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and magnesium. There was something about the beans themselves that provided benefit.

* They defined beans as “lentils, beans, chickpeas, cooked broad beans, soy beans, mung beans, and split peas.”


Eat Beans.

The second study was a doozy. It pitted beans against caloric restriction. The bean group was asked to eat more food (5 cups of cooked beans a week). The caloric restriction group was asked to eat less food (500 fewer calories a day):

Regular Consumption Of Pulses For 8 Weeks Reduces Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors In Overweight And Obese Adults, British Journal of Nutrition, August 2012

In conclusion, frequent consumption of pulses in an ad libitum diet reduced risk factors of the MetSyn and these effects were equivalent, and in some instances stronger, than counseling for dietary energy reduction.

An ad libitum diet means they could go on eating whatever they were eating, except they were to add the bean meals that were provided (1 salad, 1 soup, 3 side dishes, made with lentils, chickpeas, yellow split peas, and navy beans.) They were never told to reduce their calories, indeed, food records showed they ate more calories than the restricted group. But eating beans caused them to spontaneously reduce their caloric intake anyway:

While both diets led to reduced energy intakes and waist circumference, improved glycaemic control and insulin sensitivity, the pulse diet, perhaps due to some functional properties of pulses, led to additional benefits beyond a reduction in energy intake.

The group eating beans had lower blood glucose (a decrease of 20.1% compared to 5.6%), lower HbA1c (a measure of blood glucose, a decrease of 5.4% compared to 0.9%), higher HDL (the good cholesterol, an increase of 4.5% compared to a decrease of 0.8%), and less insulin resistance … and they ate more and received no dietary counseling!

1 thought on “Study: Eating Beans Is Better Than Cutting Calories

  1. Bix Post author

    By the way, did you see that Iranians eat only 15% of their calories from fat? And that’s not considered low-fat there! Here, low-fat starts around 30%, and most Americans regularly eat more than that.



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