Are you one of the millions of people who go on a yearly diet? According to the Boston Medical Association, around 45 million Americans go on a weight loss regime at least once a year[i].
With so many diets available to try, each with their own sets of rules, it can be difficult to make the healthiest choice.
Let’s go back to basics and explore one of the best food groups to include in your diet, and how it can help you lose weight.
Pulse Or Legume - What Are They?
Legumes are plants grown primarily for their edible grain seeds, such as peas, green beans and lentils. The term “pulse” is reserved for legume crops used solely for their dry seeds, such as lentils, beans and chickpeas.
Where Does Pulse Come From
Pulses have been part of our diet for thousands of years. Archeologists have found evidence of legume production as far back as 5,000 years ago, in the Mediterranean area[ii].
Nowadays, India is the largest producer of pulses, responsible for around 28% of global production[iii]. Pulses are a staple part of the Indian diet, where they are used in many traditional dishes.
Legumes don’t only nourish us – the roots are full of nitrogen-containing nodules, which enrich the soil, making legumes great plants for crop rotation[iv].
To celebrate this, the United Nations named 2016 the Year of Pulses[v], alluding to their beneficial properties.
If you’re looking to increase your energy levels, look no further than pulses. They are complex carbohydrates, packed full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals essential for good health AND healthy weight loss:
Research indicates that a diet high in fiber results in increased feelings fullness after a meal, leading to decreased hunger and therefore weight loss[vi]. Pulses contain water-soluble fiber and resistant starch, both of which have different functions in the body:
Water Soluble Fiber
Water-soluble fiber turns into gel in the digestive system, slowing down digestion and helping you feel fuller for longer. It has also been shown to reduce levels of bad cholesterol and balance blood sugar levels, lowering both your risk of cardio vascular disease and diabetes[vii].
Resistant starch goes through the stomach and small intestine undigested, before arriving in the large intestine where it feeds the friendly gut bacteria so important for our health. It has also been found to improve colonic health, reduce appetite and increase insulin sensitivity[viii].
Pulses are an excellent source of protein. Lentils, for example, are 26% protein - more than any other legume or nut, other than soybeans and hemp[ix]. Protein is used to make our muscles, tendons, organs and skin – we would not be able to function without it.
What’s more, it’s also the perfect food group to include in your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. Numerous studies have shown that increasing your protein intake to 30% of your daily calories (that’s approximately 150 grams of protein for 2,000 calories a day) leads to a decrease in snacking and overall appetite, better post-meal satiety, and weight loss[x].
Protein from sources such as legumes, pulses, nuts, seeds and vegetables will also provide you with a healthy dose of fiber, vitamins and minerals which will help support your body from the inside.
Vitamins and Minerals
Pulses are a good source of health boosting essential vitamins, such as folic acid (vitamin B9) and thiamine (vitamin B1), and minerals such as iron and zinc. B vitamins are used to produce energy from food, and are needed for brain function and digestion. Iron transports oxygen to and from the cells and is also important for energy production. Zinc is indispensible for growth, healing, and hormone control. It also promotes a healthy nervous system[xi].
Increased Weight Loss Eating Pulses
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods compared the weight loss and health effects of various diets. The diets found to result in the most weight loss were pulse-rich diets and protein rich diets[xii].
In addition, the pulse rich diet was found to have more health benefits than other diets.
Let Off A Bit Of Gas
Due to the resistant starch they contain, pulses can cause flatulence. The undigested fiber is broken down in the large intestine, and this can cause bloating and gas. There are things you can do to reduce this effect:
- Soak the beans or peas in water overnight, then rinse thoroughly and cook in fresh water (lentils usually only need washing).
- Skim and throw away the foam that forms on the top of the cooking water.
- Always ensure you cook pulses thoroughly.
- Adding certain spices, such as ginger root, cumin seed and fennel seed to the dish will help digestion.
How To Include Pulses In Your Diet
When it comes to adding pulses to your diet, you’ve got many options available. Adding lentils or chickpeas to your lunch salad will keep the hunger pangs at bay until dinner. You can use one of the many varieties of beans to replace rice or pasta for a healthier, more satisfying side dish.
Experiment with mung beans or adzuki beans to give your meals a protein boost. Try kidney beans or pinto beans in a vegetarian chili. Pulses also make tasty and filling dips, like hummus. You never need be bored of your food!
Benefit With Natural Weight Loss
If you’re trying to lose weight, forget the fad diets. Eating natural unprocessed foods is the best way to a steady and healthy weight loss.
Pulses will keep you fuller for longer, helping you to fight those snack attacks, and their high nutrient content will support your body and boost your wellbeing.
Why not add some lentils to your dinner tonight?
Pulse Recipe To Try – Healthy Hummus
Chickpeas are a delicious pulse to add to your diet – they are versatile and nutritious, and have been shown to lower blood lipid levels and regulate blood glucose[xiii]. They can also help improve insulin resistance[xiv], making them a good food choice for diabetics and those wanting to manage their weight.
This quick and easy recipe for hummus makes a great dip to enjoy with raw vegetables or homemade falafels, for lunch or as an appetizer to share with friends:
- 1 x can of chickpeas (drained)
- 1 x lemon (juiced)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp tahini (optional)
- Pinch of salt (to taste)
Place all the ingredients in a food processor, and process until desired texture is achieved. If necessary, stop mixing occasionally and scrape the sides to make sure all the ingredients are well combined. Enjoy with your favorite vegetables.
Try different flavors – add a handful of coriander and a squeeze of lime for a fresh and light dip, or roasted tomatoes and oregano for a Mediterranean twist.
[xi] Holford, Patrick; The Optimum Nutrition Bible; GB, Piatkus Books (2009); pages 479 & 489