Low-fat, inexpensive beans and legumes come with many essential nutrients, including protein, fiber, resistant starch (another type of fiber), and minerals, which all may aid in satiety, according to lead study author, Megan McCrory, PhD, assistant professor in the Foods and Nutrition department at Purdue. “There are several mechanisms behind this,” says McCrory. “One is that protein and fiber help delay the rate of digestion by slowing the progression of nutrients from the stomach to the small intestine. When the digestion rate is slowed, that slows the entry of digested carbohydrate (glucose) into the blood stream, which in turn delays the return of hunger.”
“Thus, as long as you keep away from snacking when you're not hungry, you’ll likely eat less during the day,” continues McCrory. “Also, fiber and resistant starch are broken down in the large intestine by bacteria that live there. This breakdown process creates by-products called short-chain fatty acids that we can use for energy, which also helps stave off hunger.”
All of which points to legumes as a tasty ally in the fight against weight gain—including that insidious and annoying “creeping” gain that can occur as we age. Ready to fight back? The Rodale Recipe Finder is full of options for cooking beans and legumes. For you non-vegetarians and non-bean-lovers out there, here are some great meat and bean dishes that will fill you up, not out.
#1: Skillet Tilapia with Black Beans and Kale. A simple, deliciously different way to enjoy fish, and it’s ready in less than 30 minutes. Look for U.S. tilapia, which is a "best choice" by the Environmental Defense Fund (Asian tilapia is in the "worst" category, with Latin American in between.)
#2: Minted Lamb Chops with White Beans. In this delectable dish, you place broiled lamb chops atop cannellini beans cooked with garlic, tomatoes, and mint. It's a great choice if you're looking for alternatives to traditional end-of-year turkey dinners.
#3: Tuscan Pork and Chickpeas with Spinach. For this Italian-inspired masterpiece, first you brown the thinly sliced pork, then you simmer it with a lemony mixture of tomatoes, chickpeas, and spinach.
#4: Shrimp with Chard and Red Beans. You only ever use red kidney beans in chili? Grab that can out of the pantry and try this fabulous New Orleans–inspired shrimp dish.
#5: Lentil-Rice Stew with Turkey Sausage. This comfort stew—perfect for the colder days ahead—features lentils, turkey sausage, and vegetables in a smooth curry broth. Yum.