Reach for legumes if you’re trying to lose weight, scientists say

Organic pulses, including lentils and beans, lie in glass cylinders on display at the 2013 Gruene Woche agricultural trade fair on January 18, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Bodybuilders, models and everyday people trying to lose weight swear by it: a high-protein diet fills you up, keeps you lean and helps with weight management.

But a new Danish study suggests that loading up on plant-based protein is your best bet, especially over options like pork, veal and beef.

“The protein-rich meal composed of legumes contained significantly more fibre than the protein-rich meal of pork and veal, which probably contributed to the increased feeling of satiety,” the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Anne Raben, said in a statement.

Raben leads the University of Copenhagen’s department of nutrition, exercise and sports.

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For her study, Raben and her team worked with 43 men, serving them two different meals of either beans and peas shaped into patties, or veal and pork shaped into patties.

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Turns out, whenever the participants ate the beans and peas, they ate about 12 per cent fewer calories at their next meal because they weren’t as hungry.

“It is somewhat contrary to the widespread belief that one ought to consume a large amount of protein because it increases satiety more. Now something suggests that one can eat a fibre-rich meal, with less protein, and achieve the same sensation of fullness,” Raben said.

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She said she needs to conduct follow-up studies for “definitive proof” but for now, the results suggests that swapping out red meats for legumes could be a good long-term move for weight loss and building a healthy eating habit.

This isn’t the first study to zero in on the benefits of plant-based protein over their fleshy counterparts.

Earlier this year, Harvard Medical School doctors ranked protein sources with beans and nuts faring the best for your health, while red and processed meats worked against better health outcomes.

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“Our findings suggest that people should consider eating more plant proteins than animal proteins, and when they do choose among sources of animal protein, fish and chicken are probably better choices,” Dr. Mingyang Song said.

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“When we looked deeper into the data, we found that — at similar levels of animal protein intake — those in the unhealthy lifestyle group consumed more red meats, eggs and high-fat dairy while the healthy lifestyle group consumed more fish and poultry,” he explained.

The World Health Organization named 2016 the International Year of Pulses, and for good reason: beans, lentils and chickpeas are inexpensive sources of protein and they’re versatile so they can be worked into salads, soups or even pasta sauce.

The Danish findings were published in the journal Food & Nutrition. Read the full study.