You know what they say about the company you keep… The same thing goes for the food you keep. And that’s especially true when it comes to weight loss. The food you store in your fridge and pantry can either be your greatest allies or your worst enemies. That’s because changing your diet is the most effective way to shed pounds, so making sure you have healthy foods available at a moment’s notice will make your weight loss journey much smoother.
There’s one food group in particular that you should keep in your pantry at all times to help you lower the number on the scale. Best of all, they’re shelf-stable, last for years, and are scientifically proven to help you lose weight: dry beans, also known as pulses.
Yes, that’s right! Boring beans are surprisingly fat-burning weapons, and adding them to your diet can make a significant difference in your weight in as little as six weeks.
A meta-analysis of all available clinical trials on the effects of eating pulses published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that adding just 3/4 cup of beans to your diet every day for six weeks can help you lose 0.75 pounds. While it sounds like a modest amount, that nearly one-pound weight loss is a result of making no other changes to your diet (not even cutting out your favorite desserts!) or lifestyle. Not bad.
Another study that looked at the dietary habits of Americans found that bean-eaters had healthier diets overall. Relative to non-consumers, bean consumers had higher intakes of dietary fiber and micronutrients such as potassium, magnesium, iron, and copper. Bean enthusiasts also had a lower body weight and a smaller waist size relative to those who don’t stock their pantry with beans. While having a smaller waist size is one thing, there’s another benefit of eating beans: consuming them also helps to reduce your risk of increasing your waist size over time.
While we recommend keeping beans in your pantry to lose weight, that’s not the only benefit you’ll reap from having this food on hand. Some scientifically-backed benefits of eating beans include reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol, favorably affecting risk factors for metabolic syndrome, and reducing the risk of ischemic heart disease and diabetes.
Beans are also one of the best sources of fiber, which has been deemed a nutrient of concern as 95% of Americans don’t eat enough of it. Dietary fiber can reduce hunger, enhance satiety, lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar, promote a healthy digestive system, as well as assist with weight loss. In fact, a small study tracked participants as they increased the fiber in their diets from 16 grams to 28 grams per day. Over the course of 4 weeks, participants either ate 1.5 cups of beans per day or other high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. There was no difference in results between the two groups; however, both groups decreased their caloric intake by 300 calories per day, lost 3 pounds, and reported feeling less hungry and more full—all in just 4 weeks!
Canned beans will provide the same benefits as described above, but dried beans are pantry staples that are even cheaper, last longer, and are easier to buy in bulk.
Dried beans do not require refrigeration and are safe indefinitely, according to the USDA. Canned beans typically have a shorter shelf life—between 2 to 5 years—but the USDA notes that if cans are in good condition (no dents, swelling, or rust) and have been stored in a cool, clean, dry place they are also safe indefinitely.
So either storage form you choose, dried or canned, beans can outlast most foods in your pantry, making them a food group that’s worth having in your pantry at all times to support your weight loss efforts. Need some inspiration with what to cook for dinner tonight? Try any of these 17 Delicious Recipes Featuring a Simple Can of Beans.