Nourishing yourself with a humble set of food that includes beans, lentils and chickpeas may lower your cholesterol levels and aid in your weight loss goals, a new study in Canada revealed.

Led by Russell de Souza of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, researchers analyzed data from 21 clinical trials that involved these three edible legumes — collectively called "pulses" — and found that they can help people feel full and shed unwanted pounds.

A total of 940 adults participated in the trials. When the study participants ate a serving of pulses a day, they lost an average of 0.75 pounds without avoiding other types of food. This continued over a period of six weeks.

Although the amount of weight loss was small, de Souza said that simply adding pulses in a regiment may help a person lose weight. More importantly, it could prevent a person from gaining back the lost weight.

The research team said past studies have shown that consuming pulses makes people feel fuller, which increases the feeling of fullness by 31 percent. De Souza said this is key to weight loss, as 90 percent of programs fail in part because of food cravings and hunger.

Additionally, pulses also appeared to help reduce levels of bad cholesterol in the blood.

Researchers said these types of legumes possess a low glycemic index and break down slowly during digestion. Because of that, they can be used as substitutes for animal protein or unhealthy fat at mealtimes.

Another bonus from eating these legumes is that they are Canadian crops.

"Eating more pulses means eating local, being more sustainable and receiving many health benefits," said de Souza.

Nutritionist Dana Angelo White of Quinnipiac University said the findings of the study were not surprising.

"These types of legumes are some of the most underappreciated foods around," said White, adding that pulses are full of vitamins, fiber, protein and minerals.

Antonella Apicella, a dietitian from New York City, said the findings of the study support the idea that chickpeas, lentils and beans may reduce body fat and contribute to weight loss.

The study is featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Photo: Jessica Spengler | Flickr

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