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Eat This Protein for Calories That Don't Count

Eat This Protein for Calories That Don't Count

Plan that summer picnic around bean salads instead of brats and you may enjoy a smaller waist -- even if you eat the same number of calories as the brat lovers!

In a recent study, the biggest meat eaters tended to gain pounds over time -- almost an extra pound a year. But a diet with the same number of calories -- just less meat -- wouldn't cause the same weight gain, according to the researchers.

Bean Lovers, Rejoice
It's not clear from the study results why eating less meat might help keep off excess pounds, but the data suggest that it's not simply about calories. Perhaps the waist-widening effects have something to do with the type of fat found in meats -- mainly saturated fat. More research is needed to solve the riddle. But whatever the cause, it's one more tasty reason to make plant-based foods your favorite protein source. Beans make an excellent meat substitution because they're ultra low in fat and calories yet high in protein and filling fiber. Beans also are a great source of health-promoting phytochemicals. (Get ready for a tasty heatwave with this recipe -- Black Bean Mango Salad.)

Why Beans Are Even Better
And the really, really great news with beans is that if you're using them in place of meat, you probably won't eat as many calories as people diving into the equivalent meat-based dish. That's because you'd have to eat a lot more beans to get the same number of calories. For example, you'd have to munch 2 full cups of kidney beans -- more than a jumbo 15-ounce can! -- to equal the number of calories in a steak. So making beans the focus of soups, summer salads, and tacos is a natural, easy way to take in fewer calories with lots of dishes. (Find out which beans are highest in phytochemicals.)

Toot-proof your next bean-filled meal with this trick.

Learn how to cook tender, low-sodium, economical beans.

Medically reviewed in March 2019.

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