Beans and peas can be more satisfying than meat, research finds

Dive Brief:

  • A study by the University of Copenhagen's Department of Nutrition found that beans and peas could curb appetite more than pork and veal, according to New Hope Network.

  • Researchers gave 43 young men one of three meals including patties made from either beans and peas or pork and veal. Those who ate the legume-based meals consumed 12% fewer calories at their next meal than those who ate the meat-based meals.

  • “It is somewhat contrary to the widespread belief that one ought to consume a large amount of protein because it increases satiety more," head researcher Anne Raber said in a press release. "Now, something suggests that one can eat a fiber-rich meal, with less protein, and achieve the same sensation of fullness. While more studies are needed for a definitive proof, it appears as if vegetable-based meals — particularly those based on beans and peas — both can serve as a long term basis for weight loss and as a sustainable eating habit.”

Dive Insight:

This isn’t the first time that researchers have found beans to be as satiating as meat. An earlier study also found that bean-based meals controlled hunger as well as those with beef — even though they contained slightly less protein and more fiber. Although protein suppresses hunger hormones, fiber helps slow down digestion and controls blood sugar levels, prolonging the feeling of fullness.

If these results are replicated in larger studies, legume-based meals could be a win for both the environment and consumers. Eating more sustainable foods could also help with weight loss.

Although findings like these are good news for manufacturers of plant-based products, there are still many barriers to wider consumption. One of the biggest hurdles is cultural, as some meat-eating Americans consider veggie burgers a poor-tasting imitation of "the real thing." 

That said, U.S. consumers are becoming more health-conscious and more adventurous in their eating, and bean-based patties are starting to appear on menus as much more than an afterthought. A couple of years ago, GQ magazine ran the headline “The Best Burger in the World Has No Meat in It” — although the article also said “veggie patty” might be the two most upsetting words in the English language for someone craving a burger.

Telling people that a product is healthy is rarely motivating enough to change consumption habits, so several companies are investing heavily in making vegetable-based patties that look and taste like meat-based burgers. Beyond Meat has produced a vegetarian burger that ‘bleeds’ beet juice, while rival firm Impossible Foods aims to convert even die-hard meat eaters with a vegan burger that replicates meat as closely as possible, right down to a charred meat smell. Such products are attracting high-profile investment, and both firms have received funding from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, among others.

Apart from patties, the use of beans and peas has skyrocketed in recent years, with manufacturers adding them to a range of foods, including snacks, baked goods and beverages to boost protein levels.

Filed Under: Ingredients
Top image credit: Flickr; cookbookman17