Published on July 7, 2014.
Eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce “bad cholesterol” and therefore the risk of cardiovascular disease, a new study has found.
However, most people in North America would have to more than double their consumption of these foods known as pulses to reach that target, said the researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital.
The study, led by Dr. John Sievenpiper of the hospital’s Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre, was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Dr. Sievenpiper said that by eating one serving a day of pulses, people could lower their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by five per cent. He said that would translate into a five to six per cent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, the second leading cause of death in Canada.
One serving of pulses is 130 grams or ¾ cup, yet Canadians on average eat less than half a serving a day. Pulses have a low glycemic index (meaning that they are foods that break down slowly) and tend to reduce or displace animal protein as well as “bad” fats such as trans fat in a dish or meal.
Other research supports findings that beans may reduce heart attack and stroke risk
Legumes, including beans, chickpeas, and lentils, are among the lowest glycemic index (GI) foods and have been recommended in diabetic food guidelines. But can beans actually lower glycemic index? This is what researchers wanted to find out. (1 )So what they did was study 121 participants with type 2 diabetes. Divided into two groups, one group was put into a low-GI legume diet that encouraged participants to increase legume intake by at least 1 cup per day, the second group to increase insoluble fiber by consumption of whole wheat products, for 3 months. The primary outcome was change in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) values with calculated coronary heart disease (CHD) risk score as a secondary outcome.
Here is what the researchers found:
Beans, as compared to whole grains, had better results in dropping blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels – and – improved hemoglobin A1c scores.
Does this mean giving up whole grains for beans? No.
The research points out that beans (one cup a day) did a little better than the whole grains diet and showed a small but significant reduction in cardiovascular risks by adding beans to the diet. However, they were comparing two healthy diets – and whole grains have already been shown in many studies to be a beneficial dietary program for reducing cardiovascular risks. Beans did just a little better.
Here are more recommendations from the Magaziner Center for Wellness from reducing inflammation, cholesterol, blood sugar and other cardiovascular risks.
•Omega 3 Fatty Acids – found in fish oil supplements and flaxseed oil
•Curcumin – found in turmeric and available in supplement form; helps lower oxidized LDL (bad cholesterol) levels
•Flavonoids – antioxidants found in blueberries, oranges, onions tea and cocoa
•Monounsaturated Fatty Acids – found in avocados, dark chocolate and nuts; can reduce total cholesterol levels in the blood and increase the ratio of HDL (“good” cholestero)l to LDL (“bad” cholesterol).
•Resveratrol – found in the skin of red grapes and even red wine; often best to take in supplement form
•Green Tea Extract – an herbal derivative of green tea rich in antioxidants
•Red Yeast Rice – a naturally-occurring Chinese extract that statin drugs have been modeled after
•Plant Sterols – found in vegetables, whole grains and legumes, these plant substances have been proven to lower cholesterol levels1. Jenkins DJA, et al. Effect of Legumes as Part of a Low Glycemic Index Diet on Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Intern Med. 2012;():1-8. doi:10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.70.