Simple beans, a staple protein for vegetarians and in Middle Eastern and Hispanic cuisines, can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels, according to a meta-analysis by the Canadian Medical Association.
The analysis suggests that those eating the traditional Western diet which is low in beans should make more room on their plate for legumes because controlled studies showed that consuming a 3/4 cup serving of beans per day (on average) for six weeks cut LDL cholesterol by an average of 5 percent.
LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol contributes to heart disease by creating plaque build-up inside blood vessels. The meta-analysis reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials that included 1,037 people. Men showed the greatest reduction in LDL cholesterol after adding beans to their meals compared with women, perhaps because their diets were not as good to begin with, the researchers said.
The findings mean that anyone concerned about their heart health has a very simple and affordable route to improving their cholesterol, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine noted in reporting about the study.
Beans that help reduce lipids come in a staggering variety, including pintos, black and white, navy, cannellini and kidney beans as well as chickpeas, peas and lentils, according to the study. Their direct heart-health benefit likely comes from their fiber and also from the fact that they displace fatty meats in the diet.
Beans, like other plant foods, also are a lower carbon food, compared with meat, which requires more energy inputs. So replacing meat meals with those using beans as the main protein can help lower one’s carbon footprint.
(Photo: Bean and Kale Soup, GRN)