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Apr 092014

GRN Reports

Bean and Kale soup

White Bean and Kale soup (Photo: GRN)

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)


Oct 052009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

The Mediterranean diet or style of eating is not just for cultivating healthy arteries anymore. Now researchers say it may reduce the risk of depression.

Med Diet Pyramid

Image: © 2009 Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust; (www.oldwayspt.org/)

A dietary pattern of eating plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, fish and olive oil appears to help people fend off clinical depression, according to a report in the October Archives of General Psychiatry, a publication under the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) group.

The study looked at mental depression in a sampling of people in Spain, where mental disorders are traditionally less prevalent than among people in Northern Europe.

Other studies have suggested that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats (in this case, olive oil), and lighter in saturated fats from meats and dairy foods, could help protect people against serious mental illnesses.

The Mediterranean style of eating has also been associated with reduced risk of obesity and heart issues. It’s considered to be a greener style of eating because it does not revolve around large portions of beef and other meats, which raise the carbon imprint of a diet because livestock requires extensive water, grains and fuel to bring to market. Plant-based eating, or diets lower in meat, are considered to be more sustainable. Health-wise, the Mediterranean diet has been popular for weight reduction, improving mental acuity and reducing the cholesterol that can lead to hardening of the arteries. It has been associated with longevity and reduced risk of some cancers. And, it has been popularized in many nutrition books and cookbooks.

The sample group of 10,000 healthy Spaniards in the study were followed over nearly five years. Researchers found that those who adhered most closely to the Mediterranean diet — defined as consuming a high ratio of monounsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids; moderate intake of alcohol and dairy products; low intake of meat; and high intake of legumes, fruit and nuts, cereals, vegetables and fish — had a 30 percent reduced rate of depression compared to those who did not ascribe to the diet.

The association did not change when the results were adjusted for other “markers of a healthy lifestyle,” such as marital status.

“The specific mechanisms by which a better adherence to the Mediterranean dietary pattern could help to prevent the occurrence of depression are not well known,” the authors write in the study report. Aspects of the diet may improve blood vessel function, fight inflammation, reduce risk for heart disease and repair oxygen-related cell damage. And all those factors could, in turn, reduce  one’s chances of  developing depression.

More likely, though, it is a combination of factors related to the overall diet that suppress the development of the mental illness.

“It is plausible that the synergistic combination of a sufficient provision of omega-three fatty acids together with other natural unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants from olive oil and nuts, flavonoids and other phytochemicals from fruit and other plant foods and large amounts of natural folates and other B vitamins in the overall Mediterranean dietary pattern may exert a fair degree of protection against depression,” the authors write.

Almudena Sánchez-Villegas, B.Pharm., Ph.D., of University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Clinic of the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, led the study.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

Feb 052009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Chances are you’re already trying to incorporate certain foods into your diet because they’ve been found to offer some protection against developing diabetes, heart disease and cancers. Now steady your red wine glass and push that broccoli to one side of the plate, you’ll need room for a helping of beans, especially if you’re a woman.

Cannellini, navy, pinto, kidney – almost any variety will do. According to researchers at Colorado State University legumes are not just high in the anti-oxidants that fight free radicals in the body, they may help reduce the risk of breast cancer in previously unrecognized ways.

The team of academics tested six types of beans, looking at their “antioxidant capacity” and phenolic and flavonoid content, which are all “factors thought to be associated with anticancer activity,” according to a news release about the study. They found that the levels of phenolic and flavonoid content varied widely, with deeper colored beans having more phenolic and flavonoid content, as well as stronger antioxidant abilities, compared with white beans.

But in feeding lab rats, the researchers found that the incidence of breast cancer and the number of tumors fell significantly for the rats being fed beans, no matter what the seed color and origin.

“Dry bean consumption from every market class [type of bean] reduced cancer incidence…These results clearly suggest that the anticancer activity in dry bean(s) is not associated with seed color or antioxidant capacity,” according to the release.

So far, the researchers haven’t determined what quality of the beans does contribute to their anti-cancer properties. (Call them magic beans for now?) They’ve started clinical trials to see if adding beans to the human diet is somehow associated with or affects “biomarkers” for cancer.

The results from this study are being published in the January-February 2009 issues of Crop Science.

The work was funded by Beans for Health Alliance, the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Bush Brothers Inc. (You can figure out who among that group is pleased with the results.)

In terms of living green and what this might mean for the planet: Beans are a great source of protein that rivals protein levels found in meats, yet they leave a much carbon smaller footprint.

And there’s no added fat.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media