Overlooked Superfood Lowers Cholesterol

April 21, 2014 Updated: June 5, 2014

“Eat your peas!” is a common refrain in many households at meal time.  That particular command may be rivaled by “Eat your beans!” thanks to new research compiled by a group of American and Canadian scientists and doctors.

The research group analyzed 26 randomized clinical trials involving over 1000 volunteers of various ages, with an average age of 51.  They concluded that eating 4.5 ounces of cooked legumes daily – the equivalent of three-quarters of a cup – lowered LDL cholesterol by five percent.  This translates into an equivalent percentage reduction in heart attacks or other cardiovascular events, according to the researchers. LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol that collects in the walls of blood vessels and causes blockages.  Diet is a major cause of LDL cholesterol build-up in the body.

A five percent reduction in heart attacks and cardiovascular events may not seem like a big deal but it is when you realize that heart disease is the number one killer of North Americans every year.  The statistics are likely comparable in many other countries worldwide.  Eating more beans on a daily basis may save millions of lives.

Dr. John L. Sievenpiper, a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and one of the authors of the research noted that the average American diet includes less than one ounce of legumes per day, demonstrating that food avoidance habits developed in childhood often carry into adulthood. Most kids who avoided green beans and peas probably disliked the way they were prepared rather than the legume itself.  Both of these foods can be delicious when they are not baked or steamed to flavorless mush.

Fortunately, there is an exciting world of legumes to explore and enjoy. Legumes are a group of plants that contain “fruit” inside of pods.  Most are rich in protein, fiber and assorted minerals required for great health.  The main groups of legumes are beans, peas, lentils and peanuts.  Peanuts can be linked to serious allergies so focusing on the first three groups may be a safer way to experience the hundreds of legume options.

Legumes are a great meat replacement in meals like chilli, curries, stir-fries and soups. They are excellent additions to salads (either hot or cold) or on their own.  Personally, the taste of a fresh-picked green bean or peas from the garden is one of my favorite memories as a child on my grandparents’ farm. It was only as an adult that I discovered the versatility and great taste of lentils, chickpeas and other exotic legumes.

The fiber in legumes gives them their cholesterol-fighting superpowers. Specifically, the soluble fiber that is prevalent in many legumes is effective at lowering LDL cholesterol. Here are some of the best beans and their fiber content, based on one cup of cooked legumes (from my new book Weekend Wonder Detox):

Navy beans (19 grams)

Small White beans (19 grams)

Yellow beans (18 grams)

Adzuki beans (17 grams)

Black turtle beans (17 grams)

French beans (17 grams)

Lentils (16 grams)

Kidney beans (16 grams)

Some other favorites include: pinto beans (15 grams); mung beans (15 grams); lima beans (14 grams); and chickpeas (12 grams).

This article was originally published on www.care2.com. Read the original here.

Image of beans via Shutterstock