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Beans and Other Legumes Lower Cholesterol

A review of 26 studies of 1,037 people, average age 51 shows that eating three quarters of a cup (4.5 ounces) of cooked beans a day for six weeks lowers LDL levels by five percent, which would result in a five percent reduction in heart attacks (The Canadian Medical Association Journal, published online April 7, 2014). Levels of the good HDL cholesterol were not affected. The average American eats much less than that amount of beans. Legumes include all types of dried or canned beans, dried peas, chick peas, lentils and peanuts. Beans, like grains, are easy to grow and store so they were among the first plants to be cultivated when humans moved from hunting-gathering to agriculture.

Legumes are seeds that contain everything necessary to bring a new plant to life, so they are nutritional powerhouses for us as well. They provide vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, and are very high in fiber. They are good sources of the essential fatty acids and are the best plant source of protein. While most beans do not contain all of the essential amino acids, pairing them with any whole grains makes the protein “complete”.

Most legumes are relatively low in fat, with most of their energy (calories) coming from protein and carbohydrates. However, soybeans, peanuts and some of their relatives are concentrated sources of fat that may need to be limited by people who are trying to control their weight.

Beans come in many colors and sizes, and there are different popular names for some varieties. For example, chick peas are also called garbanzo beans or chana dal. All beans are cooked basically the same way and their flavors are similar, so they are usually interchangeable in recipes. Pick your favorite kinds or use whatever is available.

April 21st, 2014
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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