The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a study last month that documented the health effects of beans and lentils. Their research showed that a diet rich in beans can reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol and as result, lower the risk for heart disease.
The study combined 26 previous studies from the United States and Canada that included around 1000 participants. Researchers were able to determine a strong association between eating one serving of legumes daily and lowering low density lipoproteins. They then interpreted this to mean a 5% less risk of developing heart disease.
Based on the collected data, the impact of eating legumes was greater on men than women. The reasoning behind this is unclear, but it may be due to more unhealthy eating habits among the male participants in the study.
The study suggests that choosing beans as a way to lower cholesterol levels may be a reliable way to reduce bad cholesterol without medication.
Cholesterol medications have many functions, but many work by decreasing LDL levels. Popular classes of cholesterol medication include statins, bile acid binding resins, and niacins. While these medications are effective, they also can put unnecessary stress on the liver. For that reason many doctors monitor the liver function to prevent damage.
Beans and lentils do not cause damage to the liver, but they have been known to cause bloating, constipation, flatulence, or diarrhea.
Despite that inconvenience, many nutrition experts insist that the benefits outweigh the inconveniences.
Dana Angelo White, a sports dietitian as well as the assistant clinical professor at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn, praised beans as “one of the most under-appreciated sources of protein out there” and suggested that Americans should eat more of them.
Beans and lentils are types of legumes, a specific vegetable group. They are high in magnesium, iron, folate, and potassium, and are sometimes used as a meat substitute. Beans must be cooked, and the majority of them must be additionally soaked prior to cooking. Prepared bean products such as hummus or soy nuts also provide many of the health benefits of legumes.