Beans, Lentils, Peas: Your recipe for lower choles­terol?

Daily Trust - - HEALTH -

Eat­ing beans, lentils and other legumes may help you cut down on LDL “bad” choles­terol and lower your risk for heart dis­ease, a new re­view sug­gests. Cana­dian re­searchers ex­am­ined 26 U.S. and Cana­dian stud­ies that in­cluded a to­tal of more than 1,000 people. Their anal­y­sis showed that one daily serv­ing (3/4 cup) of legumes -- foods such as beans, chick­peas, lentils and peas -- was linked to a re­duc­tion in low-den­sity lipopro­tein (LDL) choles­terol by 5 per­cent. The study couldn’t con­firm cause-and-ef­fect, but did show a strong as­so­ci­a­tion.

The 5 per­cent re­duc­tion in LDL choles­terol sug­gests a po­ten­tial 5 per­cent lower risk of heart dis­ease, ac­cord­ing to a team led by Dr. John Sieven­piper, of the Clin­i­cal Nu­tri­tion and Risk Fac­tor Mod­i­fi­ca­tion Cen­ter at St. Michael’s Hospi­tal in Toronto.

The heart-healthy ef­fect of legumes was greater in men than women, the re­search found. That may be be­cause men tend to have worse eat­ing habits and higher choles­terol lev­els to be­gin with than women, so they might gain more from switch­ing to a health­ier diet.

Some of the study par­tic­i­pants re­ported stomach prob­lems such as bloat­ing, flat­u­lence, con­sti­pa­tion or di­ar­rhea as a re­sult of eat­ing legumes.

Nev­er­the­less, nu­tri­tion ex­perts were quick to sing the praises of the lowly bean, pea and lentil.

“It’s time to spill the beans. By mak­ing a small di­etary change, such as con­sum­ing one serv­ing a day of beans, chick­peas, lentils and peas -as most of the world does al­ready -we can make a mod­est risk re­duc­tion in our in­ci­dence of heart dis­ease by low­er­ing our ’bad choles­terol’ LDL, es­pe­cially in men,” said Dr. Robert Gra­ham, an in­ternist and nat­u­ral rem­edy specialist at Lenox Hill Hospi­tal in New York City.

He said the study anal­y­sis was “method­olog­i­cally strong,” with people be­ing fol­lowed for at least three weeks to test the ef­fect of legume in­take on health. Ac­cord­ing to Gra­ham, that three-week thresh­old is the same the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion uses when it eval­u­ates any prod­uct that claims to help lower choles­terol.

Dana An­gelo White is a sports di­eti­tian and as­sis­tant clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor at Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity in Ham­den, Conn. She called legumes “one of the most un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated sources of protein out there. They are loaded with hunger-fight­ing fiber and protein, so I am not sur­prised to see the re­sults of this study.”

But White added that, “the tricky part is get­ting Amer­i­cans to eat more. I sug­gest foods like hum­mus, lentil soup in the slow cooker, and adding beans to pasta dishes, soups, sal­ads and que­sadil­las to work more into the daily diet.”

The study was pub­lished April 7 in CMAJ, the Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion Jour­nal.

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