Looking to lower your cholesterol? New research is linking lentils, chickpeas, beans and peas to improved cardiovascular health. In fact, researchers say that even one serving a day can significantly bring down bad cholesterol.
These types of foods, known as pulses, fall into the legume family. Legumes are considered a plentiful source of protein, iron, magnesium and potassium. They’re also full of folates and are cholesterol-free. The benefits of a pulse-rich diet have been known for years, but now researchers are saying that one daily serving can cut bad cholesterol by 5 percent. This translates to a 5 to 6 percent reduction in overall heart disease risk.
“In general, pulses are a very good source of vitamins and minerals,” said study co-author Vanessa Ha, research coordinator at the Risk Factor Modification Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “They’re high in magnesium and folate, and foods that are high in these nutrient components are associated with better cardiovascular health.”
According to Ha, substituting dietary pulses for red meat and other foods high in trans fat and saturated fat can be highly effective in bringing down cholesterol levels.
LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in the body and can build up in the artery walls. If the arteries that supply the heart and brain become narrowed or clogged, it can lead to a clot, heart attack or stroke. On the flip side, HDL (good) cholesterol protects the heart. In addition to incorporating more legumes into your diet, other food modifications can also contribute to stronger heart health. For example, try swapping out greasy potato chips with fresh vegetables or fruit. Removing the skin from chicken or turkey can also help reduce saturated fat intake.
Some people may require cholesterol-lowering drugs. Statins are perhaps the best known ones. Researchers are currently working toward developing medications that mimic the effects of naturally occurring genes that curb bad cholesterol.
By Marianne Hayes