Beans, A Mediterranean Diet Staple, May Be the Secret to Lower Cholesterol Levels

April 10, 2014
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A new a review of 26 studies from a group of Canadian and U.S. researchers found that consumption of beans also known as legumes, is associated with a significant reduction of LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” cholesterol, it is the one that gathers at the blood vessels and potentially can cause narrowing of the arteries and eventually clots. HDL on the other hand is the good cholesterol that scavenges and removes the bad LDL cholesterol transporting it to the liver to reprocess it.

Now in this study, prominent researchers from the University of Toronto, Harvard University and McMaster University to name a few found that eating only a mere ¾ cup of beans (130 grams or 4.5 ounces) was associated with reduction of LDL cholesterol levels by 5%. That is significant. The researchers noted that they conducted this study because basically beans were not included in any heart health  guidelines or that there was not enough evidence. 

However as this study shows,  but also other research, beans are truly with many benefits: they have fiber, antioxidants and protein and they can lower your cholesterol. But apart from beans, our diet can play an important role in reducing our cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, many doctors and now even official guidelines are recommending medication almost right away rather than suggesting a change in dietary habits. Many times the change doesn’t have to be drastic, more often it’s adding foods to your diet rather than removing foods from your diet.

While many people may need medications, many probably, could reduce their cholesterol by changing their lifestyle and particularly their diet, but when you are told you can take medication, than many patients think they do not have to worry about their diet since they are taking their medication. A good diet has many more and widespread benefits than one pill.

So how does one eat ¾ cup of beans? Some recommendations I saw in the media recommend hummus, or adding beans into salads or quesadillas, but let’s be realistic: how much hummus are you going to eat in one sitting? And how many beans can you manage to fit in a quesadilla? Not much. So again I will go back to the Mediterranean diet and specifically to the Greek diet. Beans play an important role in the Greek diet, particularly during those religious fasting periods where beans  were one of the main sources of protein. Beans were consumed as a main course, and this is really the easiest and best way to get the beans in your diet without feeling lie it is a chore. A basic way would be to roast them or boil them and cook them with tomato, drizzle some olive and accompany with a piece of cheese. You can also try a few recipes that I have shared here, here and here.

Photo for flickr by Eric Osmundson
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4 Responses to Beans, A Mediterranean Diet Staple, May Be the Secret to Lower Cholesterol Levels

  1. dimitrios pavlidis
    April 10, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    I made my personal physician try “gigantes” and he liked them…

    • Elena Paravantes RD
      April 11, 2014 at 6:36 am

      Good for you Dimitrios!

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