First – what are beans anyway? Beans, also known as legumes or pulses, are the seeds found in soft pods. They are typically dried off the vine and eaten cooked. Some common types of legumes are lentils, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), black beans, and kidney beans.
Here are a few reasons to eat beans:
- Beans are packed with protein and, unlike animal sources of protein, they are very low in fat and cholesterol.
- Beans are high in fiber, B vitamins and minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorous.
- Beans have a very low glycemic index, meaning that the carbohydrates break down very slowly, leaving you feeling fuller for a longer period of time.
All of these reasons indicate that beans are good for the health of your heart–and the research backs this up. Eating beans has been shown to reduce high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity, which are all key risk factors for heart disease.
- One study showed that one serving of beans or legumes per day over the course of six weeks decreased low density lipoproteins or “bad” cholesterol by an average of five points.
- Another meta-analysis analyzed eight randomized controlled trials examining the effects of bean consumption and found that both systolic and arterial blood pressure were reduced significantly in people with and without hypertension.
- An analysis by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study showed that bean consumption can also help reduce body weight.
Convinced that beans are good for your heart but don’t know how to get started? Here are some tips to include more beans and legumes in your diet:
- Bean spreads like hummus are a great snack
- Roasted beans are also great for snacking
- Put some beans on any salad for a little extra protein
- Add some beans into your baked goods with recipes like chickpea chocolate chip cookies and black bean brownies
- Ha, V, et al. 2014. “Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Canadian Medical Association Journal, 186(8). http://www.cmaj.ca/content/186/8/E252.
- Jayalath, V, et al. 2014. “Effect of dietary pulses on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled feeding trials.” American Journal of Hypertension, 27(1): 56-64. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24014659/.
- Papanikolaou, Y and V Fulgoni. 2008. “Bean consumption is associated with greater nutrient intake, reduced systolic blood pressure, lower body weight, and a smaller waist circumference in adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27(5): 569-76. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18845707/
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