Beans shouldn’t just be a side to your fish tacos. They’re a super legume that should be included regularly in our meals.
Beans are superb for our hearts because they’re cholesterol fighting foods. Eating beans frequently is associated with lower cholesterol levels. (Though a diet that is low in cholesterol is not directly associated with low blood cholesterol levels, as there is a wide range of variation in people’s responses to dietary cholesterol, it is still a healthy goal to keep your dietary cholesterol intake low.)
Cholesterol is only present in animal fats, which are also saturated fats. Beans, like all other plant-derived sources of protein, do not contain any saturated fat, and therefore are also cholesterol free. Thus, if you limit your saturated fat intake by reducing the amount of meat that you eat and substitute beans and other plant protein sources into your regular diet, you are well on your way to reducing your blood cholesterol levels and improving your overall health. Moreover, beans are also a good source of fiber. Fiber in your diet helps to keep LDL levels down, while also helping to raise HDL (the good cholesterol) levels.
Beans That Contain the Highest Amount of Fiber Per Serving
- Lentils: 8 Grams
- Black Beans: 7.5 Grams
- Pinto Beans: 7.5 Grams
- Kidney Beans: 5.5 Grams
- Chickpeas: 4 Grams
However, cholesterol is just one piece of the heart health puzzle, and research has shown that beans contribute to heart health in many other ways than just through lowering blood cholesterol levels. Beans are also a rich source of folate.
Research studies have shown that folate plays a critical role in the reduction of homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a compound that damages the blood vessel walls when it accumulates in the body. Folate helps to reduce this damaging effect by neutralizing the homocysteine molecules. Data show that between 20 to 40 percent of coronary artery disease patients have elevated levels of homocysteine in their bodies.
Lastly, beans deliver a potent combination of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. This combination of electrolytes is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and hypertension.