Bulking up the diet with legumes such as beans and peas can lower the risk of heart disease. Men and women who ate legumes at least four times a week had a 22% lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who consumed legumes once weekly. The most enthusiastic legume eaters also had lower blood pressure and total cholesterol, and were less likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes.
The findings have implications for the health of America, where heart disease is the leading killer of adults and one of the leading causes of premature and permanent disability, according to Dr. Lydia A. Bazzano from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Legumes are rich in soluble fiber, which has been shown to help lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels and improve insulin resistance. Legumes also contain low levels of sodium and high levels of potassium, calcium and magnesium--a combination that is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Folate, a mineral also found in abundance in legumes, is thought to reduce blood levels of homocysteine, a compound that can boost heart disease risk. Increasing legume consumption may be an important part of dietary interventions to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.