The Power of Beans & Other Legumes For Your Heart Health
Currently, a plant-based diet is the only diet known to effectively prevent and reverse heart disease. In fact, research presented during the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions back in 2017 showed that plant-based diets were associated with a 42 percent reduced risk of developing heart failure among people without diagnosed heart disease or heart failure. Other benefits include improved angina (chest pain), improved atherosclerosis (narrowed or blocked arteries), and reversal of coronary artery disease.
If you’re one of the millions of people living with or at risk for heart disease, there’s plenty of good reasons why you may be considering making the transition to a plant-based diet with the help of a heart doctor in Tampa. But without meat, you may be wondering, where will you get enough protein? Fortunately, protein comes from plant sources just as much as it comes from animal sources, especially beans and other legumes. In this article, in particular, we’ll be exploring the health benefits of beans and other legumes, the healthiest legumes you can eat, and how to seamlessly add them to your meals.
For more information, don’t hesitate to reach out to Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, for heart care in Tampa. Not only does he specialize in a variety of innovative preventive and surgical procedures, but Dr. Popat is also passionate about empowering his patients through a healthy lifestyle, daily exercise regime, and health-conscious meal plan. He’ll listen to your concerns, explain any important information related to your health care, and create a tailored diagnostic and treatment plan for your unique situation.
How Do Beans and Other Legumes Benefit Cardiovascular Health?
First, let’s begin by identifying what we mean by beans and other legumes. The word “legumes” is essentially an umbrella term used to describe the seeds of any plants from the legume family, which includes soybeans, green peas, lentils, beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and so on. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be paying special attention to beans; although, the consumption of many different types of legumes is all tied to a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease.
So, what’s the deal? Why are beans and other legumes so great for your cardiovascular health? The answer can be found in what they contain (fiber, plant protein, and potassium) as well as what they don’t (saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, or cholesterol). One study, in particular, found that individuals consuming these times of legumes at least four times per week had a 22 percent lower risk of heart disease than those consuming legumes less than once per week. Another study conducted a few years afterward similarly demonstrated that even one serving of beans per day was associated with a 38 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction. These are outstanding statistics coming from what is typically known as no more as an inexpensive and readily accessible pantry staple.
As such, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages dietary patterns that emphasize the intake of legumes to reduce levels of bad cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and manage diabetes. The current recommended consumption of legumes sits at about three cups per week, over triple of what the average American regularly consumes. Simply adding this food group to our plates, these Tampa Bay cardiac specialists insist, could be an invaluable tool in preventing and reversing heart disease.
What Are the Healthiest Beans and Legumes For Your Heart?
Below, we’ll cover just a few of the healthiest beans and legumes you can eat and why they may be beneficial for your heart health.
Not only are lentils a great source of B vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc, but they’re also a great source of plant-based protein and fiber. This means, in addition to supporting regular bowel movements and the growth of healthy gut bacteria, lentils can protect against a wide number of chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Unlike many other legumes, lentils don’t require any prior soaking and can be rinsed and cooked in less than 20 minutes. Even better, they can be cooked in large batches and used for lunch or dinner throughout the entire week. Just make sure to always keep them stored in a cool, dry place.
Black-eyed beans are yet another type of legume that’s incredibly nutrient-dense, packing an outstanding amount of plant-based fiber and protein into every serving. They’re high in all the usual great micronutrients as well, including folate, iron, copper, magnesium, and B vitamins. In addition to those nutrients, black-eyed peas are also high in polyphenols — compounds that act as antioxidants in the body to protect against the development of several chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Dried black-eyed peas differ from other dried beans in the cooking process in that you don’t have to soak them overnight or for long periods in cold water. Instead, soaking for 1-2 hours in hot water should do before covering them in water or broth, bringing them to a boil, reducing heat, and letting them simmer until tender. They make an excellent standalone treat or a great addition to stews, soups, and salads.
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a rich and tasty source of a number of important vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, including potassium, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium. The protein and fiber work in tandem to slow digestion, support blood sugar control, and protect against chronic diseases like heart disease. Like many of the other legumes mentioned thus far, chickpeas are affordable, convenient, and incredibly versatile, meaning they can be added to a variety of meals across your diet. Some of the most popular methods of eating chickpeas include adding them to salads, soups, or sandwiches. You can also make hummus or roasted chickpeas alone for a delicious and easy snack.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that beans and other types of legumes have been consistently shown to provide health benefits in patients with and without coronary heart disease. When even one serving of a common pantry staple like kidney beans per day could be associated with a much lower risk of heart disease, it’s no wonder that so many Americans are choosing to transition to a plant-based diet. For more information on how you can make the best dietary decisions for your heart health, please get in touch with one of the Tampa Bay cardiac specialists.
To consult Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC regarding his Tampa cardiology practice, please call (813) 344-0934 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.
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