Legumes, Great Allies Against Cholesterol

Scientific studies have associated a high consumption of legumes with a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke.

Legumes are plant species that belong to the Leguminosae family. For thousands of years, both humans and animals have eaten the edible seeds of these plants. They are high in fibre, especially viscous soluble fibre, which binds cholesterol-related molecules to lower cholesterol levels in addition to limiting absorption in the small intestine. Furthermore, because of this particular kind of fibre, legumes have a very low glycemic load index, which means that eating them lowers blood sugar levels and releases less insulin into the bloodstream.

However, legumes do not only contain fibre, legumes are also a great source of protein, potassium, magnesium, folic acid, and many other plant nutrients linked to improved cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure.

According to a study on the effects of replacing red meat with legumes in the Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (TLC) diet on cardiometabolic risk factors carried out in overweight patients with type 2 diabetes determined that lipid profiles and glycemic control of patients with diabetes improved. These did not alter in response to changes in body mass index (BMI).

A portion of the findings from this randomised clinical trial, which included over 100 individuals with type 2 diabetes, showed that eating at least one cup of legumes every day for three months produced:

  • Significant loss in body weight (about 2.7 kilograms)
  • Decrease in waist circumference (about 1.4 centimetres)
  • Decrease in blood sugar (0.5% in HbA1C)
  • Lower cholesterol (8 points in LDL, measured in mg/dl)
  • Decrease in blood pressure (4.5 points in systolic blood pressure and 3.1 points in diastolic pressure in mmHg)

Similar analyses have also been published in studies in the American Journal of Hypertension, which included 554 participants with and without hypertension in eight isocaloric trials wherein dietary legumes substituted isocalorically for other foods reduced systolic blood pressure.

Conversely, research like that published in NMCD (Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases) used data from ten randomised controlled trials, which included over 250 participants who were prescribed legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils). The participants were advised to consume half a cup to two cups of legumes per day for a minimum of three weeks. Importantly, none of the participants was taking cholesterol-lowering medications, however, the legume diets led to an 8-point reduction in LDL cholesterol.

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