Beans and Cardiovascular Disease

1364 Cooking240x
1364 Cooking240x

The old saying “beans, beans – good for the heart…” is based on fact. Eating beans* is indeed associated with a decrease in cardiovascular disease risk, as a comprehensive scientific review
has shown.

The association between bean consumption and heart disease.

People consuming beans at least four times a week have a 22 percent lower risk of heart disease than individuals consuming beans less than once a week. Where beans are consumed as part of a healthier diet plan, studies have shown consistent reductions in heart disease risk. In the Health Professionals Follow-up Study,
men that adhered to a “prudent” diet with greater consumption of whole grains, legumes, fish and poultry, had a 30 percent reduced risk of having heart disease. Conversely, individuals following a “Western” diet, characterised by increased consumption of red meat, refined grains, sweets, fries and high fat desserts had a higher risk of heart disease. Similar trends were seen in the Nurses

Health Study:

Women that followed the “prudent” dietary pattern including beans, had half the risk of developing heart disease,compared with those that most often ate the “Western” diet, not containing beans. How beans can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. A one percent reduction in total plasma cholesterol corresponds to about a two percent decrease in the risk of developing heart disease. Beans are a good source of soluble dietary fibre,
containing approximately 4g/cup of cooked beans. Soluble fibre has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol in epidemiological,
clinical and animal studies. Data from several human intervention trials indicate that consumption of canned and dry beans reduces serum cholesterol. While there are some exceptions, generally, in carefully controlled clinical studies where the energy intake is matched and the fibre content in the bean-fed group was at least twice that of the control diet, significant reductions in both total and LDL cholesterol occurred. Changes in HDL cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations are less consistent.

Incorporating one cup of cooked beans into the diet would add 12g of total fibre and 4g of soluble fibre. This increase in fibre intake each day would be expected to modestly lower serum cholesterol and risk of heart disease, especially in hyperlipidemic individuals. In addition to cholesterol, recent attention has focused on high levels of plasma homocysteine as an independent risk factor for vascular disease. Increasing the consumption of folate-containing foods has been linked with lower homocysteine levels and therefore may lower the prevalence of vascular disease in people
with elevated homocysteine. Beans provide a significant amount of folate (approximately 110g/cup of cooked beans), ranging from 140g in Black-eyed beans to 87g in red kidney beans. Beans also contain compounds called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are non-essential compounds in foods that can provide health benefits. Some of the phytonutrients found in beans have been reported to reduce risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Eating beans can help to maintain desired weight, reduce blood glucose, insulin and cholesterol concentrations and can help reduce the incidence and adverse consequences of diabetes. So eating beans can help reduce your risk of premature atherosclerosis
(heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease). Of course, other dietary factors, lifestyle and genetic background all strongly influence cardiovascular risk. Eating beans is just one way to help reduce cardiovascular disease.

1. Accessed 3rd July, 2007. (Note: original article contains full
list of references)
* Use of the term beans in this article refers to dried and cooked or canned beans such as navy or haricot, lima and kidney beans, but not green beans or soy beans.