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Eating Beans, Peas, Chickpeas or Lentils Could Lower Bad Cholesterol

Update Date: Apr 07, 2014 12:00 PM EDT

High cholesterol is detrimental to one's health because it can lead to cardiovascular diseases. In order to reduce cholesterol levels, people can adopt healthier lifestyles, such as eating healthier and exercising. According to a new study, one way to lower LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, also known as the 'bad' cholesterol, is to eat one serving of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils per day.

Researchers from St. Michael's Hospital headed by Dr. John Sievenpiper of the hospital's Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center examined the effects of eating beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils, which they grouped as pulses, on cholesterol levels. They analyzed data from 26 randomized controlled trials that involved 1,037 people.

They found that eating one serving of pulses, which is equivalent to 130 grams or three-fourths of a cup, could reduce people's LDL cholesterol by five percent. The team estimated that if people followed this recommendation, their risk of heart disease could fall by five to six percent. The effects of eating pulses had a greater effect on men's LDL cholesterol levels. The researchers reasoned that the greater reductions in men's LDL cholesterol levels could be due to the fact that men generally have poorer diets and higher cholesterol levels.

"We have a lot of room in our diets for increasing our pulse intake to derive the cardiovascular benefits," Dr. Sievenpiper said. "Pulses already play a role in many traditional cuisines, including Mediterranean and South Asian. As an added bonus, they're inexpensive. Since many pulses are grown in North America, it's also an opportunity to buy and eat locally and support our farmers."

Even though pulses are accessible, the researchers found that North Americans tend to eat less than one-half of a serving on average per day. Based from this study's findings, people should increase their daily intake. Some side effects of eating more pulses were bloating, constipation, diarrhea and gas. The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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