Many cultures around the world rely on beans as a primary component of their diet, without even knowing they’re a heart-healing superfood. Beans help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, as well as improve circulation.
1. Eat beans for a powerful heart. In a 20-year-long study published in 2001 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who consumed beans at least 4 times a week were 22% less likely to develop heart disease. Study participants were found to have lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower blood pressure than people who didn’t eat beans regularly. Why are beans so effective? Because they are packed with vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants and fiber that protect your heart.
2. The folate in beans foils heart attack and stroke. Beans are rich in folate, a B-vitamin that’s been shown to lower the body’s levels of an amino acid called homocysteine. Too much homocysteine can damage arterial linings and promote the development of plaques, which lead to heart attack. Numerous studies have shown that low levels of folate correlate with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
In addition, a study published in the medical journal Circulation showed that the risk of stroke was significantly lowered in the years following the US government-mandated addition of folic acid to enriched grain products. Just 1 cup of kidney beans provides about 60% of the Daily Value (DV) for folate.
3. Beans soothe and soften arteries. Beans increase levels of heart-protective nitric oxide (NO) in the body because they are high in an amino acid called arginine, a precursor to NO. Produced in the lining of the blood vessel, NO increases blood flow, keeps the arteries supple and prevents fatty deposits from sticking. In turn, this helps lower blood pressure and reduce arterial clots, both of which contribute to cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
4. Watch out for sodium in canned beans. Dried beans, such as pinto or kidney, are an inexpensive way to enjoy beans. Cooking takes some time, so canned beans are very convenient. But 1 serving of canned beans can contain more than 400 mg of sodium, which is associated with high blood pressure and heart disease. Look for canned beans labeled “low-sodium” and rinse them thoroughly to remove up to 40% of their sodium content.
Other bean choices include:
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