Eat Right, Live Well. Beans Help Lower Cholesterol
You probably enjoy some kinds of beans already- baked beans, bean burritos, or maybe some garbanzo beans on your salad. But did you know eating beans regularly can help lower cholesterol?
Health researcher and physician Dr. James W. Anderson of the University of Kentucky has studied the benefits of high-fiber foods including beans intensively.
In a Nutrition Reviews article, he maintains that besides lowering cholesterol, beans help lower the risk of a whole slew of disease including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and may help people lose weight as well. Many of the health benefits of beans are thought to be due to their high soluble fiber content, the same type of fiber found in oats, dried fruit, and apples.
In fact, an earlier article published by Dr. Anderson showed that men with high serum cholesterol levels lowered them an average of 10% in three weeks just by eating beans daily. For a man with a cholesterol level of 220, which is high, that could mean lowering his cholesterol to 198 in three weeks, which is considered normal for an otherwise healthy individual. Eating beans also helped lower the men’s triglyceride levels. Triglycerides, or blood fats, also increase the risk of heart disease when accompanied by high cholesterol.
How much beans did the men eat to get these promising results? About a cup a day if they divided them into 2 portions, or 1 1/3 cups if eaten at one meal. It may be a good idea to start eating beans gradually to let your digestive system get used to them, so a half cup of beans on your salad or in your soup at lunch, plus a half cup as a side dish at dinner, might be about right. Still sound like a lot for your digestion? Start with less, or try cooking canned beans a little longer to make them more digestible.
Try this recipe for a mild chili that has many of the flavor components of regular chili but without the burn. If you are on a low salt diet, try using unsalted or low sodium canned beans, or make your own in a crockpot.
No Heat Chili
1 chopped onion
1 chopped red or green bell pepper
2Tbs. olive oil
2 canned mild green chilies, finely chopped
6 cups cooked or canned pinto beans (3 15-ounce cans)
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
1 ½ tsp. granulated garlic
1 Tbs. granulated onion
1 ½ tsp. cumin or to taste
1 ½ Tbsp. honey
1 ½ tsp. salt (reduce or eliminate if using canned beans)
1 cup tomato paste
Sauté onion in olive oil, adding bell pepper when onion is half done. In large pot, combine all ingredients. Simmer ½ hour or longer, stirring to prevent scorching, or cook it longer in a crockpot to blend flavors. As with all chili and pasta sauces, this tastes even better reheated. Chili freezes well, or put some in your lunchbox and microwave it at work.
Laura Pinyan is a Certified Nutrition Specialist living in Southern California. Log on to Eatrighteatwell.com for more health resources.