Legumes Reduce Risk for Cardiovascular Disease, Hypertension
Wed, April 21, 2021

Legumes Reduce Risk for Cardiovascular Disease, Hypertension

People who consumed most legumes have reduced incidence rates for coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. / Photo by: Dream79 via Shutterstock

 

Consuming legumes, which are plants that produce a pod with seeds inside, reduces a person’s risk for coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. This is based on a review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies published in the US National Library of Medicine.

Healthy Heart Diet

Researcher Effie Viguiliouk from Canada-based St. Michael's Hospital and colleagues found that people who consumed most legumes have reduced incidence rates for coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure by up to 10 percent compared to those who had the lowest intakes of legumes. The most common edible legumes include peanuts, soybeans, beans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils. Legumes are also known to have a remarkable nutritional profile and are a rich source of protein and healthy fibers.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s director of clinical research Hana Kahleova, MD, Ph.D., who co-authored the study, said that cardiovascular disease is the most expensive and the world’s leading cause of death. It costs the United States about 1 billion dollars every day. In their study, they highlight that an accessible and inexpensive solution to such a problem can be found in the common pantry. The solution is eating beans and legumes, they said. 

Benefits of Legumes

Legumes benefit heart health since they are plant protein and contain micronutrients and fiber. They don't contain cholesterol and are low in fat and glycemic index, a number that gives an idea about how fast the body converts the carbohydrates in a good into glucose. The smaller the glycemic index, the less impact the food has on blood sugar.

Americans are not consuming enough legumes, warned the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It is a platform that provides evidence-based nutrition information and advice for people in America to make healthy food and beverage choices.

Dr. Kahleova also pointed out that, on average, people in the US alone are eating less than one serving of legumes every day. By adding more beans in the plates, it could already be a powerful tool to prevent heart disease and lower down the blood pressure.

 

By adding more beans in the plates, it could already be a powerful tool to prevent heart disease and lower down the blood pressure. / Photo by: Africa Studio via Shutterstock

 

Heart Disease: Facts and Statistics

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) take an estimated 17.9 million lives every year. CVDs are a group of disorders that affect the blood vessels and the heart, including coronary heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and other conditions. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US said that 1 in every 4 deaths in the US is caused by heart disease. The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease (CHD), killing more than 370,000 yearly.

Heart disease deaths also vary by ethnicity and race. For Alaska natives or American Indians, the percentage of death caused by heart disease is 18.4 percent. For Pacific Islander or Asians, it is 22.2 percent, non-Hispanic Blacks 23.8 percent, and non-Hispanic whites also 23.8 percent. In a survey, 92 percent of the respondents have recognized that chest pain is one of the symptoms of a heart attack but only 27 percent are aware of calling 911 when another person is having a heart attack.

CDC notes that the major warning symptoms and signs of heart attacks include chest discomfort or pain, shortness of breath, nausea, cold sweats, or lightheadedness, and upper body pain or discomfort in the jaw, upper stomach, arms, and back.

Having high blood pressure also puts a person at risk for stroke and heart disease, the CDC added. About 1 in every 3 adults in the US have high blood pressure. Only 54 percent of people with hypertension have their condition under control. The public agency went on to list the unhealthy behaviors that increase a person’s risk for high blood pressure. These unhealthy behaviors include smoking tobacco, being obese, not getting enough physical activity, eating foods high in sodium and low in potassium, and drinking too much alcohol.

Legumes Nutritional Profile

To help reduce the chance of getting heart disease, consuming legumes is advised by the researchers. One cup or 198 grams of cooked lentils already provides 230 calories, 18 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber, 40 grams of carbs, 37 percent of the daily value of iron, 90 percent of the DV of folate, 16 percent of the DV of potassium, and 17 percent of the DV of magnesium. This nutritional profile was provided by American medical information site Healthline Media.

Beans and legumes are also a great replacement for meat as a source of vegetarian protein. One of the healthiest beans and legumes is chickpeas. Studies have shown that they can help reduce weight and risk factors for heart disease. Chickpeas are also beneficial in reducing blood sugar and increasing the body’s insulin sensitivity. One cup of cooked chickpeas contains roughly 26 percent of the reference daily intake (RDI) of iron and 29 percent of the RDI of copper. Kidney beans are also the most commonly consumed beans with many health benefits, including slowing the absorption of sugar into the blood.