Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Beans, beans, the magical fruit

Heart Beat

Beans, beans, the magical fruit

Beans, the object of countless flatulence jokes, are often dismissed as peasant food. For your heart and circulatory system, though, they are food fit for royalty. Eating beans regularly can lower cholesterol, influence blood sugar, and lower the risk of having a heart attack. A study reported in the June 2007 Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed that eating one-half cup of cooked pinto beans a day for eight weeks lowered total cholesterol by almost 10% in a small group of Mesa, Ariz., residents. An earlier study from Costa Rica found that people who ate a serving of beans a day, usually black beans, were nearly 40% less likely to have had heart attacks as those who rarely ate beans.

Chock-full of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and slowly digested carbohydrates, beans are an excellent — and versatile — food. They make an outstanding alternative to red meat as a main course. They work well in soups and stews. You can use them as a side dish, or mash them with some garlic and oil for a flavorful and healthy dip or spread.

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