Do Beans Lower Cholesterol?

by Jessica Bruso, Demand Media
    Beans provide protein in a heart-healthy package.

    Beans provide protein in a heart-healthy package.

    While less than 8 percent of adults eat dried beans on any given day, according to an article published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association," eating beans may help lower your risk for cancer and heart disease and help you control your blood sugar levels and weight. These nutritional powerhouses may also improve your cholesterol levels, so start working them into your diet more often.

    Beans and Cholesterol

    Eating beans regularly may help lower both your total cholesterol and your low-density lipoprotein levels, according to a study published in "Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases" in February 2011. LDL is the type of cholesterol that increases your risk for heart disease, so you want it to be as low as possible. Another study, published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" found that when participants ate two servings per day of beans, lentils or peas for two months they lowered their total cholesterol by about 8.3 percent and their LDL by about 7.9 percent compared to following their regular diet.

    Replacing Meat With Beans

    Replacing some of the meat in your diet with beans will help you lower your cholesterol levels. Unlike meat and animal-based sources of protein, beans don't contain any saturated fat or cholesterol, but they do contain high amounts of fiber. Decreasing the saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet and increasing your fiber consumption all help lower your cholesterol levels.

    Other Potential Mechanisms

    Beans contain a type of carbohydrate called resistant starch, which may help lower your total cholesterol levels, according to a study using rats published in the "Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology" in August 2003. The soluble fiber in beans helps lower cholesterol levels by slowing down the absorption of dietary cholesterol and increasing the amount of cholesterol excreted by your body, according to an article published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in May 2001. This article also noted that the protein in beans could be partly responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effect.

    Preparing Beans

    Beans make a delicious and nutritious addition to many dishes, including entrees, sides, salads and even desserts. Replace part of the meat in casseroles or meat sauces with beans, use beans to increase the protein in your salad or serve a three-bean salad or baked beans as a side dish. Use a bean dip, such as hummus, to dip whole-grain pita bread or vegetables for a snack or appetizer. Pureed beans can even replace up to half of the fat in baked goods, increasing the fiber and nutrients in your treat while lowering the fat content.

    About the Author

    Jessica Bruso has been writing for the Internet as an independent consultant since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.

    Photo Credits

    • Liquidlibrary/liquidlibrary/Getty Images