You may not automatically think of legumes when building up a healthy dinner plate, but this family of flowering plants, which include beans (kidney, pinto, white, black, and lima), chickpeas, split peas, lentils, and edamame (unripened soybeans) are robust sources of protein, fiber, and vitamins that support heart health. Legumes can also help lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar, reducing cardiovascular risk.
In 2019, a review of clinical trials published in Advances for Nutrition assessed how eating legumes can impact the development of CVD and other health conditions. The results reaffirmed previous evidence supporting the potential benefits that legume consumption has related to CVD and associated factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, and dyslipidemia (an imbalance of HDL, LDL, or triglycerides) in your blood. Additionally, the analysis revealed that eating legumes may also have a beneficial association with stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Though legumes have been an essential part of the human diet for thousands of years and are an inexpensive source of protein and key nutrients, per capita consumption remains below the expert recommendations of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to a study published in Frontiers in Nutrition.
The good news is that this is easy to remedy. Simply consuming half a cup of legumes two to three times a week can go a long way toward protecting against chronic disease, according to experts at the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council. For instance, swap out fatty blue cheese dip for hummus or replace that bag of potato chips with bean salad, and you’ll be on your way!