Cholesterol Lowering Foods: Dry Beans

Dry beans are known to be one of the several cholesterol lowering foods that have played an important part in the fight against heart disease in the Mediterranean countries. Here’s why…

1. Legumes, or dry beans, contain essential minerals and vitamins such as iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, potassium, folic acid, and some of the B-complex vitamins. These minerals and vitamins are essential for the heart muscle to work properly.

2. Dry beans are low in fat and sodium, which make them an ideal food to keep high cholesterol and high blood pressure at bay.

3. Legumes are also high in soluble fiber, the kind that lowers cholesterol.

4. Studies show that people who eat dry beans regularly have a lower risk of suffering from heart attacks than the ones who barely eat them. In fact, one study showed that consuming legumes four times or more per week, compared with less than once a week, lowered the risk of heart disease by 22 percent.

Why are dry beans among cholesterol lowering foods?

1. Dry beans contain high amounts of soluble fiber

Fiber is what gives plants its structure. It’s found mainly in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as whole grains. It is the portion of plants that our system can not break down because it doesn’t have the appropriate mechanisms to do it. Consequently, our cells have very little use for fiber. Fiber can be soluble and insoluble, and most plant foods contain a combination of both.

Soluble fiber means that the fiber dissolves in water and forms a jelly-like paste with other foods in the intestine. This feature is very important, as we’ll see, because it reduces the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood. Soluble fiber not only lowers LDL cholesterol, the “bad” guy, but also raises HDL cholesterol, the “good” guy.

Insoluble fiber does not have any effect on cholesterol but it is very beneficial for our whole body because it acts as a natural laxative and removes toxic waste by promoting regular bowel movement.

2. Dry beans help remove cholesterol in your system

Bile, produced by the liver, is a substance necessary to break down the fat we ingest in food. To produce bile, the liver grabs the cholesterol from the blood, converts it into bile, and sends it to the gallbladder where it’s stored until needed. Then, when we eat, the gallbladder sends the bile to the intestines to help break down the fat portion of the food.

Once the bile has done its job in the intestines, one of two things can happen:
– If our meal has enough soluble fiber, the fiber grabs the bile and takes it out of our body through the feces. Once the bile is eliminated, the liver responds by drawing more cholesterol from the blood to make new bile. The result is less cholesterol circulating in our system.

– If our meal does not have enough soluble fiber, the bile is not taken out of the body. In this case, the liver doesn’t need to draw more cholesterol from the blood to produce more bile because there is plenty available in the system. The result is more cholesterol navigating in our blood vessels.

3. Dry beans stop cholesterol from even forming

When our meal includes soluble fiber, bacteria in the colon ferment it. This fermentation produces certain compounds that prevent the formation of cholesterol in the first place. This results in lower levels of cholesterol circulating in your blood vessels.

4. Dry beans stop homocysteine from causing heart attacks

Homocysteine is a substance our body needs to produce certain compounds vital for our organs to function properly. To produce homocysteine, our bodies need adequate amounts of vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid. However, when any of these vitamins is lacking, homocysteine is not converted into the necessary compounds. It then spills into circulation.

Many studies have shown that when homocysteine accumulates in our system, it becomes toxic. Even in small amounts, it will dramatically increase your risk of heart disease. High levels of homocysteine concentrations in the blood may cause a heart attack or a stroke, even among people who have normal cholesterol levels.

How can homocysteine cause heart attacks?

Abnormal levels of homocysteine appear to:- Damage the inner lining of your arteries- Promote blood clots- Oxidize LDL cholesterol.

How can you prevent homocysteine from accumulating in your blood?

Eat foods that contain folate as well as vitamins B6 and B12. Dry beans are an excellent source of folate and contain moderate amounts of B6. Recent data show that the practice of fortifying foods with folate has reduced the average level of homocysteine in the U.S. population.

Based on studies conducted during more than 25 years, nutrition experts at the Michigan State University concluded that eating 2 to 4 cups of cooked dry beans every week can lower cholesterol and protect us against heart disease.

Scientific studies have associated the Mediterranean diet with a lower incidence of heart disease and strokes. To learn the ins-and outs of the Authentic Mediterranean Diet and Mediterranean Cuisine, check out my book. I wrote it explicitly to help you fully apply the Mediterranean principles into your own life and those of your loved ones. And keep in mind that dry beans are among cholesterol lowering foods.

Have a Healthy Day!

Emilia Klapp