Six easy ways to use your beans

Low GI- lentils& chick peas or any kind of legume

Just using your beans once a day offers a significant pay off  in terms of heart disease risk.  It’s something we certainly don’t do nearly enough.

Research published in the in Canadian Medical Association Journal  reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials  (the gold standard of research) which were  conducted in  centres in Canada and the United States.   The  scientists found that in the more than 1,000 study subjects, people who ate 1/2 to 3/4 cup of  pulses (lentils, chick peas, dried peas and peas)  each day  had a 5 % lowering of their artery-clogging LDL-cholesterol.

This translates into a  5 to 6 % lowering of the odds of having a heart attack or stroke – with one simple action.

All too often, in my practice when I see someone who wants to reduce their blood cholesterol, they initially provide me with a long list of foods they have cut out of their diets. They then lament that their blood cholesterol readings haven’t budged much.

But it’s what they’re not including that I tend to focus on and up there on the top of the list are pulses.

These foods don’t just reduce blood cholesterol, but also provide quite a range of health perks. They not only have a low glycemic index and can help to stabilize blood sugar readings but also boost insulin sensitivity, thereby cutting the odds of developing diabetes.

Pulses are packed with a variety of key nutrients including potassium, a plus for blood pressure control. Their fibre also acts as a prebiotic (stimulating and providing fuel for the healthy bacteria in your gut). Their protein makes them a super choice for meatless meals.  They also supply anti-inflammatory action. And there’s more, much more.

But even with all of these amazing disease-fighting weapons, we still don’t eat our quota of these amazing foods.

Here are six easy ways to include them on a daily basis. Keep in mind that canned offerings are also a terrific option. Just be sure to rinse them well to reduce their sodium count.

•    Add them to your tossed salad or make a quick salad by adding chopped onion, peppers and/ or halved cherry tomatoes to chick peas. Then toss with your favourite oil and vinegar dressing.

•    Add whole or pureed  pulses to vegetable soups  or use them as a base and add various seasonings for a change of pace –for example, a spicy cumin-scented lentil soup  or an Italian bean and pasta soup.

•    Use them as a dip for cut up vegetables. While hummus is popular, you can whip up a Mexican bean dip in a flash by pureeing drained and rinsed canned red kidney beans  with fresh garlic, chili powder, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. These mixes are also delicious as spreads to liven up sandwiches.

•    Add options such as lentils or chick peas to your grains of choice – chick peas with whole wheat couscous, lentils with brown rice or whole or pureed kidney beans to a pasta sauce.

•    Snack on roasted pulses such as chick peas or lentils.

•    As more individuals require a gluten-free diet, bean flours have become more available. Substitute them in your cooking to boost your pulses.

Do you include dried peas or beans on your menu on a regular basis? What’s your favourite way to prepare them? Please share in the comment section.

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Categories: Research Roundup, Tips and Tricks

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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