By Pulse Canada
Feb. 2, 2012 - As Heart Month begins, new research shows that adding peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils, known collectively as “pulses”, to a regular diet can reduce cholesterol, a risk factor in cardiovascular disease.
A 2011 study led by Dr. Philip Chilibeck, Professor at the College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan, was designed to determine the effects of a pulse-based diet in individuals over the age of 50. Study participants consumed two daily servings (about 1 1/2 cups) of pulses for two months.
The study showed that compared to their regular diet, the pulse-based diet decreased the participants’ total cholesterol by 8.3%. This reduction included a 7.9% drop in LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol, over the two month period.
The level of decrease for both total and LDL cholesterol seen from pulses in this study is similar to those seen from eating oats and plant sterols, both of which recently received approved health claims in Canada for their cholesterol-lowering effects. In Canada, it is estimated that approximately 50% of the general adult population has moderate to high cholesterol levels.
“Our results confirmed that adding pulses to a regular diet can result in a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Chilibeck.
Pulses are a heart-healthy food. They are rich in nutrients like protein, fibre, folate and antioxidants. They are low in fat, and contain no trans fat, sodium or cholesterol. Eating pulses regularly may also lower risk of cardiovascular disease via favourable effects on blood pressure, blood glucose and insulin levels by satisfying hunger and helping manage body weight.
“Increased pulse consumption can be an important part of a dietary strategy to reduce the risk of heart disease,” says Dr. Julianne Curran, Director of Research, Scientific and Regulatory Affairs for Pulse Canada. Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death, and account for nearly 30% of deaths worldwide each year.
Canada’s Food Guide (CFG) recommends eating meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often to minimize the amount of saturated fat in the diet. According to the CFG, one serving of pulses equals approximately ¾ of a cup, or the size of a tennis ball. Pulse Canada is the national association representing growers, traders and processors of Canadian pulse crops (peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas). Canada is the world’s largest supplier of pulses, with exports reaching more than 150 countries.