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Daily serving of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce bad cholesterol

Toronto, April 7, 2014

By Leslie Shepherd

Dr. John Sievenpiper
Dr. John Sievenpiper

Eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce “bad cholesterol” and therefore the risk of cardiovascular disease, a new study has found.

However, most people in North America would have to more than double their consumption of these foods known as pulses to reach that target, said the researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital.

The study, led by Dr. John Sievenpiper of the hospital’s Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre, was published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Dr. Sievenpiper said that by eating one serving a day of pulses, people could lower their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by five per cent. He said that would translate into a five to six per cent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, the second leading cause of death in Canada.

One serving of pulses is 130 grams or ¾ cup, yet Canadians on average eat less than half a serving a day. Pulses have a low glycemic index (meaning that they are foods that break down slowly) and tend to reduce or displace animal protein as well as “bad” fats such as trans fat in a dish or meal.

“Canadians have a lot of room in their diets for increasing their pulse intake to derive the cardiovascular benefits,” Dr. Sievenpiper said. “Only 13 per cent consume pulses on any given day. Pulses already play a role in many traditional cuisines, including Mediterranean and Indian. As an added bonus, they’re inexpensive. Since many pulses are grown in Canada, it’s also an opportunity to buy and eat locally and support Canadian farmers.”

Dr. Sievenpiper’s meta-analysis reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials that included 1,037 people. Men had greater reduction in LDL cholesterol compared with women, perhaps because their diets are poorer and cholesterol levels are higher and benefit more markedly from a healthier diet. Some study participants reported stomach upset such as bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation but these symptoms subsided over the course of the study.

Urban Angel Bean Salad

2 cups (350g) cooked navy/white/red/black/romano/kidney beans (19 oz. canned)
1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced
1 small clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
Juice from ½ a lemon
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pepper to taste

Serves 4

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. Adjust pepper to your liking.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Media contacts

For more information, or to arrange an interview with Dr. Sievenpiper, contact:

Leslie Shepherd
Manager, Media Strategy
416-864-6094
shepherdl@smh.ca