Controlling Cholesterol with Peas, Beans and Lentils

by Wellness Editor – MH

As we age, one of the major barometer’s of a person’s health is their level of LDL cholesterol. Known as the “bad” type of cholesterol, high LDL readings are generally associated with an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Not surprisingly, managing LDL cholesterol is of great importance to many adults. In keeping with this goal, people are encouraged to consume foods that keep their cholesterol in check. If a recent study is indeed correct, your cholesterol levels could benefit by regularly consuming peas, lentils and beans.

Looking at the Evidence

Canadian researchers have recently attempted to gauge the impact of legumes on cholesterol (beans, peas and lentils are all classified as legumes). To accomplish this task, this group reviewed twenty-six previous American and Canadian studies. This allowed the research team to analyze over 1,000 people.

After examining all of this information, the researchers found a connection between legumes and lower LDL readings. Those that ate a full serving of legumes per day (defined as three-fourths of a cup) lowered their LDL levels by an average of five percent. Given the connection between LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular health, these subjects may have also decreased their risk of heart disease by the same amount.

The study could not definitively link better cholesterol readings to legume consumption. Still, a strong association was found between such foods and lower LDL levels. Interestingly enough, legumes appeared to be more beneficial to the health of male subjects. This might be due to men’s relatively poor dietary habits in comparison to women. With overall higher cholesterol levels, it could be that men simply have more to gain from eating healthier. The report was published in the April 7th, 2014 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Cooking Legumes

Even though you may not have much cooking experience, preparing legumes is hardly rocket science. Below are some tips that even the most inexperienced chefs should find useful:

Lentils

  • Before cooking, remove all lentils that have a shriveled appearance. Make sure to keep an eye out for dirt and other debris clinging to lentil skins.
  • Lentils should be boiled in either water or broth for two to three minutes. The temperature can then be reduced to simmer.
  • Depending on the age and type of the lentils used in a recipe, it can take anywhere from ten minutes to an hour to fully cook lentils.
  • Lentils lose moisture with age, meaning that they take longer to cook. Because of this fact, older and newer lentils cook unevenly when mixed together.

Beans

  • Beans should be submerged underneath an inch of water when being cooked. The water should be simmered after being brought to a boil. In total, it can take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours to cook beans. Smaller and fresher beans generally take less time to cook.
  • Before cooking the beans, it’s helpful to soak them in water. This tends to cut down on cooking times.
  • The US Dry Bean Council recommends soaking beans in either one of two ways.  First, beans can be soaked in a pot of boiling water for two minutes. Alternatively, beans can be soaked for roughly twelve hours in room temperature water (a pound of beans needs about six cups). In either case, beans should be covered with fresh water and two teaspoons of oil after being soaked.

Peas

  • Pea pods can be opened without much hassle – simply place the pod between your thumb and forefingers and apply some pressure. You can then push the peas into a waiting bowl or colander with your thumb.
  • The steaming method of cooking peas is not only time-efficient, but also allows peas to retain much of their nutritional value (more so than other cooking techniques). Simply pour an inch of water (2.5 centimeters) in to saucepan. Carefully place a steaming basket into the saucepan after the water has started to boil. Make sure to put a lid on the steaming basket while the peas are cooking. It should take about two minutes to steam fresh peas, whereas frozen peas could require another minute to cook.

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