Smart choices for heart health
It’s important to make smart dietary and lifestyle choices today to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy for tomorrow.Heart disease includes several conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels around the body. Over time fatty deposits can stick to the walls of blood vessels and build up to form plaques. If the plaques break off and block the blood vessel, the flow of blood and oxygen to vital organs such as the brain may be stopped. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. There are a number of choices you can make which help to reduce the risk of heart disease. These include regular exercise, stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a heart healthy diet.
People who eat legumes are less likely to develop heart disease. Results from the USA-based study indicates that legume consumption four or more times a week is associated with a 22% lower risk of coronary heart disease and an 11% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease compared to only eating legumes once per week.
Human trials indicate eating between ½ to 2 cups (75g – 300g) of cooked legumes a day may lower heart disease risk by:
- Reducing LDL cholesterol.
- Increasing HDL cholesterol.
- Lowering blood pressure.
- Helping maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
- Assisting with weight management.
Legumes and cholesterol
Eating legumes regularly has been linked to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This effect is likely due to soluble fibres but may also be enhanced by legume protein, plant sterols and antioxidants. In the case of soy, research has shown that 15-30g daily of soy protein from soy foods lowers cholesterol. This is approximately equal to 2-3 serves of soy foods each day, like soy drink or tofu.
When it comes to heart health many grain foods and legumes are star performers and these are the foods you want working for your heart every day. An easy way to make sure you are making heart smart food choices is to aim to eat beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils at least 2 – 3 times each week in line with GLNC’s recommendation. But, the evidence suggests that eating different legumes four or more times a week is best for reducing your risk of heart disease.
For more information on eating a healthy diet for heart health visit the Heart Foundation.