1 million Americans develop some form of heart disease every
year, largely attributable to high cholesterol levels in the
blood. Soybean protein and dietary fiber have been shown to
reduce a person's cholesterol levels. Although other peas,
beans, and peanuts contain high levels of the proteins and
water-soluble fiber found in soybeans, their influence on
cholesterol, heart disease, and cardiovascular disease is
The data obtained in the First National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey were reviewed in a study of almost 10,000
people, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Participants had initially answered questions indicating how
often they consumed all types of legumes (dried beans, peas,
peanuts, and peanut butter) over a three-month period, and
were divided into categories based on legume intake levels.
Researchers followed the participants over two decades, documenting
cases of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and resulting
deaths as they occurred.
People who consumed an average of four or more servings of
legumes per week were less likely to develop heart disease
and cardiovascular disease than those who consumed legumes
less than once per week. Those with higher legume intake also
had lower average blood pressure and cholesterol, and decreased
odds for developing diabetes and high blood pressure.
Many studies show that vegetable proteins are much healthier
than proteins found in meats, and legumes are also excellent
sources of fiber and contain no harmful cholesterol. Be sure
to minimize the amount of meat in your diet (especially fatty
or red meat), and try to eat some form of peas or beans daily.
Some of your other legume options include: lentils, black-eyed
peas, red beans, and black beans.
To find out more about the benefits of good nutrition, check
Bazzano LA, He J, Ogden LG, et al. Legume
consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in U.S. men
and women. Archives of Internal Medicine 2001:161(21),