When we think about heart disease, most of us think strictly about the heart. However, one of the most important aspects of heart health is to look at our entire cardiovascular system and know your blood pressure. High blood pressure, which is called hypertension, is an often-undiagnosed and potentially life-threatening chronic condition that is very preventable and manageable through diet and lifestyle. One of the best-known and easiest ways to take care of your cardiovascular health is by consuming beans! That’s right, and we have all heard it since we were kids that, “Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart!”
What are beans and how much do you need to eat for the blood pressure benefit?
When talking about beans in general, we typically are referring to a larger family of plants called legumes. Legumes include dry and fresh whole peas (in the pod), beans, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, and edamame. Beans are defined as edible, nutritious seeds in the form of pods within the legume family. There are many varieties of legumes (sometimes called “pulses”, to confuse matters). The main point is, there is much variety to choose from when eating legumes and by including beans specifically. More common types of legumes include kidney beans, cannellini beans, navy beans, fava beans, black beans, pinto beans, soybeans (edamame), black-eyed peas, chickpeas, and lentils.
We know that what you don’t eat, as much as what you do eat, affects your chances of developing hypertension. In other words, unless you include beans in your diet, you can’t reap the benefits! Following an eating pattern that includes a regular intake of beans — in addition to a diet high in whole, fresh fruits, and vegetables and low in highly processed and high-sodium foods — is the best way to keep your blood pressure in check.
What makes legumes so healthful?
Nutrition science has demonstrated that there is an inverse relation between legume consumption and blood pressure, meaning that eating beans regularly helps to lower blood pressure. That is because beans provide a lot of nutritional bang for the buck! The positive impact on blood pressure is attributed to beans being rich in potassium, magnesium, and fiber. They also provide good plant protein, and complex carbohydrates and they are low in fat. Beans also offer micronutrients including B vitamins, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, and phosphorous. Eating as little as two ounces per day has been shown to be enough to help convey blood pressure benefits and improve overall cardiovascular health.
A one-half cup serving of legumes provides about 115 calories, 20 g of carbohydrates, 7–9 g of fiber, 8 g of protein, and 1 g of fat.
Lifestyle Steps for Managing Blood Pressure
In addition to following a healthy, low sodium, high-fiber diet by including legumes, fruits, and vegetables daily, it is important to also take these steps to prevent and lower high blood pressure:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Be moderately physically active for at least 150 minutes per week.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
If you need help along the way, in addition to making beans your new best friend for heart (and overall) health, working with a SENS Health Coach can also help! Reach out for more information at: email@example.com.
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Polak R, Phillips EM, Campbell A. Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake. Clin Diabetes. 2015 Oct;33(4):198-205. doi: 10.2337/diaclin.33.4.198. PMID: 26487796; PMCID: PMC4608274.