Why You Should Eat A Serving Of Beans (Or Chickpeas, Or Lentils) A Day

How many beans have you eaten today? A new study shows that eating a serving of them a day is associated with lower levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, which could in turn decrease risk of heart disease.

A team of researchers from the U.S. and Canada analyzed 26 randomized-controlled studies that included a total of 1,037 people, and found an association between consuming at least one serving a day of dietary pulses, or legumes -- which includes chickpeas, lentils, peas and beans -- and 5 percent decreased levels of LDL cholesterol over a median follow-up period of six weeks. (One serving of dietary pulses is equal to about 3/4 of a cup.)

Men seemed to experience greater reductions in LDL cholesterol levels than women, and researchers noted that some of the study participants reported symptoms from consuming the foods, including diarrhea, constipation, flatulence and bloating. However, in most of the studies where these side effects were reported, the symptoms improved over the course of the study.

"Because dietary pulse intake may have beneficial effects on other cardiometabolic risk factors, including body weight, blood pressure and glucose control, future systematic reviews and meta-analyses should evaluate the effects of such dietary interventions on these outcomes and others, to address factors that contribute to residual cardiovascular disease risk," the researchers wrote in the Canadian Medical Association Journal study.

Previously, a study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine showed that legume-eaters with Type 2 diabetes have lower risks of coronary heart disease, as well as improved glycemic control.

And eating beans is not just good for your health, it's also good for your wallet -- an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study showed that it's budget-friendly to replace red meat with whole grains and beans.