Eating legumes can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and high blood pressure, according to a review.
These results could be particularly significant, as cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. - responsible for approximately one in every four deaths.
But according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Americans are not eating enough legumes. About three cups per week is the recommendation - but the average American consumes less than a cup a week.
The review, published in Advances in Nutrition, saw researchers review prospective cohort studies that assessed consumption of legumes on the risk for cardiometabolic diseases and related markers.
It found that 'those who consumed the most legumes reduced incidence rates for cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and hypertension by as much as 10 percent when compared to those with the lowest intakes'.
The study's authors say this is because beans and other legumes (including lentils and peas) high in fiber, plant protein, and other micronutrients, but low in fat, free of cholesterol, and low on the glycemic index.
'A powerful tool'
"Cardiovascular disease is the world's leading - and most expensive - cause of death, costing the United States nearly 1 billion dollars a day," study co-author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said.
"This study shows that an inexpensive, accessible, and common pantry staple could help change that: beans.
"Americans eat less than one serving of legumes per day, on average. Simply adding more beans to our plates could be a powerful tool in fighting heart disease and bringing down blood pressure."