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Are You Eating the Wrong Carbs?

Not all carbohydrates are created equal: some provide healthy nutrients, while others are more likely to simply raise your blood sugar levels. Find out what the healthiest carb choices are to add to your diet.

Looking for healthier, less-refined carb choices? These carbohydrates are minimally processed foods that are digested more slowly than refined carbs, and contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They do not typically cause rapid blood sugar spikes and should be the focus of your carbohydrate intake. Common examples include:

1. Whole grains (such as dense whole grain bread, and intact whole grains such as basmati rice, barley and quinoa)

2. Beans

3. Nuts

4.Vegetables and fruits

Add them to your grocery list and shopping cart for a healthier diet!

Beans for Bad Cholesterol

How often do you eat lentils, kidney beans, hummus (made with chickpeas) or split pea soup? These are all examples of “pulses” or foods based upon them. Each pulse is part of the legume family, but the term refers only to dried, low-fat seeds, so it excludes both fresh beans and fatty seeds such as peanuts.

New research from Canada shows that one ¾ cup daily serving of pulses could lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by as much as five percent. And that drop would result in a five to six percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to study leader John Sievenpiper, M.D., Ph.D. Unfortunately, the average consumption of pulses is only about a half serving per day in the U.S. and Canada, the team reported. To reach their conclusion, the investigators reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials that gathered data on 1,037 people. They found that adding pulses to the diet benefitted men more than women, possibly because their cholesterol levels were generally higher and their diets poorer. The researchers found that participants in some of the studies they analyzed complained of bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation when they first added pulses to their diets, but the symptoms subsided over the course of the study.

My take? There are many important advantages to adding pulses to your diet. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber; are enjoyable additions to meals if prepared properly; and are among the most inexpensive foods you can buy - the ultimate refutation of the notion that "you have to be rich to eat healthy." Legumes are also heart-healthy; their high fiber content lowers cholesterol and triglyceride (blood fat) levels. A study of more than 15,000 middle-aged men across the U.S., Europe and Japan for 25 years found the consumption of legumes was associated with an 82 percent reduction in risk of death from heart disease. Most varieties of beans and lentils are also high in folate, a vitamin that helps prevent the build-up of the amino acid homocysteine - elevated levels of which are a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Whether you enjoy pluses as dips and spreads like hummus, paired with nutritious whole grains such as the ever-popular beans and rice, or merely to bulk up soups, stews and salads, they deserve a prominent place in your anti-inflammatory kitchen!

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Sources:
John L. Sievenpiper et al, “Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials,” CMAJ, 2014 DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.131727

Dried Beans vs. Canned Beans: What’s Healthier?

Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiberThe health benefits of beans are numerous: they are an excellent source of protein and fiber, are high in folic acid, and are a low-glycemic-index food. Buts some beans - both the varieties and the way they are cooked - are actually healthier than others. When choosing beans, consider the following:

  1. The most nutritious varieties of beans are black, red, kidney and pinto beans. Black beans have the most antioxidant activity of any bean choice.
  2. To get the most soluble fiber from your beans, choose navy beans: one cup of cooked navy beans provides 19 grams of fiber!
  3. When using dried beans, don't simmer them in water until done and discard the liquid - up to 70 percent of the antioxidants that beans provide end up in the simmering liquid. Instead, simmer the beans until they are done and then let them soak the nutrients back in by leaving them in the liquid for an hour.
  4. Consider pressure cooking - dried beans that were soaked and then cooked in a pressure cooker were shown to retain the most antioxidant value.
  5. The easiest (and healthiest) route? Buy canned beans. Canned kidney and pinto beans are two of the most antioxidant-rich foods you can eat, as the heat of the canning process enhances the availability of nutrients in the beans. Choose low- or no-sodium versions of canned beans when possible.

I recommend one to two servings of beans and legumes per day - easy to do if you swap out meat for beans in salads and sandwiches, and make hummus or bean dip part of an afternoon snack.

Learn more about healthy eating from Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging.