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The health benefits of lentils, chick peas, and beans are being studied


Lentils and brown rice. Photo by Anne Hart.


Eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce 'bad cholesterol' and therefore the risk of cardiovascular disease, says Dr. John Sievenpiper, a researcher in the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.


A daily serving of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce bad cholesterol, says the new study,"Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials," published April 7, 2014 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.


And beans, chickpeas, and lentils are low on the Glycemic Index, meaning they don't quickly turn to sugar in the bloodstream. Beans, chickpeas, and lentils are also called pulses. The intake of dietary pulses, such as beans and lentils, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. In a meta-analysis of 26 randomized controlled trials, the authors found an overall effect but substantial variation in results between trials. They call for trials of longer duration and higher quality to verify the results of the new review.


Most North Americans would have to double intake of pulses to achieve the benefit. Eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce "bad cholesterol" and therefore the risk of cardiovascular disease, a new study has found. However, most people in North America would have to more than double their consumption of these foods known as pulses to reach that target, said the researchers at St. Michael's Hospital.


Dr. Sievenpiper said that by eating one serving a day of pulses, people could lower their LDL ("bad") cholesterol by five per cent, according to the April 7, 2014 news release, "Daily serving of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce bad cholesterol." He said that would translate into a five to six per cent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.


One serving of pulses is 130 grams or ¾ cup, yet North Americans on average eat less than half a serving a day


Pulses have a low Glycemic Index (meaning that they are foods that break down slowly) and tend to reduce or displace animal protein as well as "bad" fats such as trans fat in a dish or meal. "We have a lot of room in our diets for increasing our pulse intake to derive the cardiovascular benefits," Dr. Sievenpiper said. "Pulses already play a role in many traditional cuisines, including Mediterranean and South Asian. As an added bonus, they're inexpensive. Since many pulses are grown in North America, it's also an opportunity to buy and eat locally and support our farmers."


Dr. Sievenpiper's meta-analysis reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials that included 1,037 people. Men had greater reduction in LDL cholesterol compared with women, perhaps because their diets are poorer and cholesterol levels are higher and benefit more markedly from a healthier diet. Some study participants reported stomach upset such as bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation but these symptoms subsided over the course of the study.


St. Michael's Bean Salad


2 cups cooked navy/white/red/black/Romano/kidney beans (19 oz. canned)
1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced
1 small clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. chopped flat leaf parsley
Juice from ½ a lemon
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pepper to taste


Serves 4


Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. Adjust pepper to your liking.


Eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce 'bad cholesterol' and therefore the risk of cardiovascular disease, says Dr. John Sievenpiper, a researcher in the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.


About St. Michael's Hospital


St Michael's Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital's recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.




Lentil loaf recipe (vegan) and toppings


Pureed cooked or soaked and sprouted lentils also can be liquefied/emulsified into a sauce/gravy in your blender to serve over other savory foods. Serve lentil loaf with a side dish of flax-seed wraps.


To bake the flax-seed flat bread or wraps, you can make the wraps vegan by liquefying a small tub of tofu (16 ounces) in your blender with a small amount of vegetable broth and then adding 3 tablespoons of ground flax seeds. Pour in a bowl.


Mix the dry ingredients first and then add the eggs and a tablespoon of liquid vegetable broth to moisten the batter. If too dry, add more liquid. If too wet, add more ground flax seeds or a mixture of oat bran and flaxseeds or a tablespoon of coconut flour.


Tofu (liquefied in a blender) is a substitute for eggs. Lecithin granules and mashed prunes are substitutes for oils or fats in baking.


You also could add chopped spinach, parsley, dill, carrots, or sunflower seeds/pumpkin seeds/sesame seeds to the dough before baking for color and variety in taste.

You can thicken the batter with coconut flour, garbanzo bean flour, oat bran, or other ground seeds and nuts. Tap, roll, or press out on a cookie sheet as a large flat bread or wrap.


Then bake for about 20 -40 minutes or until firm to the touch and light golden brown, at about 320 degrees F. For those who don't mind a flax seed wrap that's not vegan, use 4 eggs, 9 tablespoons of ground flax seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

Cut the flat bread into four pieces. Serves 4.


Vegan meal toppings with tahini

A great-tasting brand, found in health food stores is Artisana raw, organic tahini. For vegans, a substitute for eggs can be tofu or a tablespoon of ground flax seeds to thicken your savory meatless loaf. If you're baking a sweet dessert, a mixture of prunes and lecithin may substitute for fats and oils.


Let's say you want a vegan meal and are on a no-salt-added and/or no-sugar added diet. Toppings to a vegan lentil loaf could include organic tomato paste that you get from a can which says organic tomatoes are the only ingredient.


In tomato paste, most of the time, there's no salt added compared to tomato sauce in cans or jars to which lots of salt is added. In tomato paste, most of the time there's also no calcium chloride added to preserve the color of the tomatoes as there might be in canned tomatoes rather than tomato paste.


Another topping that's vegan for lentil loaf might include red cabbage pickled in apple cider vinegar and a little water to dilute the acid, if needed. Add lemon juice and your favorite spices to the pickling mix such as cloves and minced garlic, if desired.

Let it stand overnight in your refrigerator in a covered jar. Then top the loaf with the red cabbage and then put dried breadcrumbs on top of that and bake.


Or top the loaf with tomato paste and then sprinkle the dried whole grain bread crumbs all around the loaf before you put in in an oiled loaf pan to bake. Here's a vegan recipe for lentil loaf, no eggs, salt, or sugar added. Use instead favorite herbs and spices. Chopped onion also can flavor the top of a loaf instead of salt or sugar.


Uses herbs such as dried oregano, basil, mint, parsley, garlic, onion, and other plants as well as spices such as black pepper or a pinch of cayenne pepper for added heat. Or use lemon juice and chopped onion instead of salt to season your vegan loaves and casseroles.


Chopped carrots sweeten a lentil loaf. Instead of salt, you can top the loaf with pickled red cabbage that has been pickled not in salt and water but in apple cider vinegar and spices of your choice or lemon juice and herbs.


Lentil loaf as a main entree




  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup old fashioned oat meal
  • 1/2 cup flax seed meal
  • 1/4 cup rice bran
  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup tofu or 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds (meal) to substitute for two eggs which non-vegans use if you're an ovo-lacto vegetarian, but not a vegan.
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped or dried mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or Macademia nut oil
  • 1 cup dried whole grain/sprouted grain bread crumbs



  1. Combine lentils and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups cooked lentils, tofu or ground flax seed meal which is a substitute for eggs not used by vegans, broth, tomato paste, oregano, mint, minced garlic, black pepper, parsley, olive oil or macademia nut oil. Pour into prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes. Sprinkle top with dry whole grain/sprouted grain bread crumbs, and continue baking another 10 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.