Top 5 Beans for Your Heart Health

lentils
America's top heart hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, shares the best four legumes for boosting heart health. Eat them often to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Each of the following legumes is loaded with nutrients that can lower cholesterol and blood pressure and help you lose weight. To get the most out of every legume you eat, follow these serving suggestions:

-- Eat 3-4 cups of legumes each week by using them as a lunch protein and for two evening meals.

-- Legumes are great in stews, soups, salads, and mixed with other beans.

Black Beans

Benefits: Vitamin B1, protein*, iron, folate, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc

What to look for when buying black beans: Canned beans have the same amount of nutrients as dried but are higher in sodium. Look for canned beans with no added salt, and drain and rinse the beans.

Storing: Keep dried beans inside an airtight container in a dry place for 6-12 months. Cooked beans can be covered and chilled for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Usage: To prepare dry beans, soak in cold water overnight. Drain and add more water. Simmer covered for 1 to 1-1¿2 hours.

*Using beans as a protein source helps reduce the amount of saturated fat consumed from animal proteins.

Black-Eyed Peas

Benefits: Vitamins B1, B6, and B3*; folate; copper; iron; magnesium; manganese; potassium; zinc

What to look for when buying black-eyed peas: Look for dried peas that are shiny. Canned black-eyed peas can be purchased, but look for versions that have no salt added.

Storing: Keep dried peas in an airtight container for 6-12 months. Cooked peas can be covered and chilled for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Usage: Dried black-eyed peas cook in 30-60 minutes. Black-eyed peas are great stir-ins for soup, chili, and even cold pasta salads.

*B3, or niacin, raises HDL, or "good" cholesterol.

Kidney Beans

Benefits: Vitamins B1 and B3, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids

What to look for when buying kidney beans: Look to be sure the bag has no moisture and the beans are whole and not cracked. Kidney beans can be purchased in cans as well.

Storing: Store in a cool, dry place for 6-12 months. Cooked beans can be covered and chilled for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Usage: Presoaked beans are easier to digest. Acidic ingredients inhibit the cooking of beans, so add tomatoes, lemon juice, or vinegar after beans are fully cooked.

Lentils

Benefits: Vitamins B1 and B6, protein, fiber, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc

What to look for when buying lentils: If buying in bulk, be sure bins are covered. Brown lentils are most affordable; red lentils are smaller and cook faster

Storing: Store in a cool, dry place. Cooked lentils keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days.

Usage: They don't need to be presoaked. Combine cooked brown lentils with cooked ground beef for added fiber and fewer calories.

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