Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Eating legumes such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils may help improve blood glucose control and reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride (blood fat) levels in people with Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto.

Foods that have a low glycemic index, or GI, (meaning that they produce a gradual rise in blood glucose levels) have been shown to improve blood glucose control in people with Type 2. To determine whether decreasing the overall GI of one’s diet by increasing the consumption of low-GI legumes would benefit blood glucose control and other health parameters, the researchers randomly assigned 121 people with Type 2 diabetes to one of two diets for three months: a low-GI diet that required participants to eat at least one cup of legumes per day, or a diet that increased insoluble fiber through the consumption of whole wheat products.

At the end of the three-month period, the investigators found that the average A1C levels of people who had increased their legume consumption had dropped from 7.4% to 6.9%, compared to an average drop from 7.2% to 6.9% for those eating increased amounts of whole wheat.

The legume diet also reduced cardiovascular risk considerably more than the whole wheat diet, owing mainly to a decrease in blood pressure: Compared to no blood pressure change on the whole wheat diet, on the legume diet, systolic pressure (the top number) dropped from an average of 122 to 118 points and diastolic pressure (the bottom number) dropped from an average of 72 to 69, corresponding to a roughly 1% decrease in the 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke.

Furthermore, the legume diet significantly lowered average total cholesterol and triglyceride levels

In an accompanying editorial, Marion Franz, MS, RD, questioned whether people with diabetes would be able to eat the amount of legumes necessary to improve blood glucose control. But according to lead study author David Jenkins, MD, PhD, in an interview with Fox News, “The public should be doing some preventive strategies using these foods. We are not introducing some novel ‘Frankenfood’ into the diet — this is really deep, traditional stuff.”

To learn more about the research, read the article “Legumes May Aid Glycemic Control, Cut Lipids” or see the study’s abstract in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

And when you’re finished with that, be sure to check out some of our delicious bean- and legume-based recipes, such as our black bean and vegetable enchiladas, sweet and sour five-bean bake, and upside-down taco.

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