What's Healthier: Fiber-Rich Beans or Oats?


“My cholesterol is too high.”

Beans. Soluble fiber—the kind that absorbs water—is good stuff. Add it to your diet, and it will keep you regular, stabilize your blood sugar levels, and lower your cholesterol levels by preventing the absorption of artery-clogging lipids in your intestines. Plus, eating more soluble fiber is an excellent way to reduce blood-serum levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad type).

Oats and beans both are good sources of soluble fiber, says Riska Platt, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. “But beans are a real powerfood for the heart, and Americans currently arent eating enough of them,” she says. “They offer more fiber per serving than oats and also offer lots of healthy antioxidants.”

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Whats more, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating just a half-cup of cooked dry beans every day helped all participants lower their cholesterol in just three months. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that people consume at least three cups of beans each week as part of a healthy diet.

Part of beans charm is their versatility. “They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes,” Platt says. “You can take beans right out of the can, rinse them well to remove much of the sodium, and add them to soups or salads or even sandwiches.” Plus, theyre an excellent substitute for high-fat animal protein, which most Americans simply get too much of, she says. “I often tell my patients to have a smaller portion of lean chicken or beef, and fill the rest of the plate with beans so they still have a feeling of fullness and dont miss the meat.”

One caveat: Take it slow. “If youre not used to eating beans, add them into your diet gradually and drink plenty of water so the fiber can become soluble,” Platt cautions. “If you eat too many, too fast, you can develop intestinal gas. But if you go slowly, your intestinal tract can usually become acclimated to them—no problem.”