Researchers at St Michael's Hospital in Canada said that by eating one serving a day of pulses, people could lower their LDL ("bad") cholesterol by five percent.
Dr John Sievenpiper of the hospital's Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre 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 US.
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," Sievenpiper said.
The study reviewed 26 randomised 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, researchers said.
Some study participants reported stomach upset such as bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation but these symptoms subsided over the course of the study.
The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.