If you are worrying about cancer, including beans in meal planning could go a long way to ease your mind. Research has shown that beans and other legumes work in many ways to stop cancer while providing plenty of other health benefits.
Beans belong to the legume group of vegetables, which includes lentils and pulses. Most of the health benefits to be gotten from eating beans extends to the entire group.
The link between eating beans and lowered risk of cancer was established several years ago. In a broad-reaching study using data from 41 countries, researchers found that eating beans reduced incidence of death from breast, prostate, and colon cancer. As the years have gone by, more and more studies have linked bean eating with reduced risk for many other types of cancer. Here is why you should be eating more beans.
1. Eating Beans Stops Breast Cancer
Recent data from the Nurses Health Study II, among the largest and longest running investigations of factors influencing women’s health, was evaluated to see which flavonol-rich foods were protective of breast tissue in premenopausal women age 26 to 46. Researchers found that among the major food groups tested, beans and lentils were most protective, while tea, onions, apples, string beans, broccoli, green pepper and blueberries showed no ability to provide protection.
Another study, the 4 Corners Breast Cancer Study was unique in having Hispanics, Native Americans, and non-Hispanic white women as participants. Scientists found a relationship between consumption of beans and a reduction in breast cancer risk in Hispanic women consuming a native Mexican diet characterized by high bean and other legume intake. These women showed a breast cancer risk only two-thirds that of non-Hispanic whites eating the typical American diet high in processed foods, red meat and sugar.
Beans and other legumes are a food staple in many regions of the world, where they are consumed quite frequently and in large quantities to provide low glycemic energy, protein and fiber. Almost across the board, incidence of breast cancer is significantly lower in these regions.
2. Men can Benefit from Frequent Bean Eating Too
Lifestyle factors play a role in a diagnosis of prostate cancer, just as they do in a diagnosis of breast cancer. French researchers assessed the association of fiber and prostate cancer in 3313 men followed for a median time of 12.6 years, during which 139 developed prostate cancer.
When the researchers compared men in the highest quartile of consumption of dietary fiber, such as found in beans and other legumes, to consumption of men in the lowest quartile, they discovered that risk of prostate cancer was cut almost in half in those eating the most beans and other legumes. However, no association between lower prostate cancer risk and consumption of cereal, vegetable and fruit fiber was observed. Study authors suggested the mechanism of action was reduction of inflammation.
3-5. Beans Stop Renal, Gastric, and Colon Cancer
Plant-based fiber-rich foods such as beans and legumes have a positive effect on renal (kidney) carcinoma and the chronic conditions associated with it, according to recent research. Significantly lowered risk of renal cell carcinoma was observed in those eating beans and other high fiber foods.
What’s more, people eating dried beans, other legumes, and bean soup show a significantly reduced risk of colon cancer. Data from the Polyp Prevention Trial indicated that eating more beans provides strong protection against recurrence of colon polyps.
Women who ate four or more servings of beans and other legumes weekly had their risk of colon cancer lowered by one-third, in a study with 35,000 participants. A related study found that people who once had colon cancer were able to reduce their risk of recurrence by 45 percent by frequent bean eating.
There’s a Secret at Work in These Studies
What’s the secret that lets beans turn out results like these? It’s called inositol hexaphosphate, or IP6 for short, and it’s a powerful cancer fighting compound found in abundance in beans. Another feature of beans known as inositol pentakisphosphate (IP10) is so powerful that was found to inhibit the growth of tumors in mice all by itself!
Beans Top the List in Antioxidants
Beans and all the legumes are anti-aging superstars because of their high antioxidant levels. Pinto, kidney, and red beans fill three of the four top slots for overall best antioxidant protection, beating out other fruits and vegetables, according to the Department of Agriculture. If they had rated black beans, they surely would have taken the fourth slot.
Why these particular beans? As it is throughout the plant world, color is key. The darker and more intense the color, the greater the antioxidant protection to be had by those eating them.
Beans are a terrific protein source as well; just add some cheese to make a complete protein. Beans are super versatile, and a pound of organic beans can be bought for just over a dollar. What could be better?