Beans and Legumes are a much-needed weapon against cancer.
Beans and legumes, the humble staples of many global cuisines, are gaining recognition in the scientific community for their potential role in reducing the risk and mortality of many diseases and cancer. This blog post will delve into the research behind these claims, shedding light on why I put beans and legumes in my Cancer Food Pyramid Tactic.
What are Beans and Legumes?
Beans and legumes are the fruits or seeds of a family of plants called Fabaceae. They are rich sources of fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, and plant-based protein. Common examples include chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, pinto beans, navy beans, and peanuts.
Beans and legumes are high in minerals and fiber without the saturated fat found in some animal proteins. They are rich in plant protein, fiber, B-vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.
One cup (164 grams) of cooked chickpeas contains 269 calories, 14.5 grams of protein, 4.25 grams of fat, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 12.5 grams of fiber. It also provides 71% of the Daily Value (DV) for folate (vitamin B9), 64% of the DV for copper, 73% of the DV for manganese, and 26% of the DV for iron.1
Similarly, one cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils contains 230 calories, 17.9 grams of protein, 0.752 gram of fat, 39.8 grams of carbs, 15.6 grams of fiber⁷. It also provides 30% of the DV for thiamine (vitamin B1), 90% of the DV for folate (vitamin B9), 55% of the DV for copper, and 37% of the DV for iron.1
Beans and Legumes vs Cancer
Research indicates that beans and legumes may help reduce cholesterol levels, decrease blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity by reducing IGF (insulin growth factor), increase healthy gut bacteria, and may reduce inflammation. All of these are risks for cancer.
Higher beans consumption reis associated with reduced the risk of several cancers such as:
Beans and legumes are high in dietary fiber which may support the growth of health-promoting gut bacteria (the microbiome)¹. There is probable evidence that foods with dietary fiber decrease the risk of colorectal cancer¹.
Beans and legumes contain numerous potentially protective phytochemicals called polyphenol compounds¹. These natural substances may help to prevent cancer³.
Beans and legumes contain antioxidants that protect the body from damage. Cancer develops when DNA in cells is damaged. This causes abnormal cells to divide uncontrollably which can infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. Antioxidants neutralize these damage processes while protecting and restoring cells².
Legume Consumption Reduces Cancer Mortality
A study from Spain’s Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red Fisiopatologia de la Obesidad y la Nutrición (CIBEROBN) followed 7,216 people for an average of six years. The researchers found that those who ate more legumes had half the number of cancer deaths compared to those who ate fewer legumes⁵.
Dried beans soaked and cooked are the best source of beans. If time is limited, you may have to consume canned beans. Check the label to make sure they are organic if possible. This will help decrease your exposure to pesticides and herbicides. Canned beans should be in a BPA free can liner. BPA is an estrogenic chemical associated with a slight risk of cancer. Rinse the beans with water prior to heating or eating. Most canned beans are precooked so you don’t have to cook them.
Do not heat the beans in the can. The only reason I’m saying there are some people on social media cooking beans in cans. Doing so may transfer the estrogenic plastic liner into the beans.
How Many Beans and Lentils for a Meal
Typically, a cup of beans or lentils are the correct amount for 1 meal. This fits into my recommendation of 2 palms of beans or lentils with a meal. If you are a larger guy 2 palms will be more than 1 cup, that’s ok. The palm rule is a great way to adjust for body size. The 3rd palm can be a vegetable.
The evidence is clear: incorporating more beans and legumes into your diet can have significant health benefits. While more research is needed to fully understand their impact on individual cancers, current studies suggest a strong correlation between increased consumption of these foods and reduced cancer risk and mortality.
Remember to consult with a healthcare professional before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle. Stay healthy!
Reference Sources Include
Healthy food trends - beans and legumes - MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000726.htm.
Beans and Cancer, Benefits of Lentils, Black & Kidney Beans - AICR. https://www.aicr.org/cancer-prevention/food-facts/dry-beans-and-peas-legumes/ .
 Eat a Diet Rich in Whole Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, and Beans. https://www.aicr.org/cancer-prevention/recommendations/eat-a-diet-rich-in-whole-grains-vegetables-fruits-and-beans/
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 Foroutan-Ghaznavi M, Mazloomi SM, Montazeri V, Pirouzpanah S. Dietary patterns in association with the expression of pro-metastatic genes in primary breast cancer. Eur J Nutr. 2022;61(6):3267-3284. doi:10.1007/s00394-022-02884-1
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