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Beans Protect Against Cancer

The lowly bean is finally getting some recognition. Studies show that beans help protect against cancer, especially polyp formation in the bowel which leads to bowel cancer – the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States.

The first study was conducted among African-American men and women and showed that those who ate the most legumes had 1/5 the bowel polyps (early signs of cancer) than of those not eating legumes (relative risk 0.19). The authors of the study encouraged a greater consumption of all legumes, especially kidney beans, split peas, garbanzos, and lentils.

Another study, called the Polyp Prevention Trial, found that those eating the most legumes (highest quartile of bean intake) had only 1/3 (relative risk 0.35) the rate of advanced polyp reoccurrence compared to those eating the fewest legumes (bottom quartile).

The Nurses' Health Study found both legumes and fruit to be protective against bowel polyps. Women eating 5 or more servings of fruit daily had 40 percent fewer polyps than those eating only 1 serving of fruit daily. Women eating 4 or more servings of legumes weekly had 35 percent fewer bowel polyps compared to women eating only 1 serving per week.

MyPyramid.gov recommends all Americans to eat more legumes, at least 3 servings weekly; one serving per day for best protection. Add a variety of legumes to your diet including split pea soup, chili beans, garbanzos, lentils, navy beans, hummus, and soybeans. They are good for the health of your bowel and are a good protein alternate to meat which increases the risk of colon cancer.

Journal National Black Nurses Association. 17(2):6-12.
Journal of Nutrition. 136(7):1896-1903.
Cancer Research. 66(7):3942-3953.

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