No single food or food substances can protect you against cancer.
But scientists believe that the right combination of foods in
a predominantly plant-based diet may. Evidence is mounting that
the minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals in plant foods interact
to provide extra cancer protection. This concept is called synergy.
In addition, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans are
low-energy-dense, low calorie foods and probably protect against
weight gain. According to the Second Expert Report, experts
believe that weight gain – particularly obesity and overweight
– are implicated in the development of cancer. Eating a predominantly
plant based diet can help prevent weight gain and therefore
protect against those cancers whose risk is convincingly increased
by higher body fat (namely cancers of the colorectum, esophagus,
endometrium, pancreas, kidney, and breast in postmenopausal
women). That is why AICR recommends that at least 2/3 of your
plate should be filled with vegetables, fruit, whole grains
(also known as legumes) include lentils and peas along with many other
varieties. Soybeans fall into this category as well; their anti-cancer
benefits are described in full in the soy section.
The active ingredients
in beans that scientists believe may play a role in cancer prevention
include: saponins, protease inhibitors and phytic
acid. These compounds, called phytochemicals, are found naturally
in plants and appear to protect our cells from damage that can lead
studies, saponins have shown the ability to inhibit the reproduction
of cancer cells and slow the growth of tumors in several different
tissues. Protease inhibitors have slowed the division of cancer cells
and helped to prevent tumors from releasing substances called proteases
that destroy nearby cells. Phytic acid has shown the ability to significantly
slow the progression of tumors.
Beans are also
rich in fiber. AICR's second expert report, Nutrition,
Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective,
found probable evidence that foods containing dietary fiber, like
beans, can decrease one’s risk of developing colorectal cancer.
SEE ALSO: THE
COLOR OF BEANS -- COOKING WITH BEANS
AICR has funded
research on the following topics relating to beans and the cancer-fighting
components they contain. Click each topic to read a summary of the
AICR-funded research studies performed to date.