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Are You Eating Enough of This Inexpensive Miracle Food?


by Barbara Minton
See all TBYIL articles by Barbara Minton

(The Best Years in Life) Imagine a delicious, versatile, high protein food that could almost magically prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and excessive weight gain.  You'd be willing to pay a lot for this food, wouldn't you?  Actually, there is probably already some hiding in your kitchen cabinets.  If not, it's on the shelf at the nearest grocery store.  This food is the mighty bean, an overlooked vegetable that is a research superstar.

A bean is technically a legume, a class of foods that includes lentils.  One-quarter cup of dried legumes is equivalent in high quality protein to an ounce of meat and packs a 15 gram protein punch.  Beans pick up the flavor of other ingredients or seasonings and blend into soups, salads, stews and most other cooked and raw dishes.

Beans are good for what ails us

Studies have documented that eating beans on a regular basis offers protection from many of the dreaded diseases of modern times.  Eating beans helps keep the pounds off too.  Regular bean eaters weigh about 6.6 pounds less than non-bean eaters, according to Real Age.

Men and women who consumed legumes 4 times a week had a 22 percent lower risk for heart disease compared to people consuming legumes only once per week, according to a recent study published in Archives of Internal Medicine.  Men who adhered to a healthy diet that included greater consumption of legumes had a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease than men who followed the typical Western diet.

Scientists at Colorado State University have found that eating beans and potatoes regularly could help prevent breast cancer.  Researchers introduced a carcinogen into the mammary glands of rats that were then fed a daily diet of different varieties of beans or potatoes.  The rat control group did not receive any beans or potatoes.  The researchers collected data on the occurrence of cancerous mammary tumors, tumor mass and multiplicity of tumors.  They found that the more beans or potatoes eaten, the less the frequency for malignant tumors.  Although some bean and potato varieties were more effective at prevention, all beans were able to provide significantly more protection than a no-bean diet.

Another study reviewed data from 90,630 women who participated in the Nurses Health Study II. The researchers found that women who consumed beans or lentils at least twice a week were 24 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than women who consumed them less than once a month. This study was also published in the Archives of Internal Medicine

Beans contain powerful compounds.  Inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) found in good supply in beans has been shown to have a potent affect against cancer.  Inosital pentakisphosphate is another compound recently discovered in legumes.  It was found to inhibit the growth of tumors in mice all by itself.  Flavonols found in beans have also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer. 

In a study of 35,000 women who ate four or more servings of legumes each week, the risk of developing colorectal cancer was reduced by one-third.  In a related study, people who had previously developed colon cancer were found able to reduce the risk of recurrence up to 45 percent by increasing bean consumption.

The National Cancer Institute found that people who eat more dried legumes such as pinto or navy beans, lentils, and bean soups have significantly less risk of developing colon cancer.  Data from the Poly Prevention Trial showed that adding a significant amount of dry beans to one's existing diet has a strong protective effect against recurrence of precancerous polyps.  In their study, people who added the most dried beans to their diets had the greatest reduction in risk for recurrence of advanced polyps.


The antioxidant properties of beans make them a terrific anti-aging food.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture has ranked three varieties of beans in the top four foods for antioxidant benefits.  Red beans like those used to make red beans and rice, kidney beans, and pinto beans beat many other fruits and vegetables in antioxidant content.

The Department of Soil and Crop Sciences concluded that color is the key when choosing beans.  As a general rule, the darker the color, the higher the antioxidant content, with red and black beans leading the pack.

Beans are high in fiber, containing about 4 grams per cup of cooked beans.  Fiber has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol in epidemiological, clinical and animal studies.  Data from human trials has shown that consumption of canned or dried beans reduces both total and LDL cholesterol.  Significant increases in HDL cholesterol and/or reduction in tryglycerides were seen in many of the studies.

Recent attention has focused on high levels of plasma homocysteine as a risk factor for vascular disease.  Beans provide a significant amount of folate, one of the B vitamins found to reduce homocysteine levels.

In addition to helping maintain ideal weight, beans help reduce blood glucose, insulin, and the incidence and consequences of diabetes.

A pound of almost every variety of organic dried bean can be bought for about one dollar.  This makes beans a central player for anyone who values nutrition while watching his or her budget.

Adding beans to the diet is a snap

Some of the studies about the cancer-fighting benefits of beans indicate the need to incorporate up to 3 cups of cooked beans a week into the diet.  This may sound like a lot, but it is easy to do.  Beans make great main dishes or they can be added to almost any favorite recipe.  Mash or puree them for burritos and dips.  Combine them with vegetables, herbs and spices.

A super quick dinner can be made by heating a can of black beans (on the stove, not in a microwave) and adding 5 or 6 tablespoons of your favorite salsa.  Serve with shredded cheese.

Remember to soak dried beans for 12 to 15 hours before cooking to make them easy to digest.   Add herbs and spices to the bean pot to boost nutrition and digestibility even more.  Adding cumin, garlic, anise, fennel seeds, rosemary, caraway seeds, turmeric, lemongrass or coriander can make beans taste great.

For more information:
Eat Beans to Improve your health Part 1 - The Michigan Bean ...
Eat Beans to Improve your health Part 2 - The Michigan Bean ...

About the Author:

Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.

See other articles by the Barbara Minton here:

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