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AICR Food Facts  >  Foods That Fight Cancer

Pulses: Dry Beans, Peas, and Lentils (Legumes)

This content was last updated on December 20, 2019

The Cancer Research

Dietary fiber, resistant starch, and phenolic compounds in pulses all may support the growth of health-promoting gut bacteria (the microbiome). More research is needed to understand how individual differences, and different forms of these compounds, contribute to protection against cancer.

Interpreting the data

After a systematic review of the global scientific literature, AICR/WCRF analyzed how plant foods and their nutrients affect the risk of developing cancer.

  • Evidence categorized as “convincing” and “probable” means there is strong research showing a causal relationship to cancer—either decreasing or increasing the risk. The research must include quality human studies that meet specific criteria and biological explanations for the findings.
  • A convincing or probable judgment is strong enough to justify recommendations.
  • There is probable evidence that foods with dietary fiber DECREASE the risk of:
    • Colorectal cancer
    • Weight gain, overweight and obesity
  • Evidence categorized as “limited suggestive” means results are generally consistent in overall conclusions, but it’s rarely strong enough to justify recommendations to reduce risk of cancer.

Ongoing Areas of Investigation

  • Tips for Selection, Storage and Preparation
    Selection:
    • Choose either uncooked or canned beans; nutritional quality is equivalent.
    • Uncooked dried beans are most economical, yet canned beans offer ready-to-eat convenience.
    • To reduce sodium, drain canned beans in a strainer and rinse well, or better yet, choose beans canned with no added salt.
    Storage:
    • Uncooked dry beans can be stored for a year or longer in the unopened plastic bag in which they are sold.
    • Once opened, store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator).
    Preparation Ideas:
    • Before preparing, inspect and remove any debris or dirt.
    • Dry beans and whole peas need to soak before cooking. Soak in a big pot of cold water overnight, or in hot water for one to four hours.
    • To reduce gas-producing substances, soak longer, then discard the soaking water and use fresh water for cooking.
    • Cook dry beans more quickly with a pressure cooker – they’re ready in 15 minutes once the presoaking is complete.
    • Use beans in stews, soups, casseroles, combined with whole grains, in salads and pureed for dips.
    • Lentils and split peas are the “fast foods” in the pulses family; they need only about 30-40 minutes to cook, no pre-soaking required.
    • One cup of dry beans and peas equals about 2-1/2 to 3 cups cooked. When drained, one 15-ounce can equals about 1-1/2 cups of beans.

References

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