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Global Network

Foods That Fight Cancer?


Beans (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 to cancer.

In laboratory 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.

The Research

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.

Read the full list of AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention.

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