By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Chances are you’re already trying to incorporate certain foods into your diet because they’ve been found to offer some protection against developing diabetes, heart disease and cancers. Now steady your red wine glass and push that broccoli to one side of the plate, you’ll need room for a helping of beans, especially if you’re a woman.

Cannellini, navy, pinto, kidney – almost any variety will do. According to researchers at Colorado State University legumes are not just high in the anti-oxidants that fight free radicals in the body, they may help reduce the risk of breast cancer in previously unrecognized ways.

The team of academics tested six types of beans, looking at their “antioxidant capacity” and phenolic and flavonoid content, which are all “factors thought to be associated with anticancer activity,” according to a news release about the study. They found that the levels of phenolic and flavonoid content varied widely, with deeper colored beans having more phenolic and flavonoid content, as well as stronger antioxidant abilities, compared with white beans.

But in feeding lab rats, the researchers found that the incidence of breast cancer and the number of tumors fell significantly for the rats being fed beans, no matter what the seed color and origin.

“Dry bean consumption from every market class [type of bean] reduced cancer incidence…These results clearly suggest that the anticancer activity in dry bean(s) is not associated with seed color or antioxidant capacity,” according to the release.

So far, the researchers haven’t determined what quality of the beans does contribute to their anti-cancer properties. (Call them magic beans for now?) They’ve started clinical trials to see if adding beans to the human diet is somehow associated with or affects “biomarkers” for cancer.

The results from this study are being published in the January-February 2009 issues of Crop Science.

The work was funded by Beans for Health Alliance, the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Bush Brothers Inc. (You can figure out who among that group is pleased with the results.)

In terms of living green and what this might mean for the planet: Beans are a great source of protein that rivals protein levels found in meats, yet they leave a much carbon smaller footprint.

And there’s no added fat.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media