As the world’s population increases, so does our demand for protein. Protein stimulates cell repair and regeneration, and it plays a significant role in helping build and maintain muscle—all of which are crucial for cancer patients who are experiencing symptoms and side effects such as poor appetite, unintended weight loss, and malnutrition.
Beans and legumes are sustainable sources of protein. These abundant sources of B vitamins and fiber are also popular meat alternatives, especially since a plant-based diet is a potential ally against cancer.
The Most Nutritious Beans and Legumes
Out of 400 types, here are five of the healthiest beans and legumes you can eat, as well as why they are good for you.
Also called garbanzo beans, chickpeas are an excellent source of protein and fiber. Several studies concluded that beans and legumes, including chickpeas, can help prevent obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Replacing red meat with chickpeas may even minimize the risk of cancer development.
A single cup (164 grams) of cooked chickpeas contains about:
- Protein: 14.5 grams
- Fiber: 12.5 grams
- Manganese: 84% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
- Folate (vitamin B9): 71% of the RDI
- Iron: 26% of the RDI
- Copper: 29% of the RDI
- Calories: 269
Chickpeas are especially beneficial for lowering blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity compared to other high-carb foods, according to a 2016 study published in the National Library of Medicine.
Eating chickpeas may also promote healthy blood cholesterol levels by reducing “bad” low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and total cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart disease.
The beneficial bacteria within the gut have an important role in many aspects of good health, so eating chickpeas and other foods that contain gut-friendly fiber is recommended. Studies have shown that diets containing chickpeas may also improve bowel health and reduce bad bacteria in the intestines.
Lentils are rich in vegetarian protein and can be delicious additions to salads, soups, and stews. One cup (198 grams) of cooked lentils contains about:
- Protein: 17.9 grams
- Fiber: 15.6 grams
- Manganese: 49% of the RDI
- Folate (vitamin B9): 90% of the RDI
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 22% of the RDI
- Copper: 29% of the RDI
- Calories: 230
Like chickpeas, lentils can promote lower blood sugar levels. In a study of 24 men, those who had pasta and tomato sauce containing lentils ate significantly less during the meal, and their blood sugar levels were lower than the men who ate the same meal without lentils.
Another study comprising more than 3,000 people found that those with the highest intake of lentils and other legumes had the lowest risk for diabetes. Some studies have also shown that green lentils improve colon health.
Last, lentil sprouts may support cardiovascular health by reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol and boosting “good” HDL cholesterol.
Peas are a type of legume with a number of different types. A single cup (160 grams) of cooked peas contains about:
- Protein: 8.2 grams
- Fiber: 8.8 grams
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 30% of the RDI
- Manganese: 22% of the RDI
- Folate (vitamin B9): 24% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 48% of the RDI
- Calories: 125
Similar to many other legumes, peas are a good source of protein and fiber. One study of 23 overweight men and women with high cholesterol found that eating 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of pea flour (contains 25-27% natural dietary fiber) a day for 28 days reduced belly fat and insulin resistance significantly in comparison to wheat flour.
Pea fiber can also improve gastrointestinal health, as fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut. One study found that peas may help prevent constipation in elderly people and reduce their use of laxatives.
- Kidney Beans
Kidney beans are among the most commonly consumed beans in the United States. A cup (256 grams) of cooked kidney beans contains about:
- Protein: 13.4 grams
- Fiber: 13.6 grams
- Manganese: 22% of the RDI
- Folate (vitamin B9): 23% of the RDI
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 20% of the RDI
- Iron: 17% of the RDI
- Copper: 17% of the RDI
- Calories: 215
Foods high in fiber, such as kidney beans, play a role in slowing the absorption of sugar into the blood, therefore, lowering blood sugar levels. A study of 17 people with type 2 diabetes revealed that eating kidney beans with rice reduced the consumer’s spike in blood sugar after the meal.
Kidney beans may also reduce the risk factors for diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which are associated with high blood sugar.
Last, people who eat kidney beans regularly may be less prone to developing colon cancer. Read 10 Colon Cancer Prevention Tips From Top Cancer Researchers for more helpful tips about how to keep your colon healthy.
- Black Beans
Black beans are a nutritious source of protein, fiber, and folate. Although popular throughout the world, black beans are a staple food in Central and South America.
A cup (172 grams) of cooked black beans contains about:
- Protein: 15.2 grams
- Fiber: 15 grams
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 28% of the RDI
- Folate (vitamin B9): 64% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDI
- Manganese: 38% of the RDI
- Iron: 20% of the RDI
- Calories: 227
Black beans may lower blood sugar levels that rise after eating a meal, which can help reduce the risk of weight gain and diabetes. This beneficial effect is due to black beans having a lower glycemic index compared to several other high-carb foods. Some studies also found that eating black beans with rice may help prevent a significant rise in blood sugar compared to eating rice alone or with other sources of protein.
Takeaway: Eat Your Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are some of the most popular plant-based food options available. They are a nutritious and delicious source of protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins, and several other essential vitamins and minerals.
There is also strong evidence suggesting that beans and legumes can help reduce blood sugar, improve cholesterol levels, manage weight, maintain a healthy gut, and prevent cancer. Not only that, but consuming more beans and legumes as a source of protein and eliminating meat from your diet is good for the environment.
What You Can Do If the Unexpected Happens
Even when we choose the healthiest food options, sometimes, cancer still occurs. It can be due to genetics, environmental factors, or for reasons that scientists are still trying to uncover. The good news is that cancer is not the end of the road. Choose New Hope Unlimited if you’re looking for alternative cancer treatments that may maximize your likelihood of achieving remission. To schedule a consultation with our doctors, contact us at 480-666-1403 today.