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Why we need starchy foods to protect from colon cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Beans and other legumes protect from colon cancer in surprising ways.

Starchy foods aren't all bad, despite fears that carbohydrates lead to weight gain and other diseases. Researchers at University of Colorado say resistant starches are especially important to help fight colorectal cancer. Starches fight cancer in surprisingly simple, yet effective ways at a cellular level.

Resistant starch does healthy things for the bowel

Foods that contain resistant starches like beans, lentils peas and other legumes, green bananas pasta and rice are digested slowly. By the time they get to our colon their composition hasn’t changed much from the time we placed it in our mouths.

Other sources of starch that adds fiber to the diet include whole grain bread and oatmeal.

Foods that contain starchy fiber have been shown to help treat ulcerative colitis that can lead to colon cancer, supporting the notion that adding a pasta salad or a dish of rice on the side of a main entrée should be considered a dietary intervention for maintaining colon health.

Janine Higgins, PhD, CU Cancer Center investigator and associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine explains starches eaten at room temperature “appear to kill pre-cancerous cells in the bowel.”

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Resistant starch also quells inflammation, found in studies of rats and promotes formation of long-chain fatty acids in the bowel

Higgins and her team found foods like beans decreased numbers and sizes of cancerous lesions in rats. Resistant starch was shown to increase the number of cells that boost an immune factor known as IL-10 that regulates inflammation.

Putting the right foods on your plate might also help prevent breast and other types of cancer. Higgins says, “There are a lot of things that feed into the same model of resistant starch as a cancer-protective agent.”

Resistant starch in the diet can also help control blood sugar levels, provide energy to the body and aid weight loss. Reducing protein from animal fats in the diet and adding more fruits, vegetables and legumes can keep your colon healthy and prevent DNA damage that leads to colorectal cancer.

Colorado State University
Feb 19, 2013

Nutrition Journal
“Associations between diet and disease activity in ulcerative colitis patients using a novel method of data analysis”
Elizabeth A Magee, et al, 2005

Dronamraju SS, Coxhead JM, Kelly SB, Burn J, Mathers JC (2008)
Cell kinetics and gene expression changes in colorectal cancer patients given resistant starch – A randomized controlled trial.

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