Week of May 10, 2010
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Why do registered dietitians recommend beans as a protein source when they are considered an incomplete protein?

A: Beans offer many advantages as a protein source. They are considered “incomplete” or “low biologic value” because content of one or more particular amino acids (the building blocks of protein) is low. However, grain products such as bread, rice, pasta and tortillas have plenty, and beans supply the amino acid lacking in grains. Evidence now shows that you don’t have to eat the beans and grains in the same meal; as long as you get a few servings of grains throughout the day, you will get complete protein over all. Beans are recommended because they are top sources of dietary fiber, which can lower blood cholesterol levels and may reduce risk of colorectal cancer. They’re also excellent sources of many of the nutrients lacking in typical U.S. diets, including potassium, vitamin B-6 and magnesium, as well as natural plant compounds that are powerful antioxidants. Beans are a great source of folate, protecting against birth defects when consumed before and during pregnancy and keeping our DNA healthy to lower cancer risk. About a third of the starch in beans is called “resistant starch,” which is fermented by our normal gut bacteria to produce butyrate, a compound that seems to promote healthy colon cells less likely to develop into cancer. In addition to all these nutritional benefits, beans are among the most economical forms of protein and they are more environmentally friendly than relying on meat and other animal foods for all our protein.

Q: Do those elastic tubes and bands really work for strength training?

A: Yes. Elastic tubes and bands are now available for virtually all levels of strength training, and they’re inexpensive and easily stored. You need to use the right band or tube to match your strength level and the particular muscle group being exercised (chest presses, for example, need more resistance than the arm curls that exercise your upper arms). When working with an elastic tube or band, you secure it under your feet or around a heavy piece of furniture or a pole. Focus on squeezing the muscle in use when you encounter resistance as you pull on the tube/band and as you return to starting position. Just as when strength-training with free weights or stationary machines, good posture and proper technique is important to appropriately work the muscle and to avoid injury. You can use many of the same exercises you may have learned with other forms of strength training, but if you haven’t received instruction, it’s best to learn good technique by meeting with a certified fitness trainer at a local facility. If this isn’t possible, check out a recognized fitness organization’s DVD or website. For example, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) offers a free suggested routine with elastic tubing.

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