Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine.” Duly noted on the part of Dr. Henry Thompson, director of Colorado State University’s Cancer Prevention Laboratory: In 2013 the lab received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the disease-fighting properties of cannellini beans.

So far, the research has shown that eating beans—of many types, although cannellini have the greatest impact—positively affects both the synthesis and the breakdown of lipids. In other words: Scarfing down your beans may have the potential to help you burn fat. Thompson, who is also studying how weight loss in cancer patients affects reoccurrence, says these findings not only have important implications for the prevention and treatment of cancer (most research has been done on colon and breast cancers), but also for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. The problem: The recommended daily dose of beans is 200 grams per person, but most Americans consume only about 10 grams a day.

The solution, of course, is easy. Beans, especially cannellini, should be an everyday food—they’re an affordable, easy-to-prepare source of carbohydrates and protein that have been eaten by many cultures for thousands of years. “Understanding the role of bean feeding in specific aspects of lipid metabolism will break new ground,” Thompson says. “This is an incredible opportunity to improve public health.”