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Named for their close resemblance in color and shape to kidneys, red kidney beans are widely eaten and enjoyed around the globe. Much like cannellini beans or adzuki beans, they’re a common addition to soups and stews, but they can be prepared canned or dried and added to a number of other delicious meals as well.
Plus, because kidney beans nutrition is low in fat and rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, these red beans have been linked to a multitude of health benefits, including a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, making them an excellent addition to a well-rounded diet.
Keep reading for more on the many potential red kidney beans benefits and side effects, along with some easy ways to enjoy this flavorful red bean.
Kidney Beans Nutrition Facts
Kidney beans are highly nutritious. Each serving is rich in protein and micronutrients like folate, iron and manganese.
Plus, a good chunk of the carbs in kidney beans nutrition are actually composed of fiber, a type of indigestible plant compound that’s loaded with health benefits.
One cup (approximately 177 grams) of cooked red kidney beans nutrition contains about:
1. High in Antioxidants
Kidney beans nutrition is a great source of antioxidants, which are powerful compounds that help neutralize free radicals to protect against cell damage and disease. They’re particularly high in anthocyanins such as pelargonidin, which is responsible for providing the red beans with their signature rich color.
In addition to decreasing inflammation to promote better health, high-antioxidant foods may also aid in the prevention of chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders.
2. Improve Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the globe. Fortunately, making a few simple modifications to your diet and lifestyle can significantly decrease your risk of disease.
Switching up your diet is especially important, and some research suggests that enjoying plenty of legumes as part of a healthy diet can reduce levels of total and bad LDL cholesterol, both of which are major risk factors for heart disease.
Not only that, but the soluble fiber found in kidney beans nutrition helps produce short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate and propionate, which may decrease cholesterol synthesis in the liver and reduce levels of LDL cholesterol.
What’s more, some studies have found that legumes, such as red beans, can effectively decrease markers of inflammation, which often contribute to chronic conditions such as heart disease.
3. Control Blood Sugar
According to a review published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adding pulses to your diet could decrease levels of fasting blood sugar and insulin, both of which can help support long-term blood sugar control.
Kidney beans nutrition is also loaded with fiber, an important nutrient that slows the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream to keep blood sugar levels in check.
4. Combat Diabetes
Clinical trials consistently show that swapping out other high-carb foods for beans can reduce blood sugar levels in people with and without type 2 diabetes.
Kidney beans generally have a much lower glycemic index than other carbohydrate-rich foods, likely a result of their content of fiber and resistant starch. The glycemic index is a measure of how much certain foods increase blood sugar levels after consumption.
One study of 3,349 people found that consuming a high amount of legumes and lentils was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes over a four-year period. Not just that, but the study also found that substituting half a serving of legumes per day for a similar serving size of foods like eggs, bread, rice or baked potatoes was tied to a lower risk of developing diabetes as well.
5. Help Treat and Prevent Certain Cancers
Colorectal cancer is an incredibly common and deadly type of cancer. In fact, in 2017 alone, colorectal cancer accounted for 50,260 deaths in the United States.
Kidney beans nutrition is a great source of flavonols, which are beneficial plant compounds that act as antioxidants in the body. According to a 2009 study out of Maryland, consuming a higher amount of flavonols was tied to a lower risk of advanced adenoma recurrence.
Further in vitro research published in International Journal of Biological Macromolecules found that certain compounds in white kidney beans were able to block the growth and spread of cancer cells, suggesting that kidney beans may act as a powerful cancer-fighting food.
6. Aid in Weight loss
Diet and exercise are key when it comes to keeping excess weight under control, and some research has found that adding red or white kidney beans to your diet can be a powerful tool to help keep your waistline in check.
In fact, one study published in Journal of the American College of Nutrition reported that increased bean consumption may be linked to improved nutrient intake, lower body weight and decreased belly fat.
Additionally, kidney beans are high in protein and fiber, both of which are important nutrients on any weight loss diet. Fiber moves through the body slowly to promote feelings of satiety while protein has been shown to reduce levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates feelings of hunger.
Kidney beans nutrition is also rich in alpha-amylase inhibitors, which are a type of protein also found in other types of beans as well as grains like rice and wheat. Because of their ability to prevent starch absorption and breakdown, alpha-amylase inhibitors have often been used to boost weight loss.
However, because cooking inactivates these compounds, it’s unclear how beneficial it may be in cooked beans.
Risks and Side Effects
Kidney beans must be cooked prior to consumption because raw kidney beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, which is a type of toxin that can cause liver damage. Within just a few hours after eating raw kidney beans, symptoms like diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and extreme stomach pain can set in and may even require hospitalization in extreme cases.
For this reason, it’s always best to soak kidney beans and discard the soaked liquid before cooking them. Cooking dried kidney beans in a slow cooker is discouraged, since the toxin remains in the beans and water as well.
Some diets, including the Paleo diet, ketogenic diet and FODMAP diet, discourage the consumption of beans because they are relatively high in carbohydrates and fructans and contain phytates or phytic acid, which are considered to be “antinutrients” that block the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
The kidney beans plant also contains lectins, a class of proteins thought to cause leaky gut, which may contribute to conditions like arthritis and poor vitamin and mineral absorption in the long run.
How to Cook
Kidney beans are often soaked and sprouted prior to cooking, which improves digestion and nutrient absorption. Ideally, kidney beans should be soaked for eight hours or overnight before cooking.
When cooking, three parts water to one part beans for an hour to an hour and a half is best.
You may also opt for canned kidney beans, which are a convenient option that offer a similar set of nutrients but are often higher in sodium. If you’re watching your sodium intake, selecting low-sodium varieties or draining and rinsing the beans can slash the sodium content by up to 41 percent to optimize the canned kidney beans nutrition profile.
However, keep in mind that draining and rinsing canned beans may reduce the total amount of other nutrients, including water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C. If you’re concerned about potential nutrient loss, pairing your red beans with other healthy foods, such as onions, celery, carrots, garlic and bell peppers, can help boost the nutritional value of your meal.
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