One of the many varieties of beans, kidney beans are distinctive in their shape and color. They derive their name from their shape, similar to a kidney, and they are also red in color (in most cases). Considered a varietal of the common bean, which is scientifically known as Phaseolus vulgaris, kidney beans are most frequently found in chili, a spicy stew, all around the world and is particularly popular in regions of India and throughout Central America. Kidney beans come in various types including white kidney beans, red kidney beans and light speckled kidney beans. You may also find them in striped, mottled, cream, purple and even black varieties.
Like many other types of beans, kidney beans are densely packed with nutrients that are critical to our health, which explains why they are a staple food in many cultural cuisines. For a relatively low cost, kidney beans can provide significant levels of dietary fiber, folate, phosphorus, copper, protein, iron, magnesium, potassium, molybdenum and vitamin B1. A single cup of these beans represents at least 20% of your daily requirement for these nutrients; for some of these essential minerals and vitamins, it delivers more than 40% of the daily suggestion. The diverse range of nutrients naturally leads to an impressive list of health effects that these beans can provide.
Health Benefits of Kidney Beans
The most notable health benefits of kidney beans include their ability to detoxify the body, improve digestion, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, increase muscle mass, prevent diabetes, boost circulation, reduce birth defect risk, stimulate the immune system, aid vision health, promote strong bones, support energy levels and strengthen cognitive health, among others.
The high level of dietary fiber found in kidney beans is great for people looking to control their diabetes or lower its risk. High-fiber foods can regulate the amount of blood sugar and insulin in the body, helping to reduce the dangers of spikes and drops in glucose, and stabilize energy levels.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
Another major benefit of the dietary fiber in kidney beans is its ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases. By providing a healthy balance to cholesterol, kidney beans can help lower your chances of developing atherosclerosis and suffering a heart attack.
Prevent Birth Defects
A single cup of kidney beans provides more than half of the recommended amount of folate in the body. Folic acid’s most notable benefit is that it can reduce the risk of neural tube defects in infants, which makes it a critical nutrient for expecting mothers.
Promote Muscle Growth
Kidney beans are one of the best sources of plant protein that you can add to your diet, as a single cup offers nearly 15 grams of protein. Lean protein breaks down into crucial amino acids that are used for energy production and the growth of muscle tissue, so if you are trying to bulk up and burn fat, kidney bean-filled foods are an excellent option.
Boost Immune System
Although the amount of vitamin C is not as high as in other vegetables or fruits, it does contain more than 10% of your daily recommendation in each cup of kidney beans. This can stimulate the immune system and promote the production of white blood cells, which are the body’s first line of defense against foreign pathogens. It is also critical for collagen production, and thus helps repair processes throughout the body.
Boasting a high level of beta-carotene, which breaks down into vitamin A, kidney beans are known for their impact on vision health. Vitamin A specifically targets oxidative stress in the retina, helping to prevent the occurrence of macular degeneration and the development of cataracts.
Lower Blood Pressure
1 cup of kidney beans holds approximately 20% of your daily recommended amount of potassium, which is a critical vasodilator that can boost heart health. By reducing the amount of strain on the cardiovascular system and relaxing blood vessels and arteries, potassium helps to lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease.
There is an impressive amount of iron in kidney beans, with more than 20% of your daily recommended amount. Iron is a key component in the production of red blood cells, so a diet high in kidney beans will boost circulation and cardiovascular health, while also increasing energy levels and delivering oxygen to extremities and areas of the body that need resources the most.
Increase Bone Mineral Density
The list of minerals found in kidney beans includes phosphorus, magnesium, copper and manganese, all of which play a role in bone mineral density. Increasing your mineral uptake will lower your risk of developing osteoporosis, keeping you strong and active as you age.
Stimulate Energy Production
Manganese is an easily overlooked mineral but it plays dozens of key roles in the body, including the production of enzymes that are involved in energy production and mitochondrial function. This means more accessible energy in the body if you add these beans to your daily or weekly diet.
Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Neurodegenerative diseases come in many forms, but when it comes to preventing memory loss, thiamin has been heavily researched. Kidney beans possess high levels of this vitamin (B1), making it an ally for people as they age, particularly if they are at risk of cognitive decline or suffer from high levels of oxidative stress.
The most well known health benefit of kidney beans is the impact it can have on digestion. Dietary fiber is able to stimulate the production of gastric juices and promote peristaltic motion, which keeps the bowels moving normally. Regular consumption of these fiber-rich beans can help prevent symptoms of constipation and bloating, while also lowering your risk of colorectal cancer, hemorrhoids and ulcers.
Recipes for Kidney Beans
There are countless ways to add kidney beans to your diet but some of the best recipes include kidney bean curry and turkey chili.
Kidney Bean Curry
- 1 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- Fresh coriander leaves
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 can of kidney beans
- Basmati rice
- 2 teaspoons of garam masala
Step 1 – Heat a saucepan, add vegetable oil and sauté sliced onion for 6-8 minutes.
Step 2 – Add the garlic and coriander and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Step 3 – Add the spices and stir thoroughly for 1 minute.
Step 4 – Add the tomatoes and kidney beans and bring the mixture to a boil.
Step 5 – Lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the curry is thick.
Step 6 – Pour the curry over the cooked basmati rice, serve and enjoy!
- Olive Oil
- 1 Pound of ground turkey
- 1 Can of kidney beans
- 1 Can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 Cloves of garlic
- Chili powder
- Cayenne Pepper
Step 1 – Cook the ground turkey in a pot until browned.
Step 2 – Add the onion and heat until it becomes translucent.
Step 3 – Add 1-2 cups of water to the mixture.
Step 4 – Add all other ingredients, including spices to taste.
Step 5 – Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower to a simmer.
Step 6 – Continue heating for 30-40 minutes on low heat.
Step 7 – Serve hot and enjoy!
Side Effects of Kidney Beans
Despite the many health benefits of kidney beans, there are some important side effects to consider, including an elevated cancer risk, gastrointestinal problems, and hemagglutinin toxicity.
- Cancer Risk – Folic acid is an important compound for a number of health issues but an excess of this compound can increase your risk of certain cancers. Eating more than 2-3 cups of these beans on a regular basis will significantly increase your cancer risk, so eat these beans in moderation.
- Stomach Issues – The high level of fiber in kidney beans will help improve digestion, but an excess of fiber can have adverse effects on the gastrointestinal system, resulting in flatulence, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation and a higher risk of hemorrhoids.
- Hemaggluttinin – Kidney beans have a notable amount of hemagglutinin, a compound that can stimulate gastric pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. This is quite rare, and is typically seen in people eating more than 3 cups of these beans per day.