Kidney beans are the legumes that are available throughout the year and can be an easy, healthy inclusion in your diet. A possible addition or the main star of any kind of dish, the beans are known for their unique taste and texture. But this isn’t why you need the beans in your diet!
These beans are highly nutritious and help you treat and prevent multiple health issues.
Nutritional Value Of Kidney Beans
Kidney beans are of three types – light red, dark red, and white (cannellini) kidney beans. Since the nutritional values of these beans have a marginal difference, the health benefits are more or less the same.1 2 3
Here are a few of the many nutrients you get in a cup of kidney beans (approximately 260 gm):4
- They are low in calories (260 kcal) and sugar (6 g).
- They have a good amount of complex carbohydrates (about 46 g).5
- For those 19 years and older, men need about 8 g of iron while women need about 18 g per day. Kidney beans can give about 2.16 g of iron in one serving.6
- Kidney beans give you 10 g of fiber, with the average amount required being 25 g for women and 38 g for men per day.
- They have a good amount of proteins (16 g) and folate (59 µg).
- They contain zero cholesterol, fat, and fatty acids.
Here are 12 health benefits you can reap by including kidney beans to your diet.
1. Fight Cancer
According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, kidney beans are one of the pulses considered helpful in fighting cancer.7
The dietary fiber in kidney beans controls weight gain; the gut bacteria feed on the fiber, possibly protecting colon cells; and the folate helps control cell growth – all of which contribute to lowering cancer risk. The antioxidants in the kidney beans also contribute to fighting cancer, especially in the initial stages.
2. Help With Weight Loss
What you eat is as important as how much you exercise when trying to lose or maintain weight. And kidney beans help not just because they have less fat and calories.
Kidney bean extract, especially of the white bean, helps with weight loss without any effect on the lean body mass by inhibiting alpha-amylase, which is important for digestion.8 9
The beans also have a high fiber and protein content, which might make you feel full sooner and with small portions, keeping you from overeating. They are also the perfect vegetarian alternative to meat for muscle building in terms of protein content.
3. Treat Diabetes
By contributing to weight loss, kidney beans consequently help fight diabetes as well. The white bean extract induces a drop in blood sugar while reducing weight gain – giving you double the benefits!10 11
A good way to find out the right foods for your blood sugar level is to check the glycemic index. Foods that are low on the glycemic index, like kidney beans, help maintain low sugar and thus reduce the risk of diabetes.12
Also, the starch in the beans releases carbohydrates slowly and takes longer to digest, resulting in a possible gradual rise in blood sugar that might help diabetics.
4. Reduce Hypertension
Eating the right foods can have positive effects in conditions such as hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Focusing on just the diet to treat hypertension, the National Heart, Lunch, and Blood Institute proposed a diet plan called “DASH.” This is a diet with lesser fats, sodium, red meats, and sweets (beverages or added sugars) than what the prevalent American diet includes, and it contains kidney beans.13
According to DASH, you may consume about 3 servings per week of kidney beans, along with other foods, as they are a rich source of protein, fiber, energy, and magnesium.
5. Improve Cognitive Health
All of us experience a minor level of forgetfulness that does not usually seem like a huge problem. However, it can be an indication of a looming neurological issue, which might be avoided to an extent using kidney beans.
Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency has been linked to multiple cognitive issues, especially in alcoholics.14 And this vitamin can be found in kidney beans. Also, since thiamine is related to acetylcholine levels, a neurotransmitter important for memory, these beans contribute to the cognitive health and better memory.15
6. Reduce Migraines
Migraines can be a constant, crippling companion who’s difficult to do away with! Kidney beans can help you here.
Fluctuating sugar levels is one of the most common causes of migraines. Foods that are low on the glycemic index, such as kidney beans, cause a lesser rise in blood sugar levels. Because of this and also since such foods release energy slowly, they reduce your chances of getting a migraine.16
7. Strengthen The Bones
Bad bone health can hamper your life in multiple ways, and recovery is usually tough. Some of the causes of bad bone health are deficiencies in protein, magnesium, and zinc.
All of these can be rectified by including kidney beans, among other foods, in your diet. Kidney beans are especially considered to be a very good source of protein.17
Other Possible Uses: Kidney beans are believed to help with multiple other conditions. However, further research is required to prove exactly how effective they are with these issues.
8. Help During Pregnancy
One of the reasons the beans are considered during pregnancy is for their iron content. A lot if iron is required for the development of the baby’s RBCs.
Now although kidney beans contain a lot of iron content, the phytate levels in the beans reduce the absorption of this mineral. Soaking, sprouting, and fermenting the beans might retain the efficiency of the iron.18 The beans can also help avoid fetal defects (such as neural tube defects) by avoiding folate deficiency in both the mother and the baby.19 20
A word of caution: Pregnant moms are more prone to gastrointestinal issues and kidney beans usually aggravate these conditions. So discuss with your doctor before including the beans in your diet.
9. Improve Heart Health
Your lifestyle choices are at the root of all health conditions, including cardiac issues. Healthy foods such as kidney beans may be beneficial in a few ways.
Diabetics have a higher chance of suffering from cardiac issues like heart attack and stroke.21 Since kidney beans help treat diabetes, they might help prevent such issues. The beans also contain a high amount of potassium, which contributes to heart health.22
A major risk factor for heart attack and paralysis is a high level of homocysteine. This level can be regulated through the folate content found in kidney beans.23
10. Strengthen The Digestive System
Some believe that kidney beans might help with constipation and improved digestion. Dry beans, in general, contain a high amount of dietary fiber that may help retain water in stool and relieve you of constipation.24 25 And since the fibers take a long time to digest, drinking more water after eating the beans might give your digestion a push.
A word of caution: Regulated insoluble fiber intake is associated with reduced constipation symptoms. But the fibers in kidney beans might aggravate these, especially in those with the irritable bowel syndrome. There have also been instances of kidney-bean-induced diarrhea, flatulence, and bloating.26
11. Improve Metabolism
Kidney beans are believed to improve metabolism as they contain a high amount of iron, which can give you more energy. They can also be your home food remedy for anemia.27 And since the fiber regulates your blood sugar levels, it could keep your energy going high.
12. Help With Kidney Stones
Kidney beans are said to help with curing kidney stones probably because of their low sodium content and the dietary fiber levels.28 29
And since the beans help treat diabetes, they might also prevent you from succumbing to kidney stones as the two conditions can be interrelated, especially if you have a history of kidney stones.30
How To Use Kidney Beans
The important thing to know about kidney beans is, “Do NOT eat them raw!” Consider this a thumb rule. The outer skin of kidney beans is said to contain toxins, which can be removed by cooking them for an adequate time.31
The dark red beans have a firm glossy outer layer and are more suitable for dishes that take some time to cook, like soups and appetizers. The light red and the white kidney beans have almost the same kind of texture with mostly a thin outer layer. These can be used with easy-to-make dishes like salads.
However, in general, kidney beans are used in well-cooked dishes as they soak up all the flavor and spices from the dishes. You can soak the beans overnight, drain, and then cook. Or you can boil them and cool for about an hour before cooking.
As long as you remember the thumb rule, feel free to experiment! And do let us know how it worked out for you!
|↑1||Agricultural Research Service (DARK RED KIDNEY BEANS, UPC: 035826082848). United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑2||Agricultural Research Service (LIGHT RED KIDNEY BEANS, UPC: 5051379025533). United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑3||Agricultural Research Service (CANNELLINI BEANS, WHITE KIDNEY BEANS, UPC: 021140004321). United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑4, ↑27||Agricultural Research Service (KIDNEY BEANS, UPC: 074175611637). United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑5, ↑20||Agricultural Research Service (Basic Report: 11029, Beans, kidney, mature seeds, sprouted, raw). United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑6||Table, Elements, and Vitamins Table. “Dietary reference intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc.” (2001).|
|↑7||AICR’S FOODS THAT FIGHT CANCER. American Institute of Cancer Research.|
|↑8||Celleno, Leonardo, Maria Vittoria Tolaini, Alessandra D’Amore, Nicholas V. Perricone, and Harry G. Preuss. “A dietary supplement containing standardized Phaseolus vulgaris extract influences body composition of overweight men and women.” Int J Med Sci 4, no. 1 (2007): 45-52.|
|↑9, ↑10||Barrett, Marilyn L., and Jay K. Udani. “A proprietary alpha-amylase inhibitor from white bean (Phaseolus vulgaris): a review of clinical studies on weight loss and glycemic control.” Nutrition Journal 10, no. 1 (2011): 24.|
|↑11||Thompson, Sharon V., Donna M. Winham, and Andrea M. Hutchins. “Bean and rice meals reduce postprandial glycemic response in adults with type 2 diabetes: a cross-over study.” Nutrition journal 11, no. 1 (2012): 23.|
|↑12||Jenkins, David JA, Cyril WC Kendall, Livia SA Augustin, Sandra Mitchell, Sandhya Sahye-Pudaruth, Sonia Blanco Mejia, Laura Chiavaroli et al. “Effect of legumes as part of a low glycemic index diet on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized controlled trial.” Archives of internal medicine 172, no. 21 (2012): 1653-1660.|
|↑13||In Brief: Your Guide To Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH. The National Heart, Lunch, and Blood Institute.|
|↑14||Ambrose, Margaret L., Stephen C. Bowden, and Greg Whelan. “Thiamin Treatment and Working Memory Function of Alcohol‐Dependent People: Preliminary Findings.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 25, no. 1 (2001): 112-116.|
|↑15||Heinrich, C. P., H. Stadler, and H. Weiser. “The effect of thiamine deficiency on the acetylcoenzymeA and acetylcholine levels in the rat brain.” Journal of neurochemistry 21, no. 5 (1973): 1273-1281.|
|↑16||Migraine and food. National Health Service, UK.|
|↑17||Good nutrition for healthy bones. International Osteoporosis Foundation.|
|↑18||Schlemmer, Ulrich, Wenche Frølich, Rafel M. Prieto, and Felix Grases. “Phytate in foods and significance for humans: food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis.” Molecular nutrition & food research 53, no. S2 (2009): S330-S375.|
|↑19||Gibson, Rosalind S., Yewelsew Abebe, Sally Stabler, Robert H. Allen, Jamie E. Westcott, Barbara J. Stoecker, Nancy F. Krebs, and K. Michael Hambidge. “Zinc, gravida, infection, and iron, but not vitamin B-12 or folate status, predict hemoglobin during pregnancy in Southern Ethiopia.” The Journal of nutrition 138, no. 3 (2008): 581-586.|
|↑21||Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑22||Whelton, Paul K., and Jiang He. “Health effects of sodium and potassium in humans.” Current opinion in lipidology 25, no. 1 (2014): 75-79.|
|↑23||Homocysteine Lowering Trialists’ Collaboration. “Lowering blood homocysteine with folic acid based supplements: meta-analysis of randomised trials.” Bmj 316, no. 7135 (1998): 894-898.|
|↑24||Geil, Patti Bazel, and James W. Anderson. “Nutrition and health implications of dry beans: a review.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 13, no. 6 (1994): 549-558.|
|↑25||Yang, Jing, Hai-Peng Wang, Li Zhou, and Chun-Fang Xu. “Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: a meta analysis.” World J Gastroenterol 18, no. 48 (2012): 7378-83.|
|↑26||Winham, Donna M., and Andrea M. Hutchins. “Perceptions of flatulence from bean consumption among adults in 3 feeding studies.” Nutrition journal 10, no. 1 (2011): 128.|
|↑28||Preventing kidney stones. U.S. Library of Medicine.|
|↑29||Sorensen, Mathew D., Ryan S. Hsi, Thomas Chi, Nawar Shara, Jean Wactawski-Wende, Arnold J. Kahn, Hong Wang, Lifang Hou, and Marshall L. Stoller. “Dietary intake of fiber, fruit and vegetables decreases the risk of incident kidney stones in women: a Women’s Health Initiative report.” The Journal of urology 192, no. 6 (2014): 1694-1699.|
|↑30||Assimos, Dean G. “Diabetes mellitus and kidney stone formation.” Reviews in urology 8, no. 1 (2006): 44.|
|↑31||Kidney beans recipes. BBC.|