Kidney beans are a popular food around the world, and for good reason - a lot of good reasons, in fact. They’re easy to grow, they’re easily stored, and they have a huge number of health benefits for those who eat them on the regular.
Kidney beans have been used throughout history as a medicine as well as a food because of their significant health benefits. Their high protein count makes them great for all cultures, and the wide variety of nutrients makes them a good addition to balance any diet.
What Makes Kidney Beans So Special?
Well, let’s start from the top. Kidney beans are very easy to grow. In warm climates, all you need to do is sprinkle beans into the ground and let them grow. You don’t need to spend a lot of extra time watering them or nurturing them to insure that they maintain their maximum nutritional value - beans are just easy to grow.
They’re very healthy, too. They have a good amount of a whole lot of different nutrients in them - here’s a breakdown as to why they’re one of the world’s healthiest foods. Each serving of one cup of cooked kidney beans contains the following vitamins and minerals:
Molybdenum - 295% of your recommended daily intake, or D.R.I.Molybdenum’s role still isn’t completely understood in humans, but it's been shown to be necessary for the production of at least seven enzymes that we use regularly in our daily bodily functions. It also helps to balance the sulfur levels in our bodies.
Folate - 58% of your D.R.I.Folate is actually the name given to a whole bunch of different nutrients that are all a part of the B complex of vitamins. Like other B vitamins, folate is helpful in helping the body produce energy and in maintaining a healthy nervous system.
Fiber - 45% of your D.R.I. Fiber is necessary for a whole bunch of your bodily functions. In short, it’s essential for keeping your digestive system healthy. Fiber keeps you ‘regular’ by prevention constipation, and also helps your body clear out excess bile.
Copper - 42% of your D.R.I.Copper is a key nutrient in ensuring the growth and development of proper tissues, in helping your blood flow at the proper volume, and in helping your cells produce energy.
Manganese - 38% of your D.R.I.Manganese’s two most obvious benefits are in keeping your bones healthy and strong, and in maintaining the integrity of your skin by keeping it healthy, supple, and young-looking.
Phosphorous - 35% of your D.R.I.Phosphorous is an incredibly important nutrient - it’s responsible for enabling the basic cell functioning within our bodies. Without phosphorous, our cells wouldn’t activate,a nd nothing in our bodies would work!
Protein - 31% of your D.R.I. Proteins, made up of amino acids, are the building blocks of our bodies. We need protein to ensure our skin, tissues, muscles and organs can grow and repair themselves properly.
Vitamin B1 - 23% of your D.R.I.Also known as thiamin, vitamin B1 shares a similar function as the other B vitamins. It helps your body metabolize food and convert it to energy, and ensures proper communication among your nervous system.
Iron - 22% of your D.R.I.Iron is necessary for the formation of healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells help your body transport oxygen to all its tissues and organs, so without iron, you would be vulnerable to all sorts of diseases.
Potassium - 20% of your D.R.I.Potassium’s a great mineral for maintaining the health of your kidneys and maintaining proper blood pressure. Without potassium, your kidneys couldn’t function at maximum efficiency and thus your body would be under much more stress attempting to remove toxins.
Magnesium - 19% of your D.R.I.Magnesium is a great mineral for helping to regulate sleep, blood pressure, and anxiety. It also helps your bones stay strong and helps your body produce energy.
This combination of nutrients makes kidney beans a mean fighter against all sorts of diseases. Their fiber content can battle cholesterol and related conditions; they can provide quality protein when mixed with other legumes to offer a viable alternative to animal protein; they’re high in molybdenum which can be hard to find in other foods and helps your body detoxify itself.
Aside from these commonly known nutrients, kidney beans also contain a whole score of antioxidants and phytonutrients (plant nutrients.) It’s important to understand these nutrients before reading on about the health benefits of kidney beans so you can understand which nutrients are responsible for which benefits. Knowing this can help you plan future meal plans around certain nutrients to ensure your body gets the maximum benefit!
The following nutrients have recently begun receiving more speculation from scientists and nutritionists. Fortunately, this means we now have a lot more information about these compounds than ever before. Kidney beans contain lots of:
Isoflavones - a family of antioxidants that are seen most often in soybeans. They have all types of different health benefits, and are similar in structure to estrogen.
Anthocyanins - are another family of antioxidants. These are found mostly in the skin of the kidney bean,
Phytohemagglutinin - Just like hemagglutinin, this isn’t really a nutrient as much as it’s a toxin. It’s still classed as a protein, but it’s destructive to the body. It’s found in large amounts in kidney beans but is destroyed during the cooking process.
There’s a whole bunch of different reasons to add kidney beans to your diet, and we’ll explore why in detail.
Kidney Beans Reduce The Risk of Heart Attacks
A study about kidney beans was done in the Netherlands on around 16,000 men. They were evaluated on their dietary intake habits - the different study groups looked at people with higher intake of dairy product, higher intake of vegetables, high intake of legumes, high intake of fish, and high intake of wine.
All these data were analyzed, and the group that ate a high amount of legumes including kidney beans showed an 82% lower chance of having heart attacks.
Another study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, confirmed that a diet high in foods with lots of fiber, such as kidney beans, prevents heart disease. Close to 10,000 Americans were a part of this study, which took almost two decades to complete.
The group eating the highest amount of fiber had over 10% less of a chance of having heart disease, and almost as much of a reduction in chances of cardiovascular disease in general.
Aside from their high fiber content, the folate and magnesium in kidney beans further helps to reduce the chance of heart attacks. Folate lowers the amount of homocysteine present in the human body, which can lead to heart problems when contained in excess in the blood stream. Up to 40% of patients who have had heart attacks have shown high levels of homocysteine.
Conclusion: Tons have studies have shown that a number of components of kidney beans help reduce the risk of having heart attacks. The fiber content, folate content, and magnesium content present in kidney beans all have a good impact on reducing heart disease.
2. Kidney Beans Bolster the Cardiac System
Aside from just preventing heart attacks, kidney beans have a whole lot of other benefits on the cardiovascular system.
The reduction in homocysteine provided by the folate in kidney beans doesn’t just prevent heart attacks - it reduces the risk of all sorts of cardiovascular disease. Studies estimate that if Americans consumed 100% of their daily value of folate every day, this alone would reduce heart attacks annually by 10%.
Kidney beans also have a lot of magnesium. Magnesium is a powerful calcium channel blocker - this means that it helps veins and arteries breathe easier,making circulation of blood and oxygen much easier and more effective throughout the whole body.
Magnesium deficiency is indicated in a higher chance of heart attacks. In fact, after a heart attack, if the body doesn’t have enough magnesium, the heart becomes more vulnerable to free radical damage.
Conclusion: Aside from preventing heart attacks, kidney beans also have a huge impact on the entire circulatory system. Men and women who eat kidney beans on the regular consistently appear to be less likely to fall victim to many cardiovascular diseases.
3. Kidney Beans are Great for Blood Sugar
Another awesome benefit of soluble fiber is its ability to regulate blood sugar.
People with diabetes typically have a resistance to insulin - the hormone our body produces in response to the consumption of carbohydrates. Insulin allows these carbohydrates to be converted into energy. Without enough insulin, or with a resistance to insulin, your body doesn’t process carbohydrates properly which results in blood sugar spikes.
In a study done on people with type 2 diabetes, kidney beans showed great vigor as a fighter against high blood sugar. One study group ate the regular American Diabetic diet. The other group ate a diet with 50 grams of fiber daily, which is twice as much as is provided in the American Diabetic diet.
The group eating the fiber-rich diet had lower levels of blood sugar. Fiber allows your body to utilize its insulin more effectively, making fiber one of the best weapons for fighting diabetes.
Conclusion: Kidney beans can help modulate your blood sugar, which is important for those who are concerned about developing the disease of diabetes.
4. Kidney Beans Help Keep You Smart!
This particular benefit can be largely attributed to the kidney bean’s thiamin content.
Thiamin is known for helping improve the communication speed between neurons. It also produces reactions between enzymes that are crucial for the production of energy in brain cells - which, in turn, would be responsible for your mental functioning.
Thiamin is needed to produce acetylcholine, the primary neurotransmitter responsible for memory and thought process. Deficiency of choline has been proven to be a significant factor in the development of Alzheimer's, dementia, and general cognitive decline.
Additionally, people who supplement the levels of acetylcholine consistently tend to improve scores on tests, perform better on working memory exams, and general develop a cognitive edge they hadn’t had before.
Conclusion: Acetylcholine, the brain’s primary thinking neurotransmitter, can be a difficult compound for the body to replenish. Fortunately, kidney beans contain thiamin, which the body uses to create more acetylcholine.
5. Kidney Beans Provide Long Lasting Energy
Kidney beans are a great source of energy. They have a lot of protein, and when mixed with other legumes, form a complete protein that can be even healthier than animal protein. Protein helps keep you full.
Fiber also keeps you full - soluble fiber turns into a sticky, thick substance in the stomach which makes you feel full faster. Since it takes a while to digest, it keeps you feeling full for quite a while.
Kidney beans are also a fantastic source of quality carbs. About 72% of the calories in kidney beans come from carbohydrates, also known as starch. Starch is mainly composed of long-chain glucose - two particular varieties known as amylose and amylopectin.
This particular combination is why bean starch is known as a ‘slow-release carb.’ Amylose isn’t as digestible as amylopectin, but beans contain a higher proportion of amylose than most other vegetables. This means the digestion of beans takes longer, which causes a much less severe rise in blood sugar than compared to eating foods with other forms of carbohydrates.
Kidney beans are also a good source of manganese, which is very important in manufacturing a bunch of enzymes that are all important for producing energy. One enzyme that requires manganese is superoxide dismutase, which is a powerful antioxidant that disarms free radicals quite effectively. With a good amount of superoxide dismutase, your body will have to use less energy fighting off free radicals.
Conclusion: Kidney beans are a fantastic source of long lasting energy, making them a more appealing option than many other foods, for a number of reasons. They’re full of fiber, which keeps you feeling full, manganese, which helps the body produce energy, and slow-release carbohydrates which provide consistent energy over a longer period than traditional carbs.
6. Kidney Beans can Replace Animal Protein
For those who are concerned with the health and well being of animals - or, who simply can’t consume animal products without getting sick - kidney beans may be the answer.
Kidney beans are a huge source of protein in the plant kingdom. They need to be combined with a whole grain like pasta or rice, or a supplement containing lysine - to provide a complete protein. However, when this is done, kidney beans provide an amount of protein that’s comparable to that of animal protein.
Animal protein contains all necessary amino acids - a complete protein - but many people are sensitive to animal meat for a number of reasons. They may not process meat properly, or they may feel unethical about eating it. Either way, kidney beans matched with a complementary protein can fully replace animal protein.
Conclusion: Vegetarians should consider eating kidney beans as part of a plan to supplement their diet with protein.
7. Kidney Beans are Great for Diabetics
We’ve looked at how kidney beans can modulate blood sugar, but let’s look at how they can still manage to help people who are already diagnosed with diabetes!
Since kidney beans are largely composed of carbohydrates, a lot of diabetics wouldn’t consider eating them. This isn’t necessarily a good idea, though!
Since kidney beans are classified as a slow-release carbohydrate, this means that they cause a less significant blood sugar spike than other high-carbohydrate foods. They also contain a huge amount of fiber, which, as we discussed earlier, allows the body to better regulate its blood sugar by improving the efficiency of insulin.
In pure statistics, kidney beans have a very low score on the glycemic index - this is a good thing. The glycemic index measures how different foods cause rises in blood sugar after being eaten. Having a low score on the glycemic index means the food causes a low blood sugar spike.
Conclusion: People with diabetes certainly might want to consider adding the kidney bean to their diet. Kidney beans improve sensitivity to insulin - the hormone entirely responsible for regulating blood sugar, and entirely responsible for those who suffer from diabetes. Kidney beans help the body respond better to insulin, making it less vulnerable to diabetes.
8. Kidney Beans can Help You Lose Weight
Several studies have been done on kidney beans in order to assess their ability to fight obesity. Overweight people are .becoming more and more common worldwide, and the health issues related to being overweight are no joke.
Thirty obese men were studied while consuming different diets. One study group consumed more legumes including kidney beans than the other group - four times a week, for two months. Their diet showed the greatest weight loss out of all study groups.
A number of things might be responsible for kidney beans being able to help you lose weight.
Fiber is great for helping people lose weight, for a number of reasons.
It helps you feel full faster by expanding in the stomach. Insoluble fiber becomes a gelatinous substance that takes a while to digest, leading to an overall consumption of less food,
Fiber helps keep you regular, preventing constipation and allowing for better absorption of nutrients.
Kidney beans have a great protein content, which is very useful for ensuring that proper tissues are developed. Having organs functioning at their best ensures that your body is able to make the most out of the food it consumes.
Kidney beans also contain starch blockers, which are one of the more controversial nutrients available in organic foods. Starch blockers have, however, been studied for their use as potential weight loss supplements.
Starch blockers are disabled after being cooked for more than 10 minutes at boiling temperatures, so they aren’t fully present in completely cooked beans.
Kidney beans contain manganese, which helps your body produce energy more effectively over a long period.
Conclusion: People looking to find a diet for losing weight should definitely look into adding kidney beans into their diet. Kidney beans have significant amounts of fiber, protein, and starch blockers, all three of which are great tools for helping the body better absorb nutrients and lose unneeded weight.
9. Kidney Beans Can Help Reduce Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a huge contributor to cardiovascular disease in the United states.
There are two types of cholesterol that are commonly referred to (though these aren’t the only types of cholesterol.)
LDL cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein, is the bad cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein is easily able to penetrate the endothelium (the cell walls of the cardiovascular system) where it can harden, cause infections, and lead to disease like atherosclerosis.
HDL cholesterol - high density lipoprotein - is the good kind of cholesterol. Being a denser fat than LDL cholesterol, HDL can effectively sweep the digestive system of LDL cholesterol before it becomes a problem.
Studies done have shown that beans are effective at reducing cholesterol levels. In fact, a meta-analysis done on nine studies about beans showed that they usually only reduce levels of LDL cholesterol while leaving the levels of HDL cholesterol the same.
Soluble fiber is also being researched for its ability to produce short-chain fatty acids that are effective at decreasing cholesterol synthesis in the body. This reduces the overall level of LDL cholesterol in the blood stream.
Conclusion: Cholesterol is one of the leading problems of heart disease in the states. Fortunately, kidney beans are shown to effectively help reduce levels of unhealthy cholesterol in healthy individuals, which leaving the good cholesterol in the body to further eliminate the bad.
10. Kidney Beans Fight and Treat Certain Types of Cancer
The first type of cancer which kidney beans are shown to be effective at fighting is colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most common in the USA for women, and second for men, causing over 50,000 deaths a year.
Flavonols are a certain family of nutrients that the kidney bean contains in high amounts. Flavonols have been shown to reduce the development of polyps in precancerous states. They showed a reduction of up to 65 percent for certain developments that are linked to cancer.
The International Journal of Biological Macromolecules has shown that kidney beans also exert an anti-proliferative effect on cancer cells, meaning they will slow the rate at which cancer cells can reproduce.
Conclusion: Kidney beans have been shown to be effective at both fighting cancer and treating it once it’s arrived.
How to Prepare and Store Kidney Beans for Maximum Health
There are a lot of different techniques and preparations for preparing kidney beans. They typically take a long time to prepare, since the raw bean isn’t edible. Cooking generally takes a few hours, with a 24 hour soaking prior.
There are other methods to preparing kidney beans though, and some interesting methods to make them much more healthy than they would be from simply boiling them straight out of the bag.
Soaking your kidney beans
Soaking is the most common method of preparing kidney beans. Many suggest soaking for up to 24 hours, some suggest soaking for as few as eight. The longer you soak them,, typically, the shorter the cooking time will be, though soaking them for much more than a day can lead to health defects.
After soaking your beans, you should use three parts water for each part of beans. Cook them for an hour to an hour and a half if they have been soaked for minimum time; cook for a bit less if they were soaked for longer.
Soaking beans helps to dissolve the starches present in kidney beans that can be responsible for causing stomach upset. The water absorbed helps to break down starches and make the nutrients more accessible.
Sprouting your kidney beans
Sprouting your kidney beans can offer a whole whopping new set of health benefits. When kidney beans are left in water, they begin to germinate. Their outer layers slit open and a young bean shoot emerges. The baby sprout consumes some of the starches of the bean, which changes the nutritional content of the food. Here’s a slightly more in-depth guide to sprouting:
Heat up your beans for a few minutes with a solution of three percent hydrogen peroxide at around 140 degrees.
Rinse the beans afterwards in tap water for a minute, then put them in a sanitized jar/container/whatever you want to sprout in. Mason jars are recommended.
Fill the container with enough water to cover the beans, and then an extra inch.
Get rid of any floating debris.
Put the container in isolation. Let it soak for up to twelve hours.
Drain, filtering the water through a cheesecloth. Refill with fresh water, shake it vigorously, drain and repeat again.
Keep following this method twice a day until the beans are sprouted.
Having less starch in each bean means that the ratio of protein and fiber becomes higher. This is good. This causes a number of awesome benefits.
Lower glycemic index, making sprouting appealing for diabetics. This was studied by the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, which proved that sprouted grains exert a less steep blood sugar spike when compared to their unsprouted counterparts.
The levels of vitamins and minerals in kidney beans increase when they are sprouted. The folate content in sprouted rye, though not likely identical to the increase in kidney beans, was up to 3.8 times as much in sprouted rye
Both soaking and sprouting has further effects on the beans. The process of being emerged in water degrades some of the anti-nutrients we mentioned earlier, such as phytic acid which inhibits the absorption of other vitamins and minerals. Raffinose is another antinutrient that’s dispelled partially by soaking; raffinose is a carbohydrate that causes excessive gas and is the cause of the popular rhyme about beans making you toot.
Be cautious, because sprouting on your own can also possibly cause the growth of unwanted bacteria on your beans. There are some guides available online published by the FDA that include proper sprouting techniques to minimize damage.
Making sure you get the most benefit
To ensure the maximum benefit of the nutrients in kidney beans, they should be consumed with certain other types of food. A prime example of this is the fact that kidney beans are very high in protein. However, this protein is not properly, fully absorbed if it doesn’t get consumed with a complementary food that supplies the missing amino acids. These complementary foods can include:
Grains like pasta or cereals
Nuts and seeds
Other legumes, particularly lentils
Try having bean soup with crackers, or beans with rice, for classic examples of these complementary proteins
Beans don’t lose a huge amount of nutrients during the processing, so buying canned kidney beans doesn’t come at a huge cost of nutritional value. They Are, however, much more expensive - people pay for the convenience of not having to soak and cook their own beans.
Canned beans also typically contain more sodium, but this can be reduced by draining the can of its liquid and rinsing the beans in a colander for a few seconds after letting the fluid drain out for a couple minutes. However, washing and draining canned beans might eliminate some of the water-soluble nutrients.
Cooking Kidney Beans to Retain Health
The healthiest way to cook kidney beans is on the stovetop, three to one ratio of water to beans. Keeping the water between an inch or two above the beans, bring them to a boil and let them simmer.
The timing depends on how long the beans were soaked for; cooking in a pressure cooker typically allows for faster preparation (up to half an hour, versus an hour and a half.)
Don’t add any salty or acidic seasoning to the bean before they’re cooked, otherwise you’ll end up with tough, grimy beans that take longer to cook.
3 Amazing Recipes for You to Try
Alright - now you know how great kidney beans are for you, you know how to effectively store and sprout them so you have the healthiest beans on the block. Now, you’re probably wondering what sort of awesome, tasty things you can do with them. Here’s a few quick tips.
Kidney beans, black beans, and white beans (or any other two types of beans) make an awesome three bean salad.
Kidney beans mixed with chopped tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice make an amazing, simple, healthy salad.
Cooked kidney beans can be served on a piece of cornbread with grated cheese.
Blend beans with garlic, cumin and a chili pepper to make an awesome spread or dipping sauce.
Beans can replace meat in tacos (or a number of other meaty recipes.)
The good news is that kidney beans are extremely versatile. They’re used in cuisines around the world, from Asian to African to Mexican and American. There are so many different recipes that use kidney beans that it’s hard to narrow it down and pick just a few.
Fortunately, beans retain a lot of their nutrients during the cooking process.
This is a simple recipe that goes a long way. Hummus can be used as a dip for fresh vegetables, a spread for flatbreads, even used on sandwiches. Being able to make hummus out of kidney beans makes the delicious treat much more cr.
You will need:
A 15 oz can of kidney beans
Two tablespoons of tahini
A garlic clove
Three dashes cumin
Three dashes pepper
Half a teaspoon plus a quarter teaspoon sea salt
Two teaspoons olive oil
A sprig of cilantro
Two teaspoons of sunflower seeds
First, prepare your vegetables. Chop your garlic and your cilantro. Drain your kidney beans.
Add the kidney beans, tahini, garlic, the juice from your lemon, cumin, salt, and pepper together in a blender and blend until the mixture becomes smooth.
At this point you can take your hummus out of the blender and put into a dish or dishes for serving. Once it’s in the dish, drizzle olive oil on top and garnish it with your chopped cilantro and sunflower seeds.
This is a great recipe that can be made with ingredients a lot of people just have sitting around, or can get for relatively cheap. It’s a great meal with a lot of flavour and a big nutritional punch.
You will need:
A teaspoon of oil
Two garlic cloves
Piece of ginger an inch long/thick
A sprig of cilantro
Teaspoon of paprika
Two teaspoons of masala
A can (400g) of chopped tomatoes
A can (400g) of kidney beans
Basmati rice, for serving
First, get your eggies ready. Chop your garlic , ginger, and cilantro very finely. ROughly shed the cilantro leaves. If you can’t get canned tomatoes, chop ‘em.
After heating up the oil in a large k on medium-low, you can add the chopped onions with a bit of salt and slowly saute. Stir occasionally and cook until the onions are slightly softened and beginning to brown.
Throw in the garlic, ginger, and just the stalks from the coriander. In about two minutes, the mixture should begin smelling fragrant.
At this point you should add the spices. Cook for another minute until the smells become quite strong, then add the tomatoes and kidney beans - complete with the liquid in the can - and bring everything to a boil.
Bring down to a simmer and let sit for 15 minutes. This should be time enough for it to thicken up. Serve with basmati rice and the cilantro leaves.
This is a great, simple snack recipe that takes less than ten minutes to prepare. It’s not the healthiest item on the menu, but it’s one of the easiest to prepare.
You will need:
For the chips:
Enough oil to deep fry
Three tortillas, each cut into eight slices
For the dip:
A teaspoon of olive oil
Half an onion
A garlic clove
A pinch of chili powder
A 7 ounce can of canned tomatoes
5 and a half ounces of canned kidney beans
Heat up the olive oil at a very high temperature until water sizzles when it makes contact with the oil. It shouldn't take more than three minutes for the tortillas to fry at this temperature. Make sure you take them out as soon as they’re done! Drain them through a slotted spoon resting on paper towel.
To make the dip, heat up some oil in a frying pan and saute your onion after chopping it finely. While this is frying, finely chop your garlic and then add it with the chili flakes. After a minute’s time, add the tomatoes and beans and fry it all for a few minutes. Put it all through a food processor.
Serve this with chips.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.