With their deep red color, cooked red kidney beans can liven up a wide range of meals including salads, soups and stews. But did you know that these little legumes can do much more than just that? Packed with protein, soluble (and insoluble) fiber, folate (vitamin B9), magnesium, potassium and a number of other health promoting nutrients, red kidney beans (haricots rouges, red beans, in French) are a true superfood. But what exactly are the health benefits associated with eating red kidney beans? Continue reading to find out.
Protection Against Heart Disease
In the renowned Seven Countries Study, researchers investigated associations between the intake of certain food groups and mortality from coronary heart disease over a 25-year period. The study involved a total of 12,763 middle-aged men belonging to 16 cohorts in seven countries (the US, Finland, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece, Japan, and the Netherlands). The researchers concluded that a higher legume consumption could reduce the risk of heart attack by more than 80%.
The findings of the Seven Countries Study are not surprising considering that legumes such as red kidney beans are cram full of folate (also known as vitamin B9) and fiber, both of which promote cardiovascular health. Just one cup (177 grams) of cooked red kidney beans provides a third of the recommended daily intake for folate! Folate deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, coronary complications, and stroke. Vitamin B9 also helps eliminate homocysteine, a toxic substance that can lead to severe artery damage.
The soluble fiber in red kidney beans contributes to their heart health benefits by forming a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. This gel then binds with bile, which contains cholesterol, and carries it out of the body.
Extraordinary Antioxidant and Anti-Aging Prowess
The health benefits of eating red kidney beans are not only linked to their fiber and folate content; red kidney beans are also supercharged with antioxidants. Antioxidants are believed to have strong anti-aging properties and to promote longevity by limiting damage caused by free radicals. This helps protect the skin and the rest of the body from long-term health problems caused by environmental factors and unhealthy foods.
Flavonoids represent one of the most important classes of antioxidants, and red kidney beans are exceptionally rich in flavonoids, particularly in proanthocyanidins (also known as condensed tannins). According to an analysis conducted by USDA researcher Ronald Prior, red kidney beans contain even more proanthocyanidins than blueberries, cranberries, and small red beans.
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Stabilizing Effect on Blood Sugar Levels & Weight Loss Benefits
If the health benefits of red kidney beans described above are not enough to convince you to add these little powerhouse legumes to your diet, consider this: the fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates in red kidney beans helps stabilize blood sugar levels, making red kidney beans a very good food for people with insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes. The blood sugar stabilizing effects of kidney beans can also assist obese and overweight people in their battle against excess body fat. When the blood sugar levels are stable, less insulin is released by the pancreas. One of the tasks of insulin is to promote fat storage in the body, so keeping insulin levels low can help you achieve healthy weight loss.
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A Healthy Source of Protein
Protein is vital for many bodily processes, including building and repairing tissue. Your hair and nails are mostly made up of protein, and protein is an important building block of muscles and skin. Protein is made of strands of amino acids, and amino acids are categorized as non-essential (meaning they can be manufactured by the human body) and essential (meaning they must be obtained from food). A complete protein is a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids in correct proportions for supporting biological functions in the human body.
Generally, proteins derived from animal foods (meats, poultry, seafood, dairy) are complete. However, also beans such as red kidney beans can provide a complete protein — when combined with rice or grains. Red kidney beans are low in the amino acid lysine, while rice is rich in this essential amino acid. The art of combining foods with incomplete proteins (such as beans and rice) to create a complete protein is known as protein combining or protein complementing. Eating a meal composed of red kidney beans and rice (or grains) will not only provide you with a complete protein, it will also provide you with a protein-rich meal that is free of cholesterol (animal sources of protein tend to be high in cholesterol)