Kidney Beans

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Kidney beans and other varieties of beans such as pinto beans, navy beans and black beans are known scientifically as Phaseolus vulgaris. They are referred to as "common beans" probably owing to the fact that they derived from a common bean ancestor that originated in Peru. Kidney bean varieties include: Montcalm,Wells Red, Geneva, and New York.

They spread throughout South and Central America because of migrating Indian traders who brought kidney beans with them from Peru. Beans were introduced into Europe in the 15th century by Spanish explorers returning from their voyages to the New World. Subsequently, Spanish and Portuguese traders introduced kidney beans into Africa and Asia.

Dried and canned kidney beans are not only available throughout the year; they are an excellent and inexpensive form of protein, which has furthered their popularity in many cultures throughout the world. Today, the largest commercial producers of dried common beans are India, China, Indonesia, Brazil and the United States.

Dried kidney beans are best when stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep for up to 12 months. When purchasing kidney beans in either bulk or in a packaged container, avoid beans that show evidence of moisture and obvious damage. Canned kidney beans, unlike most canned vegetables, which lose their nutritional value during the canning process, retain their health benefits because of the lengthy cooking process involved.

Health Benefits

Kidney beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most beans. In addition to lowering cholesterol, kidney beans' high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as rice, kidney beans provide virtually fat-free high quality protein. But this is far from all kidney beans have to offer, they are also an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for detoxifying sulfites.

Just one cup of cooked kidney beans supplies 177.0% of the daily value for molybdenum. Sulfites are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods like delicatessen salads and salad bars. Persons who are sensitive to sulfites in these foods may experience rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation if sulfites are unwittingly consumed. If you have ever reacted to sulfites, it may be because your molybdenum stores are insufficient to detoxify them.

These popular kidney shaped beans are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber. A cup of cooked kidney beans provides 45.3% of the recommended daily intake for fiber, which not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that binds with bile and dispatches it from the body.

Research studies have shown that insoluble fiber lowers your risk of heart attack. When researchers analyzed data in relation to the risk of death from heart disease, they found that higher legume consumption was associated with an 82% reduction in risk.

Iron for Energy

In addition to providing slow burning complex carbohydrates, kidney beans are rich in iron and can increase your energy level by helping to consistently replenish your iron stores. Unlike red meat, another source of iron, kidney beans are low in calories and all but fat-free. Additionally, kidney beans can help you balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy.

Red Kidney Bean Poisoning

A not so pleasant aspect of the kidney bean is an illness caused by a toxic agent that is common to many species of beans; however, its highest concentration is most often found in red kidney beans. It is possible for just a few raw beans to trigger adverse symptoms.

As with the preparation of many foods, proper handling and cooking temperatures are of the utmost importance. The toxic syndrome has been found to be commonly caused by the ingestion of raw, soaked kidney beans, but several outbreaks have been linked to "slow cookers" or crock-pots, which had not reached a high enough internal temperature to destroy the glycoprotein lectin. There is some evidence that heating the beans to 80 degrees C. may increase the level of toxicity by five, which makes the beans even more toxic than if eaten raw.

Symptoms of toxic reaction usually appear between one and three hours after consumption and are marked by the onset of extreme nausea, severe vomiting, and diarrhea. Some persons have even been hospitalized, but recovery is usually rapid and spontaneous. There have been no major outbreaks in the United States.

NOTE: The following procedure has been recommended by the Public Health Laboratory Services to render kidney, and other, beans safe for consumption:

  • Soak in water for at least 5 hours.
  • Pour away the water.
  • Boil briskly in fresh water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas using Kidney Beans

Kidney Bean Salad: Mix a can of drained red kidney Beans with canned tuna fish, diced onion and ½ cup of bottled Italian dressing

Chili Con Carne: Brown l lb. ground beef in Dutch oven with a medium onion and 2 cloves of garlic. Add 3 cans of red kidney beans, 1 lg. Can of diced tomatoes, 1 tbsp. red chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 1 hour.

Tamale Pie: Serve cooked kidney beans over a piece of cornbread and top with grated cheese for a twist on the traditional tamale pie.

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