Kidney Beans --- Top 7 Health Benefits
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Kidney Beans --- Top 7 Health Benefits

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August 8, 2014

By NELS SEIFERT, Contributing Columnist

Many of us can close our eyes and reminisce about the smells and tastes of a good ol' fashion chili cook-off. Chili, red beans and rice, gumbo, BBQ baked beans, bean salads, and artisanal salads with beans --- all these are popular dishes that contain kidney beans.

But what are the health benefits of kidney beans? Other than filing you up, do kidney beans improve your health in any other way?

History of Kidney Beans

Kidney beans and other "pulses"  --- beans, peas and lentils --have been cultivated for over 10,000 years from civilizations around the world. Kidney beans, technically known as "Phaseolus vulgaris" are those dark little red beans which are so-named because they resemble the shape and color of the human kidney.
The origin of kidney beans can be traced back to Peru and South America, where they were used as a trade crop.  Eventually, kidney beans flowed through every trading artery in the Americas.

By the time Spanish and Portuguese explorers landed on the shores of South America, the kidney bean was in local dishes, traded off to the explorers, and taken worldwide.

Kidney beans are a staple in the diets of  Kenyan long distance runners and you can find it on the weekly menus of some of the top performance athletes in the world.

Here you go, by popular demand, our top 7 health benefits of kidney beans:

1.    Cardiovascular Benefits

Kidney beans are a surprisingly powerful ally against cardiovascular disease. One cup of kidney beans supplies your body with 16 grams of fiber, 230 mcg of folate, and 74 g of magnesium --- three components that lower cholesterol, homocysteine, and help to build a healthy cardiovascular system.

A high-fiber diet lowers your risk for heart disease, many studies have found. For example, a 2003 study conducted by Dr. Bazzano and colleagues at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (2003) found that an increase in fiber reduces your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

Kidney beans are one of the "pulses" (peas, beans and lentils) which improve the lipid (oil) profile of your blood, which in turn improve blood pressure, inflammation levels and platelet coagulation levels, according to a 2014 study from the University of Manitoba in Canada.

Lowering levels of cholesterol and homocysteine can also decrease your chances of stroke, heart attack, heart disease, and other vascular health problems. All this, and only 225 calories per cup!

2.    Improved Digestion and Weight Loss

Kidney beans help maintain regular bowel movements and promote positive bacteria in the digestive tract.

This magic red bean can also help you reduce weight in a relatively short period while helping you regulate your weight over long periods. Research out of the Cancer Prevention Laboratory at Colorado State University (2012) has shown that "edible dry bean consumption" i.e. kidney beans had fast-acting weight loss effects.

The research noted, "Unexpectedly, bean-fed obese mice experienced weight loss as well as an improved plasma lipid profile within a 12 day time frame."

The high fiber content in kidney beans can attribute to the increased regulation of the digestion tract while also improving your waist line. The fermentation- promoting bacteria located in the digestive tract can help you cleans your body of the unneeded waste in the intestines and bowels.

3.    Controlling Blood Sugar

Maintaining a consistent blood sugar throughout the day lowers your risk for diabetes and helps control your appetite. The American Diabetes Association recommends that diabetics consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories in their diet.

Kidney beans can help.  A single cup delivers 16 grams of fiber. Moreover, kidney beans deliver this high level of fiber and protein with a small calorie return, thus allowing the breakdown of carbohydrates to move slower and diminishing a rapid change in glucose levels. Numerous studies have confirmed that high fiber diets improve blood sugar (glycemic) control, including a 2013 study from Kyushu University in Japan led by Dr. Hiroki Fujii.

4.   Boost Energy

Put down that Red Bull or 5 Hour Energy and get that energy boost you need with a natural twist with kidney beans.

Kidney beans are rich in Iron (22% of your daily recommended value) and Manganese (38% of your daily recommended value),  two main compounds your body needs to increase metabolism and produce energy.

Iron is needed to deliver oxygen throughout your body.  Scientists believe that kidney beans are especially effective in delivering energy to our bodies because the fat it contains is highly digestible. 

In 1993, doctors from Japan's University of Tokushima conducted a study to compare the "net energy" available from kidney beans and other foods such as peanuts. The study, entitled "Study on Digestibility and Energy Availability of Pulses (Peanuts and Kidney Beans) in Men"  concluded that  "net energy available" for kidney beans was 3.1% with a 9.1% digestibility of fat.

Peanuts had a higher "net available energy," but did not have the fat digestibility that kidney beans offer. It's important for us to get that needed boost of natural energy without the extra fat, calories, and unknown energy drink contents.

5.    Improved Brain Function

Boosting energy is important and it goes hand in hand with improving your ability to think, organize, and complete those weekly tasks before they build up on your desk come Friday evening.

Kidney beans have the power to unlock your brains potential since they are rich in thiamin (B1), an essential vitamin for your brains cellular development and cognitive function.

Thiamin is involved in the synthesis of acetylcholine, a key process in our ability to produce memories and recall events in the day, week, month, and life, according to many studies, including a 1988 study conducted by Dr. Haas at the Department of Neurosciences, University of California.

6.    Cancer Prevention

Kidney beans are among the most powerful cancer-fighting foods.

Kidney beans contain manganese, a strong antioxidant. A cup of kidney beans, it may surprise you, supplies 38% of the recommended daily value of manganese.

Manganese is metabolized in the mitochondria and offers defense against immune threatening health problems associated with negative cellular activity, according to a chapter in a 1995 report led by Dr. Andrija Kornhauser and other researchers from the US  Food and Drug Administration, entitled"Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention".

7.    Protein Source

Kidney beans are an excellent source of protein. Muscle is made of protein. When you are tired, when you become ill or when you are injured, your body draws from protein stores to repair cells.

The protein found in kidney beans can rival your daily protein intake of meat.

A cup of kidney beans contain 16 grams of protein, about 33 to 35% of the recommended daily value of protein for women over the age of 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control,

Besides being packed with protein, kidney beans may be preferable to meat because they boasts a low calorie intake of 225  per cup.

When you combine rice and kidney beans together, you create a perfect complement of nutrition that can give you energy, build muscle, increase endurance, and repair your body fast.

Perhaps this is why rice and kidney beans have been a main staple in different cultures dating back to the beginning of agriculture and trade.
Kidney beans are a magical little legume that offers you the full nutritional package. It will improve your blood flow and cardiovascular system, help you gain strength and repair your body, as well as improve brain function. 

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