Dec. 22, 2022
Red beans are not as widely consumed as other legumes such as black beans, chickpeas, and lentils, but they are just as healthy. Often referred to as kidney beans because of their organ-like shape, red beans are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, plant-based protein, and many essential vitamins and minerals.
Red bean nutrition can improve the quality of your diet, improve your overall health, help with weight loss and maintenance, keep your blood sugar stable and reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Red beans are high in carbohydrates, containing 40 grams per cup. However, these are good quality carbohydrates rich in fiber, called complex carbohydrates. Unlike simple carbohydrates, such as those found in sweets and refined cereals, which are digested quickly, your body digests complex carbohydrates more slowly. This means that the carbohydrates enter your bloodstream over time rather than all at once.
Rapidly digested carbohydrates can cause a surge of energy, but this won't last. You may feel tired soon after eating. Slowly digesting carbohydrates will maintain a steady level of energy for several hours after a meal. This prevents fatigue and keeps you feeling full for a long time, so you can control your appetite.
The glycaemic index (GI) is a scale that measures how quickly and how much food raises blood sugar. The GI of foods varies depending on the cooking method, but red beans usually have a very low GI, ranging from 19 to 25. Any food below 55 is considered a low GI food, which means it does not significantly affect blood sugar.
Blood sugar control is particularly important for people with diabetes, but everyone can benefit from maintaining a stable blood sugar level. For people with diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels is important to prevent both hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Over time, both can lead to side effects that can be harmful to your health.
For diabetics and non-diabetics alike, maintaining stable blood sugar can have numerous health benefits, including sustainable energy, appetite control, and weight loss or maintenance, as well as stable mood.
In addition to their protein content, the health benefits of red beans come from their wide range of nutrients that support a variety of physiological functions essential to good health. Red beans are a rich source of five important nutrients.
Dietary fiber: Fibre is part of plant-based foods that your body cannot digest. Fiber passes through your digestive system relatively intact and adds bulk to your stool, helping to push it through the digestive tract. A diet high in fiber prevents constipation and may also improve heart health as it binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract and carries it out of the body before it is absorbed.
According to the National Academy of Medicine, women need 25 grams of fiber per day and men need 38 grams per day. One cup of red beans provides 11.3 grams of fibre, which is about 45% of the daily requirement for women and 30% of the daily requirement for men.
Iron: The mineral iron is an important component of haemoglobin, a blood protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues. Iron also supports metabolism and contributes to growth, development and cell function, as well as the production of some hormones.
Red beans contain non-haemoglobin iron, a form found in all plant foods. Animal foods contain haemoglobin iron, which is more bioavailable and less affected by other dietary components that may inhibit iron absorption. However, according to the Medical Journal of Australia, people who eat a plant-based diet are at no higher risk of iron deficiency than those who eat animal-based foods.
Red beans provide 5 mg of iron per cup, which is 28% of the RDA for women and 63% of the RDA for men.
Magnesium: As a cofactor in over 300 enzyme systems, magnesium plays an important role in a wide range of biochemical reactions such as synthesising proteins, regulating blood pressure, maintaining blood sugar control and supporting muscle and nerve function. Magnesium also contributes to energy production and bone development, and is essential for the transport of potassium and calcium into cells, which are vital for healthy muscle and heart function.
The RDA for magnesium for men and women is 420 mg and 320 mg per day respectively. A cup of red beans provides 80 mg, or 19% of the RDA for men and 25% of the RDA for women.
Phosphorus: Phosphorus is primarily responsible for the formation of teeth and bones. It is also involved in energy production, cell signaling and the regulation of body pH. Together with the B vitamins, phosphorus supports kidney function, muscle contraction, and normal heartbeat.
Women and men need 700 mg of phosphorus per day. One cup of red beans provides 251 mg or 36% of the daily requirement.
Folic acid: Red beans are an excellent source of folic acid, a B vitamin that helps with DNA production and cell division. It is therefore essential for growth and development, especially for the baby in the womb. For this reason, it is recommended that pregnant women consume extra folic acid during pregnancy to prevent birth defects. As with most B vitamins, folic acid plays an important role in energy production.