Kidney Beans Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Kidney beans, annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Kidney beans are inexpensive and versatile, and they provide substantial nutritional and health benefits. Adding kidney beans to your meals is an easy way to boost protein and fiber intake without a lot of calories. While red kidney beans are most common, you can find white, purple, and even striped kidney beans to perk up your plate.

Kidney Bean Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1/2 cup (86g) of red kidney beans cooked with no added salt or fat.

  • Calories: 108
  • Fat: 0.4g
  • Sodium: 189mg
  • Carbohydrates: 20g
  • Fiber: 6.4g
  • Sugars: 0.3g
  • Protein: 7.4g

Carbs

Kidney beans are a low-calorie food that provides a healthy dose of complex carbohydrates. There are three types of carbohydrate in kidney beans.

Most of the carbohydrate in kidney beans come from starch. Starches provide the body with quick energy. Kidney beans also have a small amount of naturally occurring sugar.

The remainder of the carbs in kidney beans are fiber (more than 6 grams in a half-cup serving). Fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar, boost satiety, and improve digestive health.

Kidney beans have a glycemic index (GI) of about 24. As a reference, foods with a GI of 55 or below are considered low glycemic foods. The glycemic load of a 100-gram serving of kidney beans is about 9. Glycemic load takes the serving size of food into account when estimating the food's effect on blood sugar. A glycemic load of less than 10 is thought to have little effect on blood glucose response.

Fats

There is less than one gram of fat in a 100 gram serving of kidney beans, which makes them a naturally low-fat food. Most of that small amount of fat is healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.

Protein

Each half-cup serving of kidney beans provides over 7 grams of protein. For this reason, many vegans and vegetarians use kidney beans or other types of legumes to boost their protein intake.

However, kidney beans are not a complete protein. Complete proteins provide all of the essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body and therefore must be consumed in the diet. You'll also need to be sure to eat whole grains or seeds in order to get all essential amino acids.

Vitamins and Minerals

A 100-gram (just over half a cup) serving of cooked kidney beans contains 33% of your daily needs of folate. This B vitamin helps boost red blood cell production and provides other health benefits. The same serving provides thiamin (11% of your daily needs) and smaller amounts of vitamin K (10%), vitamin B6 (6%), vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid.

Minerals in kidney beans include phosphorus (14%), and manganese (22%), a vitamin that regulates the nervous system and improves brain and bone health. You'll also benefit from copper (11%), potassium (12%), and magnesium (10%), iron (12%).

Health Benefits

Legumes, including kidney beans, have been studied by nutrition researchers for years. They are commonly consumed, inexpensive, and widely grown around the world. Research suggests that increasing your intake of beans provides certain health benefits.

Manage Weight

An evaluation of the nutritional value of legumes published in Obesity Reviews determined that "replacing energy-dense foods with legumes has been shown to have beneficial effects on the prevention and management of obesity and related disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome." Study authors suggest replacing high-calorie, high-fat meaty foods (such as burgers and sausage) with beans, or combining meat with legumes when cooking these foods in order to reduce fat and calorie content.

Lower Cholesterol

A review published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that including beans in your diet helps to lower LDL cholesterol (also called "bad" cholesterol).

Improve Blood Sugar Control

Another review of studies found that increasing intake of beans, peas, and lentils can help patients with and without diabetes improve long-term glycemic control in their diets.

Support Beneficial Bacteria

The fiber and resistant starch in kidney beans act as prebiotics, feeding the friendly bacteria in the gut. This improves digestive health and may even help prevent some cancers.

Allergies

Although allergies to kidney bean are fairly rare, it is a legume and therefore botanically related to major allergens such as peanut and soy. In particular, people who are allergic to peanuts, pigeon peas, or chickpeas may be sensitive to kidney beans as well.

Symptoms of a legume allergy may include swelling in the face, difficulty breathing, severe asthma, abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting. If you suspect that you or your child has an allergy to kidney beans or any legume, speak with your healthcare provider to receive a diagnosis and advice on how to manage the condition.

Adverse Effects

Compounds that interfere with nutrient absorption are commonly referred to as "antinutrients." However, the term is misleading because all plants contain these nutrients, which have an effect only when consumed in extremely large quantities. The effects of these nutrients are negligible at the quantities you likely consume.

In addition, the substances are inactivated by appropriate soaking and cooking of the beans. So, unless you have a condition that may be impacted by these nutrients (such as iron-deficiency anemia) you shouldn't worry about them too much.

If you're concerned about the increased flatulence that may result from eating beans, there are cooking methods that may help. Try adding seaweed to the pot, or simply pre-soaking the beans and discarding the water before cooking. These methods haven't been tested in clinical trials, but they may be worth trying in your own kitchen.

Varieties

Kidney beans are a variety of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), and can come in many colors (white, black, red, or purple) and patterns (spotted, striped, and mottled). Kidney beans are commonly purchased canned or dried (in bulk or in bags).

Some canned varieties of kidney beans are high in sodium. Sodium is a mineral that many may need to limit. When buying canned kidney beans, check the label and look for brands that do not contain added salt. Or cook your own dried beans at home. Dry cooked kidney beans are very low in sodium, at less than 200mg per half-cup serving.

When They're Best

When you buy any legumes, look for whole, un-cracked beans that have not been exposed to dirt, dust, or moisture. You can buy raw (uncooked) beans in bags or boxes, but many stores also sell raw kidney beans in the bulk section, so you can buy only the amount that you need.

Storage and Food Safety

Store beans in an air-tight container in your pantry or in another cool, dark place. If stored properly, any type of bean should stay good for up to 12 months. If you cook kidney beans they will stay fresh for about three to five days when refrigerated in an airtight container.

How to Prepare

Before cooking kidney beans, rinse them to remove any dirt or dust. Remove any cracked or broken beans.

Boil three cups of water and add one cup of beans. Simmer for roughly 30 minutes, although cooking time will depend on your taste and texture preference.

Kidney beans have a mild, creamy, nutty flavor that makes them an easy addition to any dish. If you have a favorite soup, stew, or salad recipe, simply toss in a handful of the beans to add flavor and nutrition. Also, if you have a kidney bean recipe and you are out of the beans, it is easy to substitute pinto beans or black beans (and vice versa, if you have kidney beans in stock).

Recipes

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