Few foods can claim to be as simultaneously healthful and satiating as the kidney bean. The big, cabernet-colored bean is integral to such filling dishes as chili con carne and Louisiana Creole red beans and rice, in which it provides nearly as much nutrition as satisfaction.
Kidney beans, named after the anatomical organ they resemble, are a great source of protein and fiber, serving up almost 8g of protein and 6g of fiber per half cup. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), dietary fiber in food supports healthy digestion, helps stabilize blood sugar, and may help protect against a variety of cancers and chronic illnesses.
The AICR reports that beans are a source of phytochemicals (natural plant compounds) such as saponins, protease inhibitors, and phytic acid, which may help protect cells against damage that leads to chronic illness and cancer.
Kidney beans are inexpensive and easy to prepare. When cooked, they have a light, mild flavor and absorb seasoning and taste from other ingredients easily. You can purchase either dried or canned varieties. Buy dried beans from a store with a lot of foot traffic, as older ones take longer to cook. Look for beans that are whole and not broken. Soak dried beans for at least four hours or overnight.
Be sure to cook kidney beans fully before serving — they are toxic when raw and can cause severe stomach pain if you eat them this way. To avoid this, simply start by cooking your beans for 10 minutes at a vigorous boil to deactivate the toxins. Canned beans are pre-cooked and thus not a problem. Always rinse canned beans under water before using to remove excess sodium.
Kidney beans can be served hot or cold, in salads, stews, curries, chilies, and soups such as our White Winter Minestrone Soup. Kidney beans can also be paired as a side with healthy carbohydrates such as brown rice and quinoa, or seasoned with olive oil, herbs, and spices to serve as the base or side for cooked vegetable or fish recipes.