Are Kidney Beans Bone-Healthy?
Kidney beans are one of the most widely consumed beans in the world. From red beans and rice typical of New Orleans to rajma from Northern India, to Brenebon soup from the Netherlands, kidney beans are a staple food in many cultures.
They contain a large variety of micronutrients that are essential for bone health and overall health. Today, we’ll take an in-depth look at the nutritional profile of this bean, and we’ll share an easy-to-prepare delicious recipe.
The Nutritional Profile Of Kidney Beans
All beans are acidifying except for lima beans, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be part of a bone-healthy diet. In fact, kidney beans are listed as a Foundation Food in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, and that doesn’t pose a problem because when you’re following a pH-balanced diet, 20% of the foods on your plate should be acidifying foods.
Now let’s take a look at the most plentiful nutrients found in kidney beans, along with information about their bone and overall health benefits.
1 cup of kidney beans contains 295% of the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) – Molybdenum is a component of Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), a powerfully anti-inflammatory enzyme that targets superoxide, the most prevalent free radical in the body. This antioxidant directly protects bone cells and many other compounds that participate in the bone remodeling process.1
Molybdenum also helps to maintain the nervous system, prevents an overabundance of detrimental metal in the body, and reduces negative reactions to sulfite.
1 cup contains 58% of DRI – Folate, also known as Vitamin B9, protects bone by converting damaging homocysteine into amino acids. Studies have found that high homocysteine levels have been directly associated with an increase in fracture risk.2 By increasing your folate intake, kidney beans contribute to the decrease of homocysteine levels and reduce fracture risk.
1 cup contains 42% of DRI – Copper is necessary for the synthesis of connective tissue in bones. It’s critical for the co-enzyme-dependent process of bonding collagen and elastin. Collagen makes up 90% of bone’s organic material.
Copper is also a component of Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), meaning that copper helps both create bone and protect it. Additionally, copper helps your body metabolize the next nutrient on our list, iron. If you don’t get enough copper, you can’t convert iron into a form usable by your cells.3
1 cup contains 22% of DRI – Iron is critical for basic life-giving body systems, such as the transport of oxygen, DNA synthesis, and energy production.4 Studies have found that iron deficiency diminishes bone formation and contributes to increased bone loss.5 Additionally, researchers have found that iron intake positively impacts bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.6
Iron is plentiful in meats, but it’s entirely possible to get plenty of bioavailable iron from plant sources such as kidney beans.
40% of DRI – Fiber helps with digestion and absorbs toxins for elimination from the body. It has been shown to lower cholesterol, lower blood glucose levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease.7,8
Thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory effects, that also protect bone quality, an Australian study has found fiber to be a leading factor for living a longer and healthier life.9
1 cup contains 35% of DRI – Phosphorus is one of the building blocks of bone. Calcium-phosphate salt (hydroxyapatite) is one of the primary structural components of bone.
1 cup contains 33% of DRI – Manganese is another essential component of Superoxide Dismutase synthesis, crucial for reducing damage to bones. Additionally, this mineral helps to form the collagen that comprises the bone matrix. Collagen production also plays an important role in skin health.
1 cup contains 31% of DRI – Protein allows you to build strong muscles, which in turn directly stimulate bone growth during exercise. Kidney beans are an excellent example of a non-animal source of protein. And while kidney beans are acidifying, they reduce health risks that excessive animal protein consumption increases, such as the risk of heart disease.10
1 cup contains 23% of DRI – Thiamine is vitamin B1. This member of the B vitamin family maintains the Master Antioxidant glutathione and its enzymes in their active form, ensuring your cells have protection from oxidative stress. That includes the cells that comprise and construct bone.
Thiamine is also critical for neurological health. There’s a strong and well-established association between thiamine deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease. Thiamine deficiency impairs cognitive function, so maintaining thiamine levels protects both your bones and your brain.11
Kidney beans are a rich source of nutrients that increase bone-health and overall wellbeing, including fiber, protein, molybdenum, manganese, phosphorus, iron and vitamins B1 and B9.
Dispelling The Fear Of Lectins
There has been a recent wave of concern about the potential adverse health effects of lectins. Lectins are a naturally occurring protein present in most plants that allow cells to bind to one another. They have no nutritional value when consumed.
Lectins do have the ability to cause inflammation, but for that to happen, very high concentrations must be absorbed into the body, and the intestinal barrier prevents most lectins from entering. The level of lectins found in most foods is so low, you’d have a hard time eating the enormous amount required for lectins to have an impact.12
Raw kidney beans do contain high levels of lectins, but proper soaking and cooking bring lectin levels well below the threshold at which they might do you any harm.
Lectins do not post a health risk unless consumed in very high concentrations. As long as kidney beans are soaked, properly cooked, and eaten in moderation, there is no risk.
An Easy And Versatile Kidney Bean Recipe
Kidney beans are a versatile ingredient, and they pair well with many alkalizing foods that will balance the pH of a meal. This recipe, perfect for a quick lunch or as a side-dish, features the bone-protective antioxidant beta-carotene, which gives sweet potatoes their beautiful orange color. A colorful meal is often a healthy one.
Kidney Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- 4 medium to large sweet potatoes, baked
- 1 1/2 cups kidney beans, cooked
- 1/2 a medium onion, finely diced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon of paprika (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (adjust to taste)
- 1/2 an avocado, cubed
- 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
- Handful of dill or parsley, chopped
- Reheat the baked sweet potatoes in the oven at 350F.
- While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, in a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add in the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until it becomes almost translucent.
- Stir in the spices and sauté for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the beans to the onions, combine well, and continue to cook, stirring often, until the kidney beans are hot, about 5 minutes. Then remove from heat.
- When the sweet potatoes are warm, cut them open and mash the flesh so it becomes easy to scoop out.
- Evenly spread the bean mixture over the sweet potatoes. Top with the avocado and yogurt. Sprinkle with dill or parsley.
Stocking Up On Bone-Healthy Foods
When you open your pantry, you open the door to possibilities. What you keep in it has an impact beyond the culinary contents of your dinner plate. Including nutrient-rich Foundation Foods like kidney beans in your pH-balanced diet, will lead to stronger, healthier bones and a happier, stress-free life.
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1 Luo, Jun. “Manganese Superoxide Dismutase (MdSOD).” B-180 Medical Laboratories. Free Radical and Radiation Biology Program, University of Iowa. March 2001. Web: http://www.healthcare.uiowa.edu/corefacilities/esr/education/2001/3/LuoJ-paper3.pdf
2 LeBoff, Meryl S., et al. “Homocysteine Levels and Risk of Hip Fracture in Postmenopausal Women.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2009; 94(4): 1207-1213. Web. http://kooperberg.fhcrc.org/papers/2009leboff.pdf
3 Kono, S. “Aceruloplasminemia.” Curr Drug Targets. 2012;13(9):1190-1199. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22515740
4 MacKenzie EL. Iwasaki K. Tsuji Y. Intracellular iron transport and storage: from molecular mechanisms to health implications. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2008;10:997–1030. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2932529/
5 Katsumata S. Tsuboi R. Uehara M. Suzuki K. Dietary iron deficiency decreases serum osteocalcin concentration and bone mineral density in rats. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2006;70:2547–2550.
6 Harris MM, Houtkooper LB, Stanford VA, Parkhill C, Weber JL, Flint-Wagner H, Weiss L, Going SB, Lohman TG. Dietary iron is associated with bone mineral density in healthy postmenopausal women. J Nutr. 2003;133:3598–602. Web: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/11/3598.short
7 Pereira MA, O’Reilly E, Augustsson K, et al. “Dietary fiber and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of cohort studies.” Arch Intern Med. 2004;164:370-6.
8 Schulze MB, Liu S, Rimm EB, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. “Glycemic index, glycemic load, and dietary fiber intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle-aged women.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80:348-56
9 Gopinath B, Flood VM, Kifley A, Louie J, Mitchell P. “Association Between Carbohydrate Nutrition and Successful Aging Over 10 Years.” The Journals of Gerontology. 2016. 71(10). 1335–1340. Web: https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/71/10/1335/2198172
10 Micha R, Wallace SK, Mozaffarian D. “Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Circulation. 2010 Jun 1;121(21):2271-83. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20479151/
11 Gary E. Gibson, et al. “Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and dementia.” Ann N Y Acad Sci. Author manuscript; 2017 Mar 11. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4846521/
12 Tao Gong, et al. “Plant Lectins Activate the NLRP3 Inflammasome To Promote Inflammatory Disorders.” J Immunol March 1, 2017, 198 (5) 2082-2092. Web. http://www.jimmunol.org/content/198/5/2082