When people learn that I eat a plant-based diet that contains little, if any, meat, the same questions come up every time, ‘Where do you get your protein from?’ ‘What about iron level? And B12?’. That is where the wonderful world of legumes comes in.
One of the Legumes
Kidney beans belong to the legume family, along with chickpeas, lentils and soybeans (to name a few), which are the protein staple for vegetarians and vegans. I prefer to use the term ‘Amino Acids’ rather than ‘Protein’ as your body makes its own proteins. The proteins from animals are not the same as the proteins your body needs so your body must disassemble the proteins into individual amino acids and then reassemble them again. Different protein sources contain different amino acids, so eating a large variety of foods gives your body more options for building amazing proteins for all your cellular activity.
Kidney beans look exactly like the human kidney which, according to the Doctrine of Signatures, makes them perfect food for the kidneys. They come in a variety of colours: red, white, black and speckly.
Great for Digestion
Many people complain that beans give them gas, and yes, this can be true. Beans are high in soluble fibre, a component of which is galactans. Galactans are large molecules which are difficult to digest so manage to pass through the small intestine and directly into the large intestine where the good bacteria have a wonderful feast on them. This creates the gas. There are a couple of things you can do to reduce the impact. The best way is to soak them overnight by covering them with water and a tea towel. Rinse thoroughly and then boil until tender the next day. Additionally, eating some raw food with your meal helps digestion so you could snack on carrots or broccoli while the beans are cooking. A pinch of fennel seeds or some freshly grated ginger added to the last 5 minutes of cooking can also help with the digestion of beans.
Kidney beans are a great source of iron. In fact, half a cup of kidney beans (which makes a perfect daily serving) has 1.5 milligrams of iron. Iron is essential for healthy red blood cells and the ability to deliver oxygen to all the cells of the body. They can stimulate the immune system to produce white blood cells and also repair cells in the body through the production of collagen.
Kidney beans also contain folate, magnesium and potassium and are considered a high-protein and high-in-fibre food.
Kidney Bean Goodness
Benefits include lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, increasing muscle mass, slowing down the digestion of sugars for the management of diabetes, stimulating the immune system and improving brain function. Their folate content makes them an excellent choice for women of childbearing years looking to get pregnant, as well as throughout the pregnancy.
You may have heard that Vitamin A, which comes from Beta carotene, fights off oxidative stress in the retina and kidney beans have a high level of beta carotene making them an eye healthy choice.
If beans are something of a new food to you, the easiest food to substitute it for is mince. Always a hit in my household and when we have visitors who are used to their meat, I cook up a batch of bolognese sauce using beans instead of the mince. Serve up with either pasta or some corn chips and avocado. YUM!