Kidney Beans 101: Nutrition Information and Health Benefits

Beans are a common bean variety (Phaseolus vulgaris), a legume native to Central America and Mexico.

The common bean is an important food crop and an important source of protein throughout the world.

Used in a variety of traditional dishes, red beans are eaten well cooked.

Raw or undercooked beans are toxic (1), but well-prepared beans can be a healthy component of a well-balanced diet.

They come in a variety of colors and patterns; White, cream, black, red, purple, spotted, striped and mottled.

nutritional information

Beans are mainly composed of carbohydrates and fiber, but they are also a good source of protein.

The following table contains detailed information on all the nutrients in the beans.

Nutrition information: beans, cooked, boiled - 100 grams

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Protein in beans

Beans are rich in protein.

One cup of cooked red kidney beans (177 g) contains approximately 15 grams of protein, which represents 27% of the total caloric content (2).

Although the nutritional quality of bean proteins is lower than that of animal proteins, beans are an affordable alternative for many people in developing countries.

In fact, beans are one of the richest protein sources in plants, sometimes called "poor man's meat" (3).

The most studied protein in beans is phaseolin, which can cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals (4, 5).

Kidney beans also contain proteins, such as lectins and protease inhibitors (6).

Bottom line: Kidney beans are among the richest sources of proteins of plant origin.


Kidney beans are mainly composed of carbohydrates.

The carbohydrates in beans are known as starch, which represents approximately 72% of the total calorie content (2).

The starch is formed predominantly by long chains of glucose, called amylose and amylopectin (3).

Beans have a relatively high proportion of amylose (30-40%) compared to most other dietary sources of starch.

Amylose is not as digestible as amylopectin (7, 8).

For this reason, bean starch is a so-called slow-release carbohydrate. Its digestion takes longer and causes a smaller and more gradual increase in blood sugar than other types of starch, which makes beans particularly beneficial for people with diabetes.

Kidney beans have a very low glycemic index (9), which is a measure of how foods affect the increase in blood sugar after a meal.

In fact, bean starch has a more beneficial effect on the blood sugar balance than many other carbohydrate-rich foods (10, 11).

Bottom line: Starchy carbohydrates are the main nutritional component of beans. They do not cause large spikes in blood sugar, which makes them suitable for diabetics.


Beans are rich in fiber.

They contain substantial amounts of resistant starch, which may play a role in weight control (12).

Kidney beans also contain insoluble fibers known as alpha-galactosides, which can cause diarrhea and flatulence in some people (13, 14).

Both the resistant starch and the alpha-galactosides function as prebiotics. They move through the digestive tract until they reach the colon where they are fermented by beneficial bacteria, stimulating their growth (7, 15).

The fermentation of these healthy fibers also results in the formation of short chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, acetate and propionate (16), which can improve colon health and reduce the risk of colon cancer (17, 18).

Bottom line: Beans are rich in healthy fibers, which moderate blood sugar levels and promote colon health. They can cause flatulence and diarrhea in some people.

Vitamins and minerals

Kidney beans are rich in several vitamins and minerals.

  • Molybdenum: Beans are rich in molybdenum, a trace element found mainly in seeds, grains and legumes (19, 20).

  • Folate Also known as folic acid or vitamin B9, folate is considered particularly important during pregnancy (21).

  • Iron: An essential mineral that has many important functions in the body. Iron can be poorly absorbed by beans due to its phytate content (22).

  • Copper: An antioxidant trace element that is often low in the Western diet. Apart from beans, the best dietary sources of copper are organ meats, shellfish and nuts.

  • Manganese: It is found in most foods and beverages, especially whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

  • Potassium: An essential nutrient that can have beneficial effects on heart health (23).

  • Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K1 is important for blood clotting.

  • Match: Found in almost all foods, phosphorus is high in the Western diet.

Bottom line: Kidney beans are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, such as molybdenum, folate, iron, copper, manganese, potassium, vitamin K1 and phosphorus.

Other plant compounds

Kidney beans contain all kinds of bioactive plant compounds that can have various health effects, both good and bad.

  • Isoflavones: A class of antioxidants found in high amounts in soy. They have all kinds of health effects and are classified as phytoestrogens due to their similarity to the female sex hormone, estrogen (24).

  • Anthocyanins A family of colorful antioxidants found in the skin of beans. The color of red beans is mainly due to an anthocyanin known as pelargonidin (25, 26).

  • Phytohemagglutinin: A toxic lectin (protein) found in large quantities in raw beans, especially red beans. It can be eliminated with cooking (27).

  • Phytic acid: Found in all edible seeds, phytic acid (phytate) affects the absorption of various minerals, such as iron and zinc. It can be reduced by soaking, sprouting and fermenting the beans (28).

  • Starch blockers: A class of lectins, also known as alpha-amylase inhibitors. Deteriorate or delay the absorption of carbohydrates from the digestive tract, but they are inactivated with cooking (29).

Bottom line: Beans contain a variety of bioactive plant compounds, both good and bad. Phytohemagglutinin is a toxic lectin that is only found in raw or undercooked beans.


Overweight and obesity are major health problems, associated with an increased risk of various chronic diseases.

Several observational studies have linked bean consumption with a lower risk of overweight and obesity (30, 31).

One trial in 30 obese men and women on a weight-loss diet found that eating beans (and other legumes) 4 times a week for 2 months led to greater weight loss than a diet that excluded beans (32).

A recent meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials also found some evidence to support it, but could not reach a firm conclusion due to the poor quality of the included trials (33).

Several mechanisms have been discussed as an explanation of the beneficial effects of beans on weight loss. These include various fibers, proteins and antinutrients.

Among the most studied antinutrients in raw beans are the so-called starch blockers, a class of proteins that affect or delay the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates (starch) from the digestive tract (29).

Starch blockers, extracted from white beans, have shown some potential as a weight-loss supplement (34, 35, 36).

However, boiling at 212 ° F (100 ° C) for 10 minutes completely deactivates starch blockers, eliminating their effect on fully cooked beans (29).

Even so, the cooked beans contain a series of components that are friendly with weight loss, which makes them an excellent complement to an effective diet to lose weight.

Bottom line: Beans are rich in protein and fiber, and contain proteins that can reduce the digestion of starches (carbohydrates). They can be considered a friendly weight loss food.

Other health benefits of beans

In addition to being friendly with weight loss, beans can have several health benefits when cooked and prepared properly.

Improved control of blood sugar

Over time, a high blood sugar level can increase the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

For this reason, moderation of the increase in blood sugar after meals is considered beneficial for health.

Being rich in protein, fiber and so-called slow-release carbohydrates, beans are particularly effective in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels when included in meals.

They are classified in a very low glycemic index, which means that the increase in blood sugar after eating them is low and more gradual (9).

In fact, beans control blood sugar better than most dietary sources of carbohydrates (10, 11, 37, 38, 39).

Several observational studies indicate that eating beans or other foods with a low glycemic index may reduce the risk of becoming diabetic (40, 41, 42).

Eating low glycemic index foods can also improve blood sugar control in people who are already diabetic (43).

Diabetic or not, adding beans to your diet can improve your blood sugar balance, protect your overall health and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.

Bottom line: Beans are an excellent dietary option for diabetics and for those who want to stabilize their blood sugar levels.

Prevention of colon cancer

Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world.

Observational studies have linked the consumption of legumes (including beans) with a reduced risk of colon cancer (44, 45).

This is supported by animal studies and experiments with test tubes (46, 47, 48, 49).

Beans contain a variety of nutrients and fibers with possible anticancer effects.

Fibers, such as resistant starch and alpha-galactosides, pass undigested to the colon, where they are fermented by friendly bacteria, resulting in the formation of short-chain fatty acids (50).

Short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, can improve colon health and reduce the risk of colon cancer (18, 51).

Bottom line: As a rich source of fermentable fiber, beans can promote colon health and reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Adverse effects and individual concerns

Although beans can have several health benefits, raw or improperly cooked beans are toxic.

In addition, some people may wish to limit the consumption of beans due to bloating and flatulence.

Toxicity of raw beans

Raw beans contain high amounts of a toxic protein (lectin) called phytohemagglutinin (1).

Phytohemagglutinin is found in many types of beans, but it is found in particularly high amounts in red beans.

Bean poisoning has been reported in both animals and humans (52, 53).

In humans, the main symptoms of bean poisoning include diarrhea and vomiting, which sometimes require hospitalization (52).

Soaking and cooking beans eliminates most of the toxin, which makes beans safe, safe and nutritious (27, 52).

Before consumption, beans should be soaked in water for at least 5 hours and boiled at 212 ° F (100 ° C) for at least 10 minutes (54).

Bottom line: Raw beans are toxic and should be avoided. This also applies to improperly cooked beans.

Antinutrients in beans

Raw and improperly cooked beans contain all kinds of antinutrients, substances that reduce the nutritional value by preventing the absorption of nutrients from the digestive tract.

Although sometimes their actions can be considered beneficial, they are a serious concern in developing countries where beans are a staple food, which make up a large part of the daily diet.

The main antinutrients in beans are:

  • Phytic acid (phytate), which alters the absorption of minerals, such as iron and zinc (28).

  • Protease inhibitors (trypsin inhibitors), proteins that inhibit the function of several digestive enzymes, which alter the digestion of proteins (55).

  • Starch blockers (Alpha-amylase inhibitors), substances that impair the absorption of carbohydrates from the digestive tract (29).

Phytic acid, protease inhibitors, and starch blockers are totally or partially inactivated when the beans are soaked and cooked properly (29, 56, 57).

Fermentation and germination of grains can reduce antinutrients, such as phytic acid, even more (58).

Bottom line: Kidney beans contain so-called "anti-nutrients", substances that impede the absorption of minerals, proteins and carbohydrates. They can be eliminated (at least partially) by soaking and cooking the beans.

Flatulence and swelling

In some people, the consumption of beans can cause unpleasant effects, such as bloating, flatulence and diarrhea (13).

Those responsible for these effects are the insoluble fibers called alpha-galactosides, the most common of which are stachyose, verbascose and raffinose (7).

They belong to a group of fibers known as FODMAP, which can exacerbate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (59, 60).

Alpha-galactosides can be partially removed by soaking and sprouting beans (7).

Bottom line: Kidney beans can cause bloating, flatulence and diarrhea in some people.


Beans are an excellent source of protein of vegetable origin.

They are also rich in various minerals, vitamins, fibers, antioxidants and other unique plant compounds.

For this reason, they can be useful as part of a diet to lose weight, while promoting colon health and moderating blood sugar levels.

However, beans should always be eaten well cooked. Raw or poorly cooked beans are toxic.

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