Are Kidney Beans Healthy? Here's What a Dietitian Has to Say
You likely already know that beans are nutrition powerhouses, but what is it about kidney beans that makes them so nutritious? Of course these legumes are packed with plant-based protein and fiber. But that's just the beginning. Let's explore why kidney beans are such a healthy food.
Picture Recipe: Kidney Bean & Kraut Toast
Kidney bean nutrition
Here is the nutrition breakdown for ½ cup of low-sodium canned kidney beans:
- 104 calories
- 7 g protein
- <1 g fat
- 19 g carbohydrate
- 7 g fiber
- 117 mg sodium
- 37 mg calcium
- 333 mg potassium
- 2 mg iron
- 1 mg vitamin C
Health benefits of kidney beans
They support digestive health
Kidney beans offer plenty of fiber, which can help promote better gastrointestinal health. Kidney beans, like other beans, supply prebiotic fiber, says Lauren Manaker, M.S., RDN, LD. This type of fiber, she says, is "indigestible by humans and therefore acts as fuel for the beneficial bacteria in our gut, ultimately supporting a healthy microbiota." Adding beans to your diet may help prevent gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, thanks to their high fiber content.
They can help with weight management
Beyond the prebiotic benefits, the fiber in kidney beans can be a powerful tool when it comes to weight management. The high fiber content combined with 7 grams of plant-based protein in each half-cup serving, says Isabel Vasquez, RD, LDN, helps promote satiety, too. This makes beans an obvious food choice for those looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
They're a source of plant-based protein
Plant-based eating has become mainstream, and that means that more and more people are looking for non-animal protein sources. Fortunately, legumes and beans, such as kidney beans, are naturally packed with protein, supplying as much protein per half-cup as 1 ounce of many animal-based proteins.
They're rich in antioxidants
Kidney beans are also a source of antioxidants, says Manaker, which can help support our health in various ways. Their red hue comes from anthocyanins, a group of antioxidants known for helping lower the risk of several chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, while also promoting good overall health.
How to enjoy kidney beans
Kidney beans are incredibly versatile when it comes to cooking. Their neutral flavor profile and mild nuttiness make them a great addition to salads, soups, wraps and bowl meals. Vasquez loves habichuelas guisadas, which is Spanish for "stewed beans." This is a Dominican or Puerto Rican style of cooking beans with onions, garlic, peppers, cilantro, tomato sauce and adobo seasoning; the dish is often served over rice with avocado, plantains and chicken.
Manaker suggests making your hummus with kidney beans in place of garbanzo beans for a fun twist. She also recommends using canned kidney beans for a quick salad with corn, onion and other colorful and nutrient-packed ingredients like bell pepper or leafy greens.
In the mood for soup? Enjoy kidney beans in our veggie-forward Linguica, Kale and Red Bean Soup or Veggistrone. Or pop open a can and make these delicious Vegan Beet Burgers starring kidney beans and beets.
The bottom line
Kidney beans are a super-healthy food, supplying plenty of satiating fiber and plant-based protein. They offer digestive health benefits and can help with weight management and disease prevention, too. Beyond that, they're incredibly versatile, delicious and easy to enjoy.