I’ve written previously about the basics of good nutrition and the importance of incorporating healthy plant foods into your menu plan. Adding beans (or legumes as they are often called) is a super way to do just that! They are an important source of plant proteins and one of the world's oldest cultivated crops, going back as far as 7,000 years in some parts of the world. Lentils, peas, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, garbanzos and navy beans are some you may be familiar with. And the one that’s always stood out for me as having an odd name is the KIDNEY bean!
When I was young and learned there was a bean called kidney, I was a little grossed out. I mean, how could anyone name a bean after an internal organ? I asked my mom and she told me it was because the shape of the bean resembled an actual kidney, but she assured me the two were not the same. I found a picture of a kidney in an encyclopedia, lo and behold, those darn beans really were kidney shaped!
Delicious in many dishes, kidney beans absorb the flavors of the cooking liquids, seasonings, vegetables and meats they are simmered with. They are delicious marinated in favorite dressings and sauces. Plus, they are nutritionally dense, inexpensive and versatile! Can’t beat that! Here are some good reasons to add some kidney beans to your bean routine:
- Packed with quality plant proteins – good news for vegetarians! You get about 15 grams of protein with every cup of cooked kidney beans you eat.
- Excellent source of dietary fiber – good news for your belly and your heart! Just a cup of beans a day will give you about 11 grams or about half the recommended amount you need.
- They are an excellent source of folate, an important nutrient.
- Like all beans, they are low fat and have no cholesterol.
- Beans have nutrients such as iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and copper.
That should convince you that it’s time to get keen on kidney beans! Here are my favorite ideas:
- Add them to your leafy green salad.
- Make them into a bean salad with chopped veggies, other beans or green beans if desired, and your favorite salad dressing. This Three-Bean Salad with Quinoa is delicious.
- Add them to soups and stews.
- Add them to a pot of chili. Here are some of ours: Beef and Bean Chili, Vegetarian Chipotle Chili, Spicy Corn and Chicken Chili and Bison Chili.
- Turn them into a bean dip.
- Use them along with or in place of other beans in your favorite bean recipes.
- Toss them into hot cooked pasta or into a cold pasta salad.
- Have you ever had a Shepherd’s Pie? This is a fun, filling vegetarian version calling for kidney beans.
- Stuff them into roasted or raw red pepper halves.
- Make a pita sandwich with avocado, kidney beans and any other favorite filling. Don’t forget to add spinach or arugula, or another dark leafy green!
- Serve them hot over cooked whole grains.
- Add them to baked beans.
- Add them to whole grain pilafs.
- Just eat ‘em! In a bowl as they are…a little tamari, maybe a little garlic…you get the picture!
If you are cooking dried kidney beans, be sure to soak them overnight, drain and rinse first. Make sure to cook them until completely tender and cooked through to eliminate the gastric distress-causing toxin Phytohaemagglutinin (Kidney Bean Lectin) that's present in raw and undercooked kidney beans. For more information, check out our guide to beans
Are you clever with kidney beans? Got a favorite recipe? Let me know!