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Just like rice and wheat, beans form a staple part of diets in many cultures. In South Asian countries such as India, they are essential sources of vegetarian protein, and rightly so.
Replete with polyphenols, resistant starch, vitamins, and minerals, the different species of beans offer varying health benefits that range from weight management to improved insulin sensitivity, lowered blood pressure, and improved gut health. (1)
Kidney beans, in particular, are a popular choice but are often confused with their smaller-looking cousin called red beans.
Although they may look similar and certainly share the vibrant deep-red color, kidney beans are larger, kidney-shaped, and firmer in texture. Red beans, on the other hand, are smaller and more oval shaped and lend a more creamy texture to dishes. (2)
Both kidney and red beans can be used interchangeably in dishes, where kidney beans give more structure, and red beans make dishes softer and creamier.
This article will take a more in-depth look at the two.
Here is an insight into the nutritive values of kidney beans and red beans.
A quarter-up serving of canned red kidney beans provides 50 calories, 3.5 g of protein, and 3.5 g of fiber. They also contain 0.9 mg of iron, 20.2 mg of sodium, and 215 mg of potassium. (3)
The same serving of canned red beans provides 45 calories, 2.5 g of protein, and 2.5 g of fiber. It also contains 183 mg of potassium, 189.8 mg of sodium, and 17 mg of calcium. (4)
Health Benefits They Offer
Even though kidney beans appear to be more beneficial than red beans due to their higher nutrient content, the differences in their polyphenol content can be a deciding factor in which bean wins out!
1. Weight management
Both types of beans are effective in weight management due to their rich fiber and protein content. Studies have identified bean consumers to generally have a lower weight and waist circumference than those who did not consume beans. (5)
Kidney beans, in particular, contain a specific polyphenol that can delay starch digestion to prevent it from being accumulated in the body and increasing weight. (6)
2. Diabetes control
Red kidney beans have been identified as a functional food in the management of type 2 diabetes. Due to their low glycemic index and resistant starch (a type of soluble fiber), kidney beans do not spike blood sugar levels after consumption. (6)
Moreover, red kidney beans contain specific bioactive compounds that directly exert antidiabetic activity. (8)
Red beans also have similar benefits – they are able to prevent spikes of blood sugar and protect the body from oxidative damage as a result of type 2 diabetes. (9)
Include a serving of both beans in your diet each week to reap their benefits.
3. Better digestive health
Due to their high fiber content, both kidney beans and red beans are beneficial for digestion. Not only does fiber add bulk to the stool and prevents constipation, but it also improves the diversity of gut microorganisms. (10)
Red beans are considered easier to digest and can help alleviate fatigue. (11) Red kidney beans exert similar benefits for gut health due to their content of resistant starch, which can improve gut bacteria. (12)
While both beans are good for digestive health, choose red beans for their easier digestibility.
4. Blood pressure control
Recent evidence is highly suggestive of the blood pressure-lowering properties of beans in general. (13)
Kidney beans have been found to relax blood vessels after consumption, which is a useful method for reducing blood pressure. (14)
Due to their high potassium content, both kidney and red beans can effectively reduce blood pressure as shown in the results of multiple studies done on both hypertensive and nonhypertensive patients. (15)
Consuming fresh beans that you cook yourself will be more beneficial as you can control the amount of salt (and consequently sodium) you add. However, if you do consume canned beans, choose carefully after reading the total sodium content present in the form of additives.
You can opt for the low-sodium variety to prevent elevating your blood pressure.
5. Cancer-protective properties
The rich red color of both kidney and red beans makes them storehouses of polyphenolic compounds that play a protective role in reducing the risk of cancers.
Animal studies have found red kidney bean consumption to reduce tumor size as well as prevent the spread of breast cancer. (16)
Red beans have stronger cancer-protective properties through their ability to reduce free radicals in the body, which can convert healthy cells into cancerous cells. (17)
Studies have also found red beans to prevent cancer cell growth and spread by killing cancer cells. (18)
Due to the undeniable health benefits of kidney and red beans, one cannot be given priority over the other.
However, red beans turn softer when cooked and are easier on the digestive system than red kidney beans. Making stews are easier with red beans, especially if you are sick.
Why Do I Feel Gassy After Eating Kidney Beans?
Bean consumption, in general, is likely to cause a lot of gas and bloating. This is due to the presence of fiber in beans, especially resistant starch. Bacteria in the intestines act upon this fiber, breaking it down and releasing gas.
In addition, beans are rich in a type of carbohydrate called raffinose, which also contributes to gas when it is digested in the intestines. (19)
You can follow these methods to improve the digestibility of beans:
- Always soak beans overnight or at least 5–6 hours before cooking.
- Pressure cook beans well for 30 minutes to ensure it is completely soft.
- Add ingredients such as lemon juice and cumin to improve digestibility.
- Beans, in general, are great sources of plant-based protein and can be beneficial sources of polyphenols that offer a variety of benefits.
- Both kidney beans and red beans are great sources of fiber, which helps in managing weight, improving gut health, and preventing spikes of blood sugar to manage type 2 diabetes.
- Both beans offer benefits such as reducing blood pressure and protecting against cancer.
- Soak and cook beans well to avoid flatulence or gas.