Check a chart of the fiber content in foods and you'll see legumes leading the pack.
Kidney beans, like other beans, are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber. A cup of cooked kidney beans provides 45.3% of the recommended daily intake for fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that binds with bile (which contains cholesterol) and carries it out of the body. Research studies have shown that insoluble fiber not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.
In a study that examined food intake patterns and risk of death from coronary heart disease, researchers followed more than 16,000 middle-aged men in the U.S., Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Japan for 25 years. Typical food patterns were: higher consumption of dairy products in Northern Europe; higher consumption of meat in the U.S.; higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, fish, and wine in Southern Europe; and higher consumption of cereals, soy products, and fish in Japan. When researchers analyzed this data in relation to the risk of death from heart disease, they found that higher legume consumption was associated with a whopping 82% reduction in risk! !
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as kidney beans, helps prevent heart disease.
In addition to its beneficial effects on the digestive system and the heart, soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels. If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, kidney beans can really help you balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Studies of high fiber diets and blood sugar levels have shown the dramatic benefits provided by these high fiber foods.
If you're wondering how to replace red meat in your menus, become a fan of kidney beans. These hearty beans are a good source of protein, and when combined with a whole grain such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice provide protein comparable to that of meat or dairy foods without the high calories or saturated fat found in these foods. And, when you get your protein from kidney beans, you also get the blood sugar stabilizing and heart health benefits of the soluble fiber provided by these versatile legumes. A cup of kidney beans provides 15.3 grams of protein--that's 30.7% of the daily value for protein.
In addition to providing slow burning complex carbohydrates, kidney beans can increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores. Particularly for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency, boosting iron stores with kidney beans is a good idea--especially because, unlike red meat, another source of iron, kidney beans are low in calories and virtually fat-free. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. And remember: If you're pregnant or lactating, your needs for iron increase. Growing children and adolescents also have increased needs for iron.